Size matters, but bigger isn’t always better when choosing a PR agency
When I worked in marketing and business development at a mid-sized law firm, we spent a significant amount of effort trying to articulate our value proposition. In other words, why – out of such a large seemingly similar group of firms with approximately 100 lawyers in the marketplace – would a potential client choose us instead of one of the global giants with thousands of attorneys at its disposal?
By the time I moved over to WordWrite, we had yet to cogently answer that question. However, our team had taken the first steps toward that answer by broadening the question further: Why would you choose a smaller firm instead of a larger firm?
That was much easier to answer. What I found to be true in the world of law is also true when it comes to selecting a public relations agency.
Based on my experience, certain companies choose a large law firm, accounting firm, etc. merely to satisfy their egos. They pick based on assumptions of who they think they are or where they want to be in the marketplace, instead of who they really are and what they really need. Their logic dictates that if a competitor hired Large Law Firm A, then they need to hire a competing firm with just as many attorneys, thereby proving they have as much money to spend as their rivals.
Similarly, many organizations choose PR agencies based on whom their competitors select.
I could frame this type of decision-making process in cruder terms, but it’s basically tantamount to judging a car’s performance by the size of its engine alone. Corporate law firms of all sizes offer multiple practice areas. However, having an employment, litigation or workers’ compensation group doesn’t mean those working within that area of the law are all experts. All firms are not created equal, all practice groups in a firm are not created equal and all attorneys are not created equal – even if that firm has thousands of lawyers. The same could be said for accounting firms, financial advisors, etc.
No business can be all things to all people.
Similarly within the PR realm, a significant number of large agencies claim to do everything but realistically can’t. Dana Hughens, who moved from a large agency to run a smaller shop in Raleigh, provides excellent insight into this type of practice. “One of the great things about a big PR agency, especially like the one I worked with that had several thousand employees across the globe, is that when a prospect came calling with a need for a particular expertise, it was almost a guarantee that someone in the network had it. That person might not be available to travel from another country or city for the pitch, and he or she may or may not have been available to service the account on a regular basis if we won it. However, that didn’t stop us from including that person’s bio in our response and asking him or her to serve as a strategic counselor to the account.
“When I was on that side of the equation, I saw that as a huge benefit. Now, I don’t see it as anything I can’t do (actually do better) as a small PR agency. Here’s why. For one, we don’t tend to go after a lot of business that doesn’t match with our expertise or try to force fit what we do with what a prospect needs just to try to pick up another account.”
Likewise, at WordWrite, we choose to focus our efforts on helping health care, energy, technology, manufacturing and professional services industries share their stories with those who most need to see, hear and experience them.
Larger agencies (and law firms) often bring an impressive amount of account team resources to your introductory meeting. However, who will actually do the work? You could be paying for a senior practitioner but might end up with a primary contact who has little familiarity with what your company or industry does.
A lot of this comes down to one of our bedrocks at WordWrite – authenticity. We advise our clients to start from a place of truth in sharing their story with targets, so we operate from the same place of honesty with our clients.
As our client, you’ll know what we can do, how we plan to do it, when we’ve done it and with whom you’ll be working on a daily basis. As we often say, PR is not something we do to you, but something we do with you.
Jeremy Church is an account supervisor for WordWrite Communications. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @churchjeremy.