Sometimes Bigger PR Agencies Are Just Bigger

At big agencies, you're paying for the overhead ... and all those chairs.  Image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

At big agencies, you’re paying for the overhead … and all those chairs.
Image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mark Twain once said, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

Sadly, this lesson is sometimes lost in the process of evaluating public relations agencies. Often the bigger agency is selected because they are seen as “the safe bet.”

However sometimes the safe bet with PR agencies isn’t always the best bet and the little guy is overlooked to the detriment of the company conducting the search. To those companies, I offer six reasons they would do well to consider small agencies like mine.

  1. It’s Personal, Not Just Business. Working with a smaller agency, clients typically have direct access to the agency president and senior staff. So do the agency’s employees. This means ideas aren’t just top-down, and everyone has a stake in the success of the account.
  2. What You See Is What You Get. The better-run small agencies have less staff turnover, especially at the senior level. So the folks you meet at the new business pitch meeting are the folks actually doing the work for your company. That almost never happens at big agencies.
  3. Small Agencies Are Built By Big People. Small PR agencies are populated with PR pros who left big agencies to focus on good work instead of billable hours, or by established journalists who bring a well-honed reporter’s eye to the story-craft of public relations. Big agencies are not the only bastions of talent.
  4. Budgets Don’t Drive Success. Small agencies have less overhead then larger competitors. This means smaller agencies work toward success, not billable hours. At larger agencies, clients with small budgets are often relegated to a few hours of work per month, led by the most junior, least experienced staff members.
  5. Flexibility and Responsiveness Are Watchwords. Small agencies usually don’t have “big” accounts to fall back on, so ensuring every client feels like the only client is the hallmark of a well-run small agency. This means responding promptly to clients, and being able to adapt well to changing priorities.
  6. It’s a Business of Personality and Ideas. Success – with big or small agencies – is predicated on the people on the account and the ideas they generate. In this area, size is not a factor. One smart, industrious solo PR pro with good ideas and a little elbow grease can be as valuable to a client as an army of well-polished and mildly talented PR practitioners. As Twain said, it’s about the fight in the dog.

This isn’t to say all big agencies are bad and all small agencies are good. It’s simply why smaller agencies should not be disregarded as a “best bet.”

I’ve heard too many stories from clients and co-workers alike about companies that chose big PR agencies based purely on the idea they were a perceived safe bet. (As the saying goes, “Nobody ever got fired for hiring IBM.”) These same folks, after prolonged discovery periods and big “start up” fees, came to find bigger isn’t always better.

Sometimes bigger is just bigger.

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This entry was posted in b2b, pr, small business and tagged , , , by Rod Hughes. Bookmark the permalink.

About Rod Hughes

I'm a writer, bibliophile, witty wordsmith and generally a commentator on the world around me. Professionally, I am vice president of a Pennsylvania-based public relations agency that helps businesses get their messages out into the world in a positive, effective way. All commentary within this blog is my own and unrelated to my employment endeavors. If this blog prompts deep thought, debate, laughter or a viral rash of some kind then I will consider my life just a tad more fulfilled.

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