Being in the public relations/corporate communications field for nearly two decades, I’ve had the in-house vs. agency conversation a million times. I’ve discussed it with in-house teams deciding whether to bring on an agency and with friends looking for a way to promote their own product or service.
Recently, Ad Age posted a piece about this exact topic, which I think really gets into the crux of the debate. This article highlights the differences and pros and cons of each, offering insight into what might be best for your certain need. The article included the assessment:
“When considering which route will provide your company with undivided attention, a full-time communications professional could be best. Without any other clients to occupy their time, they can focus solely on your brand and even tackle other projects, such as running an event, handling social media or crafting the perfect email blast.”
But also pointed out:
“It’s more difficult than you might think to find a single expert who can execute on everything you need for a full-fledged PR campaign (e.g., graphics and creative, effective content writing, media pitching, coordinating and planning events, running social media, handling email marketing and more).”
In terms of the decision, the article noted it often comes down to budget. I agree that budget plays a big role, but in my experience, it’s not necessarily a reason to rule out an agency. If a team doesn’t already exist, sometimes hiring someone as a communication manager isn’t always the best decision and going with an agency where you can get multiple skill sets could be your best bet.
In my opinion, it's often the best approach when you can have both an in-house PR/Communications specialist and an agency. This hybrid model may not fit every business’s budget, but it offers the best of both worlds and can lead to great results.
From my early days on the agency side, it was always a plus when our client had an in-house communications team (even if it was just one person). There is great value in having a partner on the inside who can articulate the goals of the leadership team and explain what a win for the company would be.
Later, when I went in-house, it felt like a luxury to have a PR agency I could call to bounce ideas off of or get their expertise when needed. When you are in-house and find the right PR agency partner, it gives you the ability to focus on your day-to-day job, which often times, for in-house communications professionals, involves many disciplines outside of communications. Now that I am back on the agency side, we have a mix of clients, some with full communications teams and others where we are the only communications/PR support for the entire business. When our clients do have a communications team, we relish that partnership and together have been able to achieve great success.