Ever wonder why certain brands stand out in the marketplace or how they consistently garner positive media attention? The secret behind successful brands is effective public relations managed by reputed PR firms. But what do PR firms do precisely? This question often bothers business owners seeking to establish a presence in the industry. Considering that reputation and public perception can make or break a company, understanding what PR firms do is essential.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve deep into the roles and responsibilities of PR firms, emphasizing their indispensable contribution to achieving a company’s strategic goals. From the nuances of B2B public relations to the intricacies of managing B2C public relations and the dynamic environment of public relations companies in Los Angeles, we’ll cover it all below.
Defining Public Relations: The Art of Shaping Perceptions
Public relations is the strategic communication process that creates mutually favorable relationships between the public and organizations. But what do public relations firms do? They manage the spread of information between an individual or an organization (such as a business, government agency, or nonprofit organization) and the public. The goal? To paint the clients in the best light possible, often translating to shaping public perception, managing crises, and fostering goodwill.
The Multifaceted Roles of PR Firms
What do PR firms do besides crafting press releases or handling crises? The reality is far more complex, as these firms wear many hats depending on every client’s needs.
Image and Brand Management: PR firms construct a company’s public persona. They strategically shape perceptions and narratives, ensuring the brand image remains consistent, relatable, and positively received by the target audience. These crafted images help businesses connect emotionally, build trust, and stand out in the competitive marketplace, fostering loyalty and engagement.
Media Relations: Acting as intermediaries, PR firms navigate the complex media landscape. They foster relationships with journalists and influencers, aiming to secure beneficial coverage. Through carefully crafted messages and strategic timing, these professionals convey the client’s narratives, announcements, or responses, ensuring a consistent brand voice throughout various media outlets.
Crisis Management: When scandals or emergencies strike, PR firms step in to control damage. They develop strategies, communicate with stakeholders, and release official statements to manage the narrative. This proactive approach, timely responses, and transparent communication help to mitigate adverse impacts, restore public trust, and ensure the company’s reputation remains intact.
Event Coordination: PR firms excel in creating impactful events that enhance brand image. From organizing product launches to press conferences, they manage every detail meticulously. PR firms design these events to generate buzz, provide memorable experiences, and strengthen relationships with customers, stakeholders, and the media, ultimately bolstering the brand’s public profile.
Diving Deep into B2B and B2C Public Relations
While the core of what PR firms do remains the same, strategies diverge when dealing with businesses versus consumers, often known as B2C, and understanding these subtleties is crucial.
B2B Public Relations: Winning Trust in the Corporate Arena
B2B PR involves managing relationships and communicating strategically with other businesses. It’s about building a reputation for reliability, expertise, and consistency in delivering value. But what do PR firms do in the B2B context exactly, and how do they navigate this intricate landscape?
Thought Leadership: PR firms strategically position clients as industry vanguards. Through insightful white papers, industry panel discussions, and keynote speeches, they highlight the clients’ expertise and vision. This promotion not only underscores their authority but also sets them apart from competitors, influencing peers and attracting opportunities for growth and collaboration.
Industry Relations: Within industry networks, PR professionals operate with finesse. They cultivate strategic alliances, engaging peers, competitors, and industry bodies. By identifying synergies and facilitating partnerships, they enhance the client’s standing in the community, which is crucial for reputation management, competitive positioning, and long-term business sustainability.
Crisis Mitigation: The volatile nature of public opinion makes crisis mitigation essential. PR firms develop robust strategies, anticipating potential threats. In times of turmoil, they act swiftly, implementing these plans to manage flow, address stakeholder concerns, and stabilize the situation. This adept crisis response safeguards reputations, maintaining company integrity and public trust.
B2C Public Relations: Capturing Consumer Hearts
Conversely, B2C public relations revolve around market sentiments, consumer perception, and direct communication with end-users. This arena buzzes with brand awareness campaigns, product launches, and social media interactions, all tailored to engage the public’s voice and attention.
