Rightsizing your PR agency: Not too tight, not too baggy

Rightsizing your PR agency: Not too tight, not too baggy

Claire Walker

Claire Walker

We all aspire to be savvy buyers, of anything. However, consider how often you buy something you want, but you don’t really need. Or you find the perfect piece but find an identical item at a lower price somewhere else. Or think about a time where you bought something that is clearly the wrong size and can’t be returned.

We’ve all been there, and buyer’s remorse applies to business procurement decisions too. Business investments may not be coming out of your personal pocket but there is still an expectation to be savvy. As you could be dealing with figures that equate to a purchase of a decent car or property, it’s crucial to get it right, especially in these current economic conditions.

Embarking on a partnership with a PR agency is one of those business purchasing decisions that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But how can you be sure you are choosing, or working with, the right-sized communications and PR agency and getting value out of every dollar, pound, or euro you spend on comms?

There are thousands of excellent communications agencies in Europe, of all shapes and sizes. We all have different expertise, strengths, experience and cultures, however the “client/agency relationship fit” is critical in the smooth running of a communications programme if you wish to yield the most impactful results.

A value buy

When searching for a new PR agency partner, quality and price are often the foremost factors under consideration. On quality, it’s imperative to establish whether the people on your team:

  • Have relevant experience and industry understanding.
  • Have solid and relevant connections.
  • Possess unbridled creativity, precision execution and an eye for detail.
  • And are invested in supporting your business and communications goals.

On price, ask yourself whether the service and results expected from the programme tie back to what is needed for your organisation. Basically, do the numbers add up so the spend yields enough impact to make the difference you need?

Style

While a great cultural fit is harder to determine, as much of this decision is subjective, there are approaches you can take to make it more objective.

If you were interviewing new members for your team, what personal qualities would you look for? Consider applying a similar process when selecting an agency team. Engage with each member of the team to feel the strength of connection at every level. 

Also interrogate the agency’s values – do they match up with your company’s values?

The right size

Looking at how your company is positioned on the PR agency roster is another factor to consider when rightsizing your agency choice.  

Few clients want to be the smallest client or to be seen at the bottom of the pecking order. Most clients like to be the biggest or nearly the biggest client – at the top of the pecking order. And even fewer clients like the agency itself to be larger and with more people than their own organisation. For the most part, organisations like to know they will be considered a valued client by their agency – every one of them wants to be the favourite.

If you're a medium-sized agile business, you may be better off selecting a small or medium-sized agile agency.

If you are a large global organisation on a global mission, perhaps you need the same large global agency representing you in every market where you operate. Be warned though, a large global network is only as strong as the weakest link, so be sure all links individually demonstrate and deliver strength.

Making the purchasing decision

A fundamental benefit of working with smaller agencies is that they tend to pay more attention to detail and are not only strong on developing strategies but also executing against those strategies and seeing the programme through. They are generally more agile and can offer more personalised and bespoke services or solutions.

Other advantages:

  • They sometimes specialise – for example in technology, consumer brands or healthcare –and therefore bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the table

  • They offer competitive pricing and value as they’re not weighed down by huge overheads
  • They are often a team of highly experienced consultants that have branched out from larger agencies and run a tight ship. The senior team is hands on and don’t leave the account in the hands of inexperienced consultants  

So when sizing up your options, don’t rule out a smaller agile agency – they may just be hungrier and the fit you’re looking for!

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