By John DeBellis, Director of Business Development, R&J Public Relations
One of the things that strategic communications professionals learn very fast is to be prepared for the counterpoint to every point they make. This is particularly true of timely news or controversial topics. Over time, counterpoints are factored into the “talking points” that communications pros present to an audience, and this comprehensive approach toward a subject ultimately leads to an expansive knowledge of an industry, product or service. It is precisely this knowledge base that leads businesses to engage a strategic communications agency to help create awareness, educate a target audience or influence consumers toward a particular buying behavior.
Alas, there are some incredibly brave souls who believe that a strategic communications agency is not needed for their business endeavors, that they can go it alone, under the belief that “everything is on social media anyway.” So I’ve assembled three often seen reasons for not hiring a strategic communications, or PR agency, and my corresponding counterpoint in response.
1. All the Agency Talks About is Traditional PR
This should be a red flag regardless of what agency you are considering. Effective communications is purposeful and requires a well thought out strategy. As most business leaders may have realized, the days of issuing a press release for a product or service profiling its features or application are long gone. And posting a truncated version on Facebook or LinkedIn does not a digital strategy make.
A reputable strategic communications or PR agency looks at client’s business goals and designs a communications strategy around achieving them across multiple media outlets – some traditional, some social media, even some event driven – each with its own unique expression of a core message. And, within each media, a strategy that rolls up to the master brand message is devised as well. Since each media reveals a unique level of customer insight, a business can get a clearer picture of its brand value by deploying a well-devised strategy that aids overall business goals.
2. We have all the Industry Contacts We Need from Trade Shows
We all know “people” of course, but some people have distinctly more influence than others. A good strategic communications agency will function as a partner to your business and provide your product or services with a red carpet into select media based on cogent thinking and longstanding relationships with media representatives. And, often there are non-media influencers available to work on behalf of your business whom you might never suspect can be a champion of your business, such as a supplier, a business in an ancillary industry or an organization whose mission it is to advance an industry.
There is another factor at play here – and that this one of expertise. You hire a strategic communications agency because it understands how to make your brand relevant in the industry, i.e., they know how to insert your product or service in the discussion or consideration for engagement or purchase.
3. We Can Hire a Junior Staffer and Save
The common thinking on having in-house staff versus an agency is that it would cost less to pay junior staffers and the message would be more easily controlled in house. It’s misguided to think that a junior PR manager can do the work of the strategic communications agency. Ultimately, internal hires are more costly, as typically the company is shelling out for payroll taxes and ever-rising health benefits. In fact, staffing costs are actually about 25 percent higher than a comparable service contract.
The greater benefit of hiring a strategic communications agency is that your business benefits from the collective thinking of multiple experts who know how to advance a brand and deliver a clear concise message to a target audience – especially at a time of communications change and ever-changing social media impact.