Product Launches and Reviews: PR firms handle everything from press releases to influencer collaborations to orchestrate successful product debuts. They strategically plan the reveal, ensuring it resonates with target audiences and stands out in the market. Additionally, by facilitating product reviews, they generate excitement and anticipation within the audience, influencing public perception and consumer decision-making and ultimately driving initial sales momentum.
Consumer Engagement: In the digital age, direct consumer interaction is vital. PR firms leverage social media platforms to bridge the gap between companies and customers. Through curated posts, response management, and engagement tactics, they humanize brands, create vibrant online communities, and strengthen consumer loyalty. This ongoing dialogue enhances customer experience, fosters brand advocates, and amplifies positive word-of-mouth referrals.
Crisis Management: Consumer-oriented crises require immediate responses. PR firms specialize in reputation management, swiftly addressing adverse incidents or public dissatisfaction. They craft transparent, empathetic communications, handle media inquiries, and provide guidance on the next steps. Their intervention helps companies preserve customer trust, mitigate potential backlash, and navigate the situation with the brand’s integrity intact, ensuring a resilient public standing.
The Pinnacle of Influence – Top PR Agencies
Why do companies, especially in bustling urban entrepreneurial landscapes, reach out to top PR agencies? The answer is simple. These firms are known for their strategic prowess, extensive connections, and seasoned experience in navigating the complex pathways of public opinion. Notably, public relations companies in Los Angeles stand out due to their proximity to vast networking opportunities, media houses, and a diverse client base that spans multiple industries.
Why Location Matters: Spotlight on Los Angeles
In the realm of public relations, location is strategic. Public relations companies in Los Angeles, a bustling hub of commerce and culture, are uniquely positioned. Here’s why:
Networking Epicenter: LA thrives with media giants and notable influencers, presenting endless networking prospects. PR firms leverage this environment, connecting with power players.
Media Relations: Being close to leading media outlets provides a distinct edge. Los Angeles-based PR firms capitalize on this, facilitating prominent exposure and impactful brand narratives for clients.
Diverse Industry Landscape: The city hosts various industries, from tech to entertainment. This diversity enables PR firms to develop extensive expertise and navigate different sectors skillfully.
Qualities That Set Top PR Agencies Apart
Top PR agencies aren’t just about a prominent client list. Leading PR agencies embody certain qualities, such as:
Strategic Storytelling: PR firms master crafting engaging stories, aligning narratives with the client’s brand and objectives to captivate target demographics and foster brand connection and loyalty.
Innovative Approach: These agencies pioneer unique engagement strategies. They transcend standard practices, initiating trends that elevate client profiles in the crowded marketplace.
Results-Driven Mindset: These firms prioritize tangible results. They aim to make discernible impacts through increased visibility, enhanced brand reputation, and crisis management.
Specialized PR Fields – Technology, Thought Leadership, and More
As the industry evolves, so do the niches within it. Fields like technology PR and thought leadership have emerged, requiring specialized and innovative strategies tailored to unique audience needs.
Technology PR: Navigating Innovation and Users
Technology PR is a realm where innovation meets the dynamic market, and public relations strategies play a crucial role in how consumers understand and embrace new technology.
B2B Technology PR: In this area, PR firms demystify complex technological solutions for businesses and showcase how they can improve operations or bottom lines.
B2C Technology PR: This type of public relations involves translating complex tech jargon into benefits for the average consumer, highlighting ease of use and life-enhancing features.
Establishing Authority through Thought Leadership
Thought leadership is about establishing a reputation as a field expert. It involves contributing new ideas, providing insightful commentary, and being the go-to source for industry insights.
Content Creation: PR agencies specialize in producing compelling, authoritative content. This strategic material strengthens brand credibility and effectively engages target audiences.
Public Engagement: From speaking opportunities to industry-wide panel discussions, they create platforms for direct audience interaction, solidifying the client’s role as a thought leader.
Essential PR Tools – Earned Media and Content Development
In the arsenal of any reputable PR firm are two tools: earned media and content development. These elements are crucial in creating organic reach and providing valuable material for engagement.
