PR Manager (not ) required

It may be a little disloyal, given my previous roles, but today I advocate a controversial way for small to medium tech companies to save money on UK marketing. Just to be clear, the following advice does NOT apply to marketing managers, the generalists, who look after Lead Generation Campaigns, Events and Online presence). It is also meant constructively for those who currently hold this job title, to spur them on to broaden their appeal to their employers by becoming such valuable generalists.

But enough bluster. Here it is – UK PR Managers are a waste of money.

Firms are better off with a bite-size PR agency (for full disclosure, naturally enough, this is a service that Positive provides). Before the backlash though, here is the logic on why this role is an extravagance which tech companies need to look at:-

  1. Efficiency – Tech agencies generally work in more than one sector for more than one client and are exposed to more Points Of View. From a journo perspective, this makes dialogue with an agency person much more interesting and effective than with a ‘one shot’  in-house person pitching one story repeatedly for one ‘client’. NOTE – This does not apply to truly European PR managers, whose role is more about team leadership, co-ordination and measurement and who may even offer language skills.
  2. Creativity – Leading on from above, speaking to more press contacts on more subjects brings into play the Network effect. Speaking to media commentators in many sectors, means more exposure to more Points of View on more subjects, so client pitches are likely to be better-informed.
  3. Objectivity – With an external view of the market, it is possible to see ‘over the horizon’ of product launches and impending user conferences and just determine what exactly the right approach is based on the news today. This can change a lot and quickly. News like the announcement of a rival product, the takeover of a competitor, a new computer virus scare or systems failure, can all radically effect the success of a pitch – regardless of when the user conference is taking place.
  4. Value For Money – As an external supplier, PR agencies have to deliver value and justify it regularly with clients. In a very competitive market, now more than ever, this provides valuable flexibility for clients. Contrast the ability to change agencies with that of hiring or laying off an in-house person in France or Germany. Painful and expensive though it is to change agencies, a new agency can be brought on and produce results inside one quarter.
  5. Flexibility Unlike internal headcount, agencies can flex manpower up and down as required. This is crucial because much PR is very seasonal, with product launches, executive visits and ad hoc event support. Adding this agency project capability does not carry pensions or benefits costs and more importantly, whereas additional projects are often regarded as negative by an in-house team, they often make the difference between a good and a great client for the agency.

So my advice? Well clearly hire a hungry, responsive and responsible PR agency (like Positive). You may find the only things you lose are quarterly 360 degree reviews and in-house politics and I never heard of anyone claiming they built brand awareness on those.

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3 responses to “PR Manager (not ) required

  1. Why would the argument not apply to small and medium tech companies in the US, Japan, Australia, etc? many of the points are the same ones that drive any kind of outsourcing and if you can find an agency you can trust who can learn your space (both your product and the writers) you probably are better outsourcing to a small, strong agency (like Positive :-). just dont forget that an agency, like an employee, still requires a fair bit of management.

    • positivemarketingorg

      Peter,

      You are right on a couple of things

      1 The cost-saving argument could apply outside of the UK, except for the language differences (not going to use the old chestnut about US and UK English being cousins).
      2. Agencies, especially bad ones, need a lot of management. But if you add excessive management to the role of a PR manager, who should ideally set strategy, pull out news from internal sources and package it up as content, the value-add on top of an agency reduces.

  2. See http://blogs.zdnet.com/feeds/?p=887&tag=nl.e539 for a summary of what a few ex Forrester types think about social media and marketing, especially PR.

    They note some other reasons that companies should fire their PR teams. By extension, they also should high new agencies that are hip to social media.

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