How the pandemic has thrown a light on the waffler
July 13, 2021

What size PR agency should you choose?

Choosing an agency is pretty much like choosing your partner. Whether it’s for a year or for life, you need to make sure there is a synergy between you two, and that they are right for your needs at the time. So you need to choose an agency of the right size.

Of course, it’s completely your decision. But, in the same way that it’s good to listen to your friends/ parents regarding partners, there’s learning to be had from other people when choosing an agency.

Here are some things to bear in mind when thinking about the size of the organisation you choose to work with:

“Bricks and mortar” or remote working?

Well, wasn’t the pandemic a great leveller? Pre-lockdown, we would do calls with people in swanky warehouses/ uber glossy loft-living open plan spaces, or wood panelled offices. During the endless Zoom/Teams/Google Meet calls that followed in 2020/21, those same people would invariably be in back-bedrooms. Or their kitchen.

I think the learning from that is: don’t be swayed by the offices. It’s the people who count, EVERY TIME.

Large team or small team?

Premises, salaries, pensions, equipment, perks, training, insurances, accountancy charges, subscriptions, online services, memberships, marketing, profit … the truth is, the amount you pay to an agency contributes to a lot of overheads, regardless of agency size.

But you can imagine, if you were employing a lot of people, you would want a bigger financial buffer to protect your staff; and you’ll have more overheads. Which will probably result in proportionately higher costs.

That aside though, here are some things to ask:

  • How many people will be on my team?
  • Who will be my main point of contact?
  • How likely is there going to be consistency? (every time they change, you have to invest your time bringing them up to speed with the nuances of your business. Some people you will gel with, but if there’s churn, you won’t have much say in the matter)
  • What happens if your team doesn’t have the skills we need?
  • Who will actually be doing the legwork on my account? It’s not ideal to think you have the account director doing the strategy or day-to-day, but in reality, it’s the intern.
  • If I have a problem, who do I speak to?
  • What specific experience does my account handler have, in my sector?
  • How do you bill any extras if we over-run on time?
  • What ongoing professional development do you put in place? For example, I’m an accredited CIPR practitioner and to maintain that, I complete my cpd every year.
  • What professional standards do you adher to?

What about working with an independent practitioner?

Most times, independent practitioners are extremely experienced professionals, who want to run a business their way – with the ability to choose who they work for. For example, I only work with companies where I am absolutely convinced that I can make a real difference. My speciality sectors are within manufacturing and supply chain. And crucially, only for people that I like and respect.

The good news is that you will know who is on your account. You will build a bond of trust, and an ally. Someone who has your back and will consistently deliver.

So what additional questions do you ask an independent PR practitioner (because all the above ones are relevant)?

  • What happens if you’re away or ill?
  • Who else is on the team? (because if they’re like me, they will have an army of trusted, experienced freelancers with whom they have worked with for years). The benefit of this is that they can assign exactly the right people to work on your account – not just the ones they employ.
  • How do you bill any extras if we over-run on time? (Independent practitioners tend to be far more flexible – because they can be)

If you want to pick my brains, book a free call to talk about how working with me might work. Or use our handy contact form.

In summary

Speak to a range of PR agency sizes. But bear in mind that beyond the snazzy pitch decks and fancy coffees, it’s real people doing the work. Make sure they are the ones who understand your sector; that you get on with.. and that can deliver the results you need.

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