The Power of Earned Media
Unlike paid advertising, earned media is about publicity obtained through promotional efforts other than paid media advertising. But what do PR firms do with earned media? They strategically capitalize on this aspect, understanding that it’s a crucial component that provides a form of third-party endorsement, often seen as more genuine compared to traditional advertising.
Media Coverage: PR firms work diligently to secure valuable coverage in digital publications or television news segments. By achieving these placements, they provide the clients with an invaluable asset – third-party validation from reputable sources. This type of endorsement can significantly influence public perception, enhancing a brand’s credibility in the eyes of potential customers.
Social Proof: In today’s interconnected world, we cannot overstate the power of social proof. PR professionals strive to create a positive buzz around a brand through word-of-mouth, social media shares, testimonials, and reviews. This strategy doesn’t just increase brand visibility; it cements its reputation as a reliable entity, influencing potential customers’ decision-making processes.
Content Development: More than Just Words
Content development is the art of generating informative and engaging material that resonates with target audiences. This strategic creation and distribution of content go beyond mere volume. The focus is on the caliber, ensuring it serves the audience’s needs while reflecting the brand’s identity.
Multimedia Content: In the digital era, audiences crave diverse content forms. Recognizing this, PR firms produce dynamic videos, infographics, and podcasts. These compelling formats offer valuable insights, catering to the evolving consumption patterns of modern audiences. By encapsulating information in an engaging way, they enhance the audience’s connection with the brand.
Educational Material: Knowledge is power, and PR firms harness this by creating in-depth educational resources. These materials, including white papers, e-books, and webinars, serve as authoritative content pieces that explore industry-specific subjects. They not only assert the company’s position as an industry expert but also provide learning avenues for the audience.
So, What Do PR Firms Do?
They work tirelessly behind the scenes, shaping perceptions, telling stories, navigating crises, and building an image of authority for the clients. Their work is all-encompassing, from the specialized realms of B2B public relations to the direct-to-consumer strategies of B2C public relations.
Whether making technology accessible and exciting or establishing industry leaders through strategic thought leadership, PR firms’ roles are undeniably integral to business success. Understanding what public relations firms do underscores the value of these partnerships in achieving business goals. In the dynamic, ever-evolving business landscape, leveraging the unique expertise of PR professionals is not just beneficial; it’s essential.
PR firm should be specific to you. Here are the worst questions to ask your agency and what to ask instead.Want to know the advice I give colleagues when they ask me what they should know about hiring an agency? I tell them something they haven’t thought about: throw out all your old questions when you’re hiring any agency. This advice surprises people, but let me explain. It’s important when you’re hiring an agency to ask questions that point to your needs, not some random checklist. What to look for in a
“How Does Your Team Learn About New Industries?”
“Do You Have Industry Experience?”
This is the default question everyone asks. The reality is that whether an agency has worked within your industry isn’t a success indicator. The more important indicator of success is how engaged your PR team is with the world and how they approach learning something new. What you want to know is how intellectually curious your team is because that actually matters more.
Agencies with narrow niches are really valuable in highly regulated industries, like the cannabis industry, where there are hundreds of different laws to understand, many of which vary by state. But for most industries, narrow niches don’t really get you, the client, much of advantage – even in PR, which is famous for relationships, I’ll get into that more deeply in a minute. But even if working in a particular niche is important, it’s still more important that the team be naturally curious.
Why? For one, some of the best ideas come from exposure to other industries and customers. But why do you want an agency that works closely with your competitors? And why doesn’t it matter in PR? When choosing a PR agency, it’s more important that your agency can predict trends and find opportunities for your company to make or comment on news.
“Have You Worked with Companies of Our Size?”
“What Companies Have You Worked With?”
It’s easy to be impressed by the logos of major brands on the pages of a PR firm’s website. But ask yourself what that means to you. Working with huge international firms is its own skill because of the layers of stakeholders. But huge brands move slower, and their stakes differ from a startup, a challenger brand, a company breaking new boundaries in an emerging industry, or a hypergrowth company that is pre-IPO.
