Here’s a scenario: You’re the new chief marketing officer or head of communications for your organization, and you’re tasked with quickly building out your team so you can move on to the daunting task ahead of you: helping your organization grow.
Once you know your budget, you have a difficult choice to make. Do you use your resources on an internal hire, or do you take advantage of the services of an outside firm?
Here are some things to consider:
Outside Firm (Benefits):
- Ability to Scale Effectively: With a third-party agency, you’ll have confidence that they can scale up and pull from other resources to staff your account in the event of a new product launch or a crisis that may arise. This is much more difficult with an internal hire, as you’ll face the reality of budget restrictions when you want to add to your staff, or you’ll need to put together cross-functional teams, which may add some diversity to your shared pool of thought, but likely won’t likely be the specialists you need.
- Proprietary Tools: Your agency will likely bring a suite of tools to your attention. In some cases, they will be cutting-edge innovations that you’ll be able to take advantage of as an early adopter or fast follower. In other cases, you may be able to take advantage of discounts on those tools the agency can negotiate on your behalf, because they’re effectively buying in bulk to service both your account and the other accounts in their portfolio.
- Training: Your PR firm has an obligation to offer training in the latest trends, tools and PR innovations not only to its client portfolio, but also to its employee roster. It may be much more difficult for you to compete with what they can offer as you build an internal team.
- Monitoring/Measurement: Part of an agency’s job is to report its results. This removes the burden of monitoring recent news coverage, or measuring the impact of that coverage, from you.
Outside Firm (Costs):
- Fees: The above benefits come with a cost. You’ll likely pay a little more in fees when you hire an outside firm, but that expense comes with the innovation and flexibility I describe above. You should also consider a flat rate, as opposed to an hourly billing rate, a topic I cover in more detail elsewhere on the Tech Image Blog.
Internal Hire (Benefits):
- Company/Culture Knowledge: In certain industries, and in certain companies, it’s important that your PR firm have an immersive knowledge of your organization and your culture. By making an internal hire, you’re more likely to find someone who bleeds company colors because they only have one client: you.
- Cost Savings: As mentioned above, because you’re effectively “buying” your PR resource versus renting those services from an agency, you may also find an internal hire is more cost-effective. However, it may make it more difficult to scale your program quickly if you need to.
Internal Hire (Costs):
- Salaries: You’ll have to cover the costs of salaries, benefits and payroll taxes. In addition, your new team member is probably going to want a raise in future years for good performance, so you’ll need to budget accordingly.
- Ongoing Training and Development: When you make an internal hire, you’re now responsible for their training and development. How much of your time do you want to spend growing your team?
- Computer/Technology: You’ll need to provide the tools and resources your team needs to be successful.
- Tools: There will be a basic set of tools your PR team will need to do its job. Many of the most basic PR tools, such as Cision, Meltwater or any of the wire services out there can run tens of thousands of dollars per year.
These are just some of the things you’ll want to consider when you’re making the important decision between adding internal versus external public relations and/or corporate communications resources.