Whether you’re about to launch a new product or simply want to boost your brand’s awareness, there comes a time you’ll need to invest in public relations. Gone are the days where simply writing and distributing a press release to a list of traditional media contacts and crossing your fingers you’ll get favorable press coverage is enough. These days, public relations requires a highly strategic communications plan that shows a deep understanding of your brand, traditional, digital and social media and their respective audiences.
When it comes to resourcing the right support for the task, businesses have the flexibility to recruit or train an in-house employee, contract a public relations agency or to hire a fully-independent freelance public relations specialist. Depending on your budget and resources, you’ll want to consider these options, naturally all of which come with their advantages and disadvantages.
Public relations is a long-term game, having a trusted relationship with PR specialists you want to work with is key. Whether you’ve hired that support as in-house, agency, or an independent freelancer, how you build and nurture your working relationship and how in turn they look after you and your business will be paramount to your brand gaining publicity.
Depending on what stage of business you’re at, you might want to look at recruiting an in-house public relations specialist. There are some great advantages to having an in-house employee fully or partly dedicated to public relations tasks. As business owners, you’ll find it easy to get the employee up-to-speed on your brand’s story as well as for them to take advantage of the unlimited knowledge they can gain from working closely with other team members. From the communications side, it’s much easier to be able to brief on projects, strategies and get campaign updates if you’re liaising with an internal employee rather than a weekly update call with an agency. Your dedicated in-house PR person, unlike an agency, will be only focused on your brand instead of a range of different client projects.
Depending on the experience of the in-house public relations person, there can often be some limitations when compared to hiring an agency or independent contractor. Hiring an experienced public relations specialist can be challenging as bringing in a single expert with the skills required to plan and execute fully-fledged campaigns means you’ll need to find someone who has expertise in media relations, creative strategy, writing, planning, and communications. This kind of diverse skillset won’t be cheap and they will likely be in high demand for an agency. Or they may be tempted to strike it out alone. Invest smartly in your talent and in quiet periods, they can be allocated to work on other projects such as developing brand language and style guides. And if and when it comes the time to hire an public relations agency, the benefit of having an internal PR specialist is that they’re able to brief the agency properly
Bringing in an agency
If you outsource your public relations work to a specialist agency, one immediate benefit is being able to tap into their extended network and expertise. A good PR agency will help you position your brand to uniquely establish itself in the marketplace. Unlike an in-house employee running your public relations, an agency has the advantage of being able to give you an objective evaluation of your brand, build its story and its position within the market.
One goal of most public relations strategies is to get favourable coverage in the media. An agency, in most cases, will already have the established media connections as well as lots of good relationships with media professionals across all forms of media.
A drawback of utilizing an agency can unfortunately be the cost. A fully-fledged agency has many overheads including staff salaries and rent, which may trickle down to their fee structures. Agencies also may require long and fixed contracts from companies.
Agencies often have a high turnover of staff which may mean a rotating account manager or having interns working on your brand. When in initial discussions with an agency, it would be worth reading about the agency’s culture and staff retention which may give you an indication of their working style. Speaking to their clients or asking around for an agency referral will help you in finding a reputable agency with a good communication style – both external and internal.
Hiring a freelancer
An advantage to hiring a freelancer versus an agency is ultimately their overheads will be lower as many freelancers work from home and don’t employ additional staff. Working from home used to be something that companies once viewed as unproductive but as more and more people work from home and as more workers go freelance, there has never been a better time to hire a freelancer.
Resourcing freelancers can be challenging. Not only will you want to find one with the right skillset and experience, they must be also available, within your budget needs, and have a solid network of media connections. With a freelancer, you may be able to increase your chances of finding an industry specialist
Going it alone
Some businesses would not only like to keep the public relations tasks in-house, they would also like to attempt these tasks themselves. Successful PR will vary depending on the skillset and the experience of the person involved in the task and many people who take on PR tasks may underestimate the amount of dedicated time and skills required to perform these tasks successfully. It’s not as simple as writing about your company or new product or service and distributing it to a generic and internet-researched media list. Others may simply lack the resources to be able to plan and run a campaign or may get sidetracked by other pressing tasks. Others may be able to perform the required tasks but might be let down by a lack of media network.
When it comes the time to launch a new company, product or service, investing in a good public relations team or person has to be the right fit for your company, your goals, and your budget. Be open and flexible to the advantages and disadvantages of all options and you’ll find the right solution that will best support launching your brand, new product or service.