You can define “size” by employee count or revenue, or even IPO status, but the challenges of hiring an agency vary depending on the company’s size. For example, a company with a CMO, a few Marketing VPs, and dozens of marketing managers has human capital, but they also have a more complicated web of brand perspectives and departmental goals. Whereas a company of $10-$30 million in revenue has different human capital considerations and is likely to have a CEO who is, at least sometimes, engaged with the PR agency. It’s not uncommon for our agency to deal directly with CEOs, and working with CEOs is very different than working with a team of marketing managers. Companies in growth phases move faster, have higher expectations, and perhaps haven’t worked with a PR agency before, which means there will be some education along the way. If you’ve never worked with a PR agency before, you don’t want to work with an agency that doesn’t specialize in companies that are new to PR.
For one, CEOs of $10-$30 million companies are very often an integral part of the company’s brand and, in fact, the de facto spokesperson. Multinational, public companies leverage their CEOs differently to different stakeholders – investors, for example – than smaller companies can and should. It’s also a matter of budget. A $250,000 annual budget, while typical for ambitious companies, isn’t much of a PR budget at all for household name brands. And why is that REALLY important? Because you want to be with a PR agency that sees your $250,000 budget as important rather than a small drop in the bucket.
So find an agency that works with companies of your size and agency experience. That’s actually more important to the success of your business and PR campaign.
“How Do You Contribute to Your Clients’ Business Goals?”
“What Do You Cost?”
This gets right to the heart of it, doesn’t it? What’s your target ROI? The question to ask your PR Agency should dig right to the heart of what you need. Does your agency know how to develop a campaign that helps you secure VC funding? Or how about during your pre-IPO phase? Maybe you want to build a premium team before a merger or acquisition. PR supports cross-functional business outcomes.
Like any awareness or marketing initiative, PR is OK in a vacuum. However, when it’s given room to breathe and really support your business, then it really takes off. So don’t silo your PR. But also, it’s like any investment: it gets amortized over time. The good news about PR versus something like advertising is that PR lasts forever. Just like you don’t turn on PR as fast as advertising, it also doesn’t turn. Long after a PR agency is gone, your PR remains. PR is an investment you make in your business, and it’s the most valuable investment you can make.
“How Seasoned is the Team?”
“Who is On The Team?”
This might be one of the top questions to ask your PR agency. Seasoned, experienced PR professionals have been through the wringer. They’ve been through crisis, they’ve seen economic upheaval, they’ve handled recalls, they have been in competitive dog fights. These are the kind of team members you want on your team. It’s not uncommon for agencies to have really junior members do the bulk of the account work.
Much PR work is reading between the lines. Younger team members miss the nuance when they put together a media list; they miss the tie-ins that work because of a small detail. An experienced PR Team saves you countless hours of educating a more junior PR team on business basics, striking the right tone at the right time – and importantly, reading the room. Emotional intelligence often comes with experience, and emotional intelligence moves the needle faster and in a more sophisticated way. Plus, experienced PR team members can head off problems before they become one, saving your brand dollars on the actual bottom line and valuations.
Whether it’s content and SEO, or advertising or PR, there is always a shift in the universe, and agencies are adept at understanding the shifting sands. But there are more agencies than ever before. Even the best PR agencies aren’t always the easiest to find. Agencies today provide more value to businesses than ever before, but it’s more important than ever for you to find the right fit, because the stakes have never been higher.
If you’re raising an investment round, you may have considered PR. Whether someone suggested it to you or you’re PR curious, you’ve probably wondered why PR comes up so often when you’re seeking investment. From your Series A and beyond, a good reputation helps you raise more money faster. PR helps you attract investors, provides ongoing confidence to investors, and helps the company’s valuation. These are the reasons investors like to see companies use some investment funds for marketing and PR. They know you can run a profitable business without PR, but you can’t be the market leader without PR. So, when should a startup hire a PR firm? We work with a lot of companies either seeking acquisition or raising funds. Let’s dig deeper into how PR helps secure investors.
