Observations from a Newbie

I am one of the newest members of the Greenough Communications team, coming here from a B2B software startup where I was the in-house public relations manager and did not work with an agency. Previously, I held positions at agencies in Boston and New York, but this recent move from an in-house role back to an agency brought some new revelations. So far, I have observed three standout benefits of partnering with an agency versus keeping all PR functions in-house:

We’re Drinking Different Kool-Aid

Speaking from experience, when you are holding an in-house PR role, you are typically around the CEO, executive team, sales team and the individuals (like engineers), that are developing your company’s product. These people should, and often do, have a great passion for their work and what they are delivering to the customer. In the case of a software company, often dedicated developers spend months adding features and new functionality to a product, and feel a huge sense of accomplishment when the goal is achieved. As an in-house PR manager, you share an office with these individuals and as a result, often adopt this enthusiasm for the company’s progress.

The challenge comes when it is time to share the news or develop messaging about the company or new product features. Quite often the people surrounding you want to shout from the rooftops every bell and whistle that’s added to the product. It can become challenging to keep objectivity and recognize what’s newsworthy to outsiders such as media, bloggers, analysts, customers or partners.

Your PR agency is one step removed from your business and product. While we become intimately involved with your company and gain a deep knowledge of your product, we’re not actually sitting next to these deeply invested executives and developers. This allows an agency to maintain a level of objectivity and better understand how the outside world will perceive your news and message. As a result, we are able to provide objective feedback to form a strategic and impactful PR program. 

Pushing Back

When you partner with a PR agency, hopefully you are looking for a strategic partner, not a robotic extension that simply sends along a list of editorial calendars every month. The best kind of PR team tells you the truth and provides strategic counsel that will support your business goals. On occasion, opinions on how to run a PR program or campaign differ. For example, perhaps a CMO loves the idea of launching a viral video campaign on YouTube to get the word out about the newest features of your B2B software. While it’s creative, you see red flags around the costs and don’t think it’s the most effective way to reach your target market. 

An employee may find it difficult to “push back” on the CMO – they determine your role in the company, promotions and salary. You likely feel more obligated to make them feel good about their ideas – whether or not you agree with them. A CMO sees you as part of their team and he/she may have hired you to help execute their vision.

Alternatively, as hired PR counsel I feel it’s easier – and part of our job – to “push back” on clients and CMOs if we don’t agree with their strategy.  I wouldn’t be doing my job if I agreed with every press release idea, message or campaign that crossed my desk, without thinking “is this the most effective strategy for my client to generate results?” I trust that my client has hired me and my agency because they want to tap into our experience and trust our opinions.

Access to an Agency of (Great) Minds

When you hire an agency, you get a core team that executes your program and communicates with you on a daily basis.  What clients often don’t see is that PR practitioners are constantly sharing ideas across accounts. 

This isn’t true for all agencies, but once a week at Greenough, the entire agency will gather together and brainstorm. Brainstorms cover anything from ideas for launching a new B2B product to galvanizing communities behind a green energy initiative. You have an entire agency of minds, each with different personal and professional experiences. The client often isn’t aware of the brainstorm sessions but are the benefactors. 

Further, at an agency, everyone’s mind is on PR and how to constantly improve communication for our clients. While we may be working on different clients, we regularly share information that has no client boundaries. We’re sharing new ways to leverage social media, best practices for running an integrated marketing campaign, information about upcoming feature articles and when a reporter is looking for a resource. Internally, only a few people are typically thinking about PR.

These are just some of the benefits I’ve recently observed and feel are often overlooked. You may not see them in a RFP or PowerPoint proposal, but they impact and propel your PR program every day.

-Contributed by Kyla Kenney. Follow her @kylakenney.