Most business owners that have employed an agency to help with their marketing or Public Relations can all agree that a firm is only as good as its people - and so long as that team is accessible, effective and don't come with an inflated 'billable team' rate.
PR is one of those incredibly malleable and fast-paced service areas that are conducive to smaller, flexible and responsive environments.
Most PR boutiques are small to medium-sized businesses that specialize in publicity and outreach for companies in various industries, according to the Public Relations Society of America website. The goal is to raise the overall awareness of a brand, product or image of a company or person. Their job is to make best use of your budget and determine a strategy that will best publicize your brand, drive engagement and boost sales.
But in most cases, is bigger always better? Or do individuals deliver the best value? How do you know you are hiring an agency that will meet your specific needs?
Boutique vs. Solo
Having spent the first six years of my business as a solo-preneur, I have a great respect for the work ethic and dedication it requires (still requires!). And I can attest without hesitation that growing my team has meant not only an increase in the quality of my work, but also in my company's value, processes, programs and direct output. Having multiple team members makes my company more accessible and service friendly, while clients receive the benefit of added guidance, expertise and knowledge of a collective group of people - who at any given time are meeting on, talking about and strategizing about your product or company.
Solo is great - but boutique offers higher quality and is more efficient.
Where's the Greatest Value?
When a company is ready to engage in marketing or other services the choices are 1. delegating the role internally 2. hiring an outside contractor or 3. engaging a smaller agency.
It may seem daunting to think of hiring an 'agency' as most assume it comes at a higher price point. But to put it simply, in order to fill the role which will deliver the equivalent speed, value and expertise of a collective firm - you would have to hire an employee(s) and pay them the going rate for a Marketing Manager or Social Media Manager or Promotions Specialist. For insights as to the going rates of these positions, check out this Canadian resource.
Examples of these can include: media release services, photography, branding, measurement, website design, professional writing, SEO and online marketing. Some agencies can adjust and add these services onto your existing program at a greatly reduced rate or may have the flexibility to work them into existing budgets.
Business owners will often attempt to put some of these tasks onto other less-skilled employees, decreasing or redirecting their job tasks in order to fulfill these roles.
Even if you find said employee, chances are they specialize in one specific area and may or may not have the experience, resources and tools available to them to carry out each of the three skills listed above.
Working with an agency means gaining access to additional expertise, suite of tools and subscription services which will directly benefit your company.
Questions to Ask Your Agency
Here are some great questions to ask when creating your RFP when seeking out an agency. Notice, it's not just about price point!
1. Who will be at the first meeting and by whom will my account be handled?
2. Is there room to either change direction or focus as my business grows/expands/changes?
3. What methods do you employ in creating: content, social media posts, blog posts, other?
4. How do you obtain your media research and what is your knowledge of media in my industry?
5. Who will you target in order to promote my business? How did you come to this target?
6. What other services do you offer that I may engage at a later date or when needed?
7. What method of communications do you use for your company? i.e. By what channels and how often will you be in touch.
8. What methods of measurement and reporting do you use to determine progress/success?
9. Your charged with enhancing (or) maintaining the image of my company/brand. What steps do you take to maintain your own company's brand or image? (i.e. what values to you uphold)