First Step: Segment Awareness
Many companies discount B2B or industry PR because industry publications don’t have the public cache of larger business publications like Bloomberg or the Wall Street Journal.
But that’s a mistake. Industry PR is one of the most underrated PR assets when looking for investors. Investors often circle an emerging industry sector, like healthtech or cleantech or cannabis, to find opportunities, and vertical publications are a great resource. Let’s face it – your startup will not be a unicorn until you’re a segment leader. This type of PR might include thought leadership or owned content campaigns. If your company does not have many search results, industry PR is a natural first step.
There’s another reason to start there: it’s excellent practice. Having 10-15 interviews under your belt really makes a huge difference when you DO get an interview with a national publication. And these credible pieces show investors you’re ready for a capital raise.
Use Data and Insights for VC Funding
A key trend in securing media is providing data to journalists. Journalists are more constrained than ever before. Third-party, statistically relevant data is the crown jewel for consumer business publications like Fortune and Bloomberg. But if you don’t have that kind of research, especially if you’re a SaaS company use the data at your disposal. I don’t mean customer data, I mean information like trends that your product is seeing.
The media isn’t the only stakeholder group that loves data: VCs do, too. Having this data really gives you many ways to capture VC attention, drive and lead conversations, and earn trust from stakeholders. And the best part? You can keep some of this data private and in your pitch deck, which you can use in your funding pitches.
Build Today for Tomorrow’s Funding
Less than 1% of companies appear in the Wall Street Journal or Forbes. Earned media is valuable because it’s difficult to secure, and the credibility factor is greater than anything you can buy. But quality PR is a marathon, not a sprint, and the investment in PR becomes more valuable over time because the more press you secure, the more likely you are to be seen as credible.
Sometimes, companies who are raising funds come to us to help them close a deal. They say, “If I could get a few pieces of press next week, that would be great.” While we might assist you with some sponsored content or contributed content, that’s still an incredibly tight turnaround for us, in part because we don’t know your brand, your voice, and your leadership. And unless you’re already in the news cycle, it’s even less likely a company will secure earned media in that time frame.
PR for investors takes time. PR is branding to journalists. Here’s a typical situation: our groundwork pays off when a newsjacking opportunity presents itself, and journalists trust our client because we had been building that trust for three months already. After that, the company became a credible source for relevant topics for some of the world’s biggest media outlets.
Remember, credibility is not something you turn on and off; it’s something you nurture and guide. That’s PR, and that’s why it’s so valuable when you’re raising capital.
Added Bonus: Crisis PR Preparation
When you’re in the middle of a raise, that’s the last time to scramble for crisis PR. Should you have a crisis, whether that’s a product recall or something more complicated, when you’re raising money or pre-IPO, PR can be the difference between simply surviving and thriving after a crisis.
Crisis campaigns start at $20,000, and that’s after you find a PR firm while your crisis is spinning out of control. When you have a PR firm on retainer, the crisis will still be expensive, but your management of it will be swifter, more strategic, and more effective. With the help of a good PR firm, you can steer your way through the crisis and out the other side with confidence and your brand intact. You might even get bonus points from investors for handling the crisis well.
Taking care of your reputation always pays dividends. When the timing is right to raise capital, that’s a great time to hire a PR agency. A good reputation will help you raise more money, faster.
Choosing a B2B PR agency can feel overwhelming. For one, it’s all promises at the start, and for two, what’s REALLY the difference between PR agencies? Well, it’s important to understand distinctions, but only within the context of how they apply to you. It’s not just about PR pricing, realistically, the key elements to choosing a B2B PR firm require you to know your needs first. But here’s the advice I give my peers when they’re hiring an agency.
Do They Work With B2B Companies Like Me?
Choosing a B2B PR agency means knowing who you are now and where you’re going. Where you’re headed may be more important than who you are now. And ask for B2B PR examples or case studies. When you look at the case studies, look to see how they are like you, if they’re where you want to be – and if the growth measurements are ones you can identify with. Yes, you can be impressed by tier 1 coverage in outlets like Bloomberg, or TechCrunch, but dig deeper and look at the situation and the outcomes.
