Should You Hire a PR Agency vs a Freelancer?

clock-1253097_1280 The argument goes: Why bother with an agency when there are so many talented PR freelancers out there, and many agencies depend on freelancers?

A decade ago we would have scoffed at that question. But labor trends have changed. Many professionals are freelancing for flexibility in their work lives. Others are looking to do it so as to build up reserves before they launch their own practice or boutique agency.

You cannot deny the talent that many freelancers bring to businesses. Some even offer big PR firm experience at affordable rates. It is equally true that a lot of PR agencies already employ many to expand their expertise, gain new clients, or divvy-up extra workload.

To answer the above question, we need to look at the second letter to the acronym PR. It depends on how much stock you put into “relations”.

This is important as PR functions (like answering feedback, improving communications and being a custodian of company image across digital and offline media channels) have moved to the marketing core. PR professionals who have always been communications savants but worked at periphery of marketing suddenly find themselves in the middle of company-wide efforts.

So if you are looking to employ a freelancer for an aspect of PR (e.g. media relations, or running a campaign), that’s fine. It will be better if they are managed by someone in the organization who works closely with the marketing organization within and who understands the branding completely.

Giving the entire PR strategy to a single freelancer or a group of freelancers is however risky. Commitment is one issue, and motivation is another. And if your PR needs expand, you may need to increase your freelancer pool, which really means managing multiple individuals with diverse agendas.

An agency can manage the entire spectrum of PR activities. They already work with freelancers themselves for certain aspects of PR, but in the end, they are committed to an SLA (service level agreement) with you. It’s their commitment as an organization to building a long-term relationship with your business. It also allows them to have a consistent revenue stream and improves their cash flow.

Regardless of budget, you need to begin with a sound PR strategy to win in today’s market. Then work with an internal PR team or an agency to roll it out. Let them work and manage freelancers can help to execute the tactics that come as a result.[bctt tweet=” Begin with a sound #PR strategy to win in today’s market”]

By doing this, you are taking charge of the strategy but not the everyday execution and monitoring. More importantly, the relationship you build with the PR agency will help you to be more effective when something occurs, or you need to pivot from the current strategy.

So should you employ a boutique agency or should you pool your resources to get a big name? That’s a question for another blog.