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What is a PR Specialist and What Does it Mean for Your Small Business

03 July, 2013

A Cloak of Many Colors

They can be In-House, on retainer, or hired on a per-assignment basis. You can hire an outside agency, large or small and with any number of specialties. One agency may specialize in media relations, another in social media and technology. The permutations and combinations of skills, services and costs are extensive—and confusing.

As a business owner, your first decision should be whether to hire in-house PR or hire an outside agency. Let’s look at each in turn.

Should My PR Specialist be In-House?

In-house PR staff are employees of the company. They can be full or part time employees, or even contractors which would spare you the cost of benefits. (Remembering of course that there is significant truth to the adage that you get what you pay for.)

Some of the benefits to in-house PR help include the fact that the person’s efforts will be dedicated exclusively to your business, they are accessible all the time, they know the company story better than any outsider and they have firsthand access to those in the company who have a story to tell.

Some considerations on the negative side include the fact that a one or two person team may not have a comprehensive knowledge of all the tools necessary for a complete PR campaign. The pace of change is frantic, and new tools are constantly coming into play. A cloistered employee may not be up on the newest trends and have to do considerable research to get up to speed.

In-house PR staff turnover can be high. Growth potential is seen as more limited than it would be if working for an agency where exposure to multiple clients and is seen to expand opportunities.

…or Should I Go With an Outside Agency?

The benefits of an outside firm include the fact that you are theoretically hiring the knowledge of the entire staff when you sign on. If the staffer assigned to your account isn’t sure of the best approach to setting up a teleconference announcing your new product line, you can bet one of his colleagues will and will be ready to help.

Developing solid media contacts takes time and effort. When you hire a firm, you reap the benefit of the media relationships already established by the firm. No need to reinvent the wheel—just be prepared to pay for it.

If your PR needs are complex and constant, an agency will offer the breadth of skills that you need to front an effective PR program. As communication methods become increasingly complex and more and more venues are used to get your message out (social media platforms in particular) it’s great to have access to experts who focus solely on this arena. An agency can provide that kind of dedicated expertise.

The Best of All Worlds

It’s clear that, depending on your business type and budget, there are advantages to both types of PR support, In-House PR or Agency.

But it does not have to be an “either-or” decision. If you feel that most of your company’s needs can be met by an in-house person, go for it. Should a special circumstance arise where more specialized or targeted assistance is needed go for a project-based contract with an Agency or private contractor. One time projects like setting up a website or getting your social media presence established can be handled in short order by a specialist, and then maintained by your in-house personnel.

Before You Decide

Consider all the factors discussed here, as well as your budget. Probably means a chat with your financial officer is in order as well. Proper research and a serious review of your PR objectives will help you make a sound decision that will meet your goals.

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