Every PR agency has an ideal client with whom they work best. Don’t be afraid to ask: who do you work best with? For example, here at Avaans Media, we’re very clear. We work with very ambitious and fast-growing companies; for us that typically means companies that are pre-IPO startups. Some agencies specialize in tech PR, and some niche into industries like AI PR, cleantech PR, or cannabis PR. Some agencies prefer to work with publicly traded companies, some prefer to work with clients in a particular sector (for us, that’s emerging industries).
My personal advice to my entrepreneurial colleagues: choose a PR agency who has experience with companies that have the same goals as you.
What’s the Experience Level of Your Team
Experience matters. An experienced team is skilled at scanning the horizons for the media trends that will impact your business and reputation the most while also being able to execute your tactical needs on a day-to-day basis.
A lot of times, the person you meet with about working with the agency never works on your account. So, that seasoned, wise exec is not the one solving your problems. It’s common for agencies to have inexperienced people doing the heavy lifting on PR accounts. How seasoned and wise is your PR team going to be? This is a really important question worth asking. I really believe one of the top reasons we’re a top-rated boutique PR Agency is because our team is executive-level experienced. Everyone on our team has a minimum of ten years of experience in PR, many of them with much more than that. As importantly, they can all discuss B2B media trends and their impact on your business.
My advice to my colleagues: make sure your team includes oversight from someone with at least twenty years PR experience. Your day-to-day person might be more like 15-17 years of experience, but you want someone who has been through funding rounds, recessions, wins and failures who oversees the strategy.
How Will They Measure Success?
There are a few key B2B KPIs that PR agencies can measure independently. But working with your PR agency, you can really start to see traction on outcomes if you’re working collaboratively. These could be business KPIs like moving the need in your business – things like sales impact, time to decision, and number of incoming inquiries. PR can impact Big Hairy Goals – if your B2B PR agency can’t show you how to measure these things, they might not think big enough for you.
Choosing a B2B PR agency that builds programs based on your goals is paramount, and for that, you need to be clear on your goals; and if you want to really maximize your investment, open the kimono a bit. If your goals are sales-oriented, have your salespeople talk to your PR agency about the problems they face in the marketplace. If your goals are related to an IPO, then share with your PR agency more information about your timeline, your targets, and your concerns. A great B2B PR agency can help you avoid pitfalls. If you’re looking for more venture funding as a PR goal, then make sure your PR team knows that and can share their experiences with you.
Bottom line advice to my colleagues: open the kimono and give your agency the room they need to be your partner, but when you do that, hold them accountable and keep make sure you’re both tracking KPIs.
B2B PR Pricing: Where Do You Fit In?
Yes, it’s essential to know your PR budget – but what’s equally important is to know the budgets of your agency’s clients. This is one of those moments where bigger isn’t always better. For example, if your budget is under $175,000 annually, you probably don’t want one of the country’s largest PR firms, even though technically, they’d probably accept you, depending on the scope of work. Why? Because you’re likely to get shoe-horned into a PR team with little experience and a lot of turnover. Meanwhile, you can expect a consistent, experienced, and highly engaged team for that budget at a mid-range agency. And if you’re paying $5K/month at an agency, you simply aren’t paying enough. Agencies can’t do outstanding work for that budget; a freelancer can make it work, but a team of experienced, engaged, proactive PR executives can’t do the work needed for that budget.
Bottom line: when choosing a B2B PR agency, align your budget with the experience you’re looking for. You might not get the best for your team if you’re at the bottom of an agency’s scale. If you’re at the top of the scale, you can expect a white glove experience.
What’s the PR Plan?
One struggle we most commonly hear about hiring a PR firm is not knowing what you’re going to get. That’s true. The way most B2B PR agencies work is they provide you with a proposal about their program without having a firm grasp on the details of your business. Avaans Media solves this issue with our unique strategy-based PR pricing. This enables you to know exactly what you’re going to get before you make a massive commitment to a PR agency. The reality is, unless you’re really experienced working with PR agencies, you probably struggle to differentiate between the plans you get or the plans you get differentiate on things that won’t really matter to your outcome (like fancy proprietary platforms or reporting tools). Instead, focus on outcomes in your PR plan and ask your PR agency to provide you with expected results so you have a clear idea of how your PR plan will help your company grow.
Bottom-line advice: Get to the numbers fast. What does your PR agency realistically hope to accomplish?
As you research PR agencies you may see many touting that they are “boutique.” What is a boutique agency? A boutique agency is an agency that prides itself on its smaller size, usually under 20 employees. Boutique agencies tend to offer either specializations or a more hands-on approach to client services.
Is a boutique agency right for you? Whether a boutique agency is right for you certainly depends on your needs. So, let’s explore some common questions about boutique PR agencies.
Do Boutique Agencies Offer the Same Services as Larger Agencies?
In so much as all agencies vary in services offered, yes, but boutique agencies expand and contract as a client needs. To do this, they often rely on a trusted team of subject experts and implementation specialists. There are advantages and disadvantages to this approach. The advantage is you’re not paying for services and team members you aren’t using. The disadvantage is adding to scope and implementation may take longer. Let’s say you need a 3-minute video done, and you need it finished yesterday.
Regardless of agency size, you’re dealing with the adage of “pick two: fast, excellent, or cheap.” But a super-fast turnaround may be firmly in the realm of possibility within a large agency. They may have a scriptwriter, videographer, and editing team at the ready. Meanwhile, if you ask a boutique agency to script a video, record a video, and edit one, it may take slightly longer as those team members aren’t ready right away, and to make it happen, you may pay more for the additional scope than at a larger agency, since these are “on-call” specialist team members as opposed to those employed full-time by a larger agency. So if you need an agency for services at the last minute, or with a 24-7 approach, a larger agency may be your better choice.
On the other hand, at a larger agency, you are paying for 24/7 service whether you need it or not. Another consideration of larger agencies vs. boutique pr agencies is the experience level of your team. Larger PR agencies often have less seasoned account managers running your PR strategy, and that may lead to more turn over and missing out on decades of experience from executive-level PR teams.
Do I Get The Same Level of Service?
Of course, it depends on your definition of service. So let’s break down how agencies of different sizes handle client management. Boutique agencies have more “working managers,” which means your account managers are frequently agency executives. Their level of engagement will vary depending on factors like your PR budget, but they’re more deeply involved with your account than at a larger agency. You may even work with the CEO of the agency at a boutique agency; a highly unlikely occurrence at a large agency.
Also, typically, larger agencies assign more clients per team member than boutique agencies do. While a strategist at a large agency may carry 6-8 clients, at a boutique agency, your strategist may carry 4-5 clients at once. For example, at our agency, we’re regularly receiving service inquiries, but our current clients always come first. We make that choice because our senior strategists are involved in both biz development and client work. If personalized strategies and personal attention matter, a smaller agency may suit you better.
At a larger agency, it’s very common to work with an executive during the RFP or decision-making process, but that executive is rarely involved in the day-to-day of your account; you may see them once a month. So if working with executive-level strategists is important to you, you may appreciate the personalized attention a boutique offers. But if you are someone who only wants to hear from your agency’s account team when necessary or you’re ok with a more junior account team for the day-to-day, then you may appreciate the larger agency’s approach. But if you want more engaged and experienced strategists, who are regularly active in and with your account, then a smaller agency might be better.
Are Boutique Agencies Less Expensive?
First, some perspective. Your $20,000 budget might be a minimum at a larger agency, but quite substantial at a boutique agency. So, you should consider the value of PR for your company and working with a larger agency as part of the whole value proposition (like the additional services mentioned above). Sometimes hiring a larger agency is well worth it; “no one ever got fired for hiring Edelman.”
So, even though your budget doesn’t command the same level of respect from a larger agency, there may be a real advantage to having a named agency as your agency of record. But if you want the red carpet rolled out for you, at that price range, then a boutique agency may be a better choice for you.