Almost every fast-growing company has a question: should we hire a PR firm or build an in-house team? If you wrestle with this problem long enough, it can quickly turn into an endless back and forth (“on the other hand…”).
The truth is, one path may make more sense than the other, depending on your specific goals, resources, and budget. We’ve gathered some helpful advice from the PR professionals at HubSpot to help you make the right decision.
Let’s dive into the key pros and cons of hiring an agency, explore how to make the right decision for your business, and cover five PR tasks you can manage in-house.
Reasons to Hire a PR Firm
1. You know what you want.
Hiring a company without knowing what you want is like driving to a new destination without a map. Chances are, you’ll get lost – soon.
“Hiring a PR agency can be a significant investment, so before that, you need to be clear about your goals and what you want to achieve with PR,” advises Ellie Flanagan, manager of product and corporate communications at HubSpot.
Your goal is your compass. They can affect your budget, schedule, and even the strategy you want to employ. Just as importantly, they give you a clear idea of what you need from an agency.
2. You’re ready to “feed the PR machine.”
PR is not a “set it and forget it” activity – even if you hire an agency to do the heavy lifting.
Mia MacKinnon, Head of Brand and Public Relations, Asia Pacific at HubSpot, agrees, telling me: “If as a founder or business leader, you don’t have the ability to invest in supporting your agency or in-house leadership to develop approved narratives, support launches, prepare media engagement and Events and giving speaking opportunities, it’s hard to see results.”
She continued, “If an agency’s message is drip-fed with little understanding of your business strategy and the challenges you face, they will have a hard time getting results. What have you invested in public relations my best agency A partner is a team we’ve worked with that has become an extension of our internal team.”
In other words, you play a huge role in building your agency to success. You are more likely to see great results if you see your agency as a true partner.
3. You want to expand your media reach.
When you hire a PR firm, you not only gain access to new ideas, perspectives and expertise – you also work with people who have relationships with key media contacts. When it comes to media outreach, your relationship is as strong as yours.
Flanagan added: “Building relationships with journalists is a core component of successful PR. If you decide to go the agency route, it’s very important that they have a day-to-day connection at your company that can bring them information and help them connect. Important. To internal stakeholders.”
That said, your budget may get in your way. If so, fear not. Flanagan advises: “If you’re on a limited budget, hiring an in-house PR person to focus on building relationships may be a better investment. In-house teams also have better access to internal resources and speakers.”
4. You need expertise.
They say all media is good media – but that’s debatable. In any case, when a crisis situation hits, most small businesses and startups are not equipped to deal with it. Even negative feedback and dissatisfied customers can affect a brand’s reputation and image.
All that said, if your business needs crisis communication — or any specialized PR knowledge — it’s best to leave it to the professionals. PR firms are more experienced and specially trained to handle (and prevent) these types of situations.
Now let’s explore some red flags that you should consider before taking the next step.
Reasons You Might Not Need a PR Firm
1. Your internal team is closer to the information.
Your internal team has only one customer: you. This means they can give their all and focus while agents have to spread their time over multiple clients.
As Flanagan told me, “Internal teams also have better access to internal resources and speakers.”
While you’ll need to educate external agencies about the ins and outs of the business and monitor their work for accuracy, your internal team already has a strong grasp of the company’s internal knowledge.
Plus, with tools like HubSpot’s Marketing Center and Hootsuite, handling PR-related tasks like sending promotional emails and social monitoring has never been easier.
2. You have not found the right agency.
When hiring an agency, never underestimate the importance of finding the right person.
MacKinnon told me, “There are a lot of variables in finding the right agency—industry specialization, B2B vs. consumers, the size of the agency and their team structure, the flexibility of the agency, their model—they are Pure media relations, or are they more integrated, which of the two do you need?”
For small businesses new to the PR game, MacKinnon recommends looking for agencies that offer flexibility:
“An agency that has a flexible model and can adapt to your business needs is usually a great place for a small business – until you have a working model, it’s important that the agency has the flexibility to align with you – this could be One month is a big launch, the next is a quiet period as you prepare for the next campaign.”
Also, reputation matters in the PR world. Don’t hesitate to ask around for other people’s advice.
MacKinnon explains: “Great agencies tend to be known and talked about – seek advice from businesses whose PR activities you appreciate, those in a similar industry to yours, or those facing similar challenges in awareness, perception and trust. “
3. You are looking for a quick solution.
PR is not a “quick fix”. The PR seeds you plant today will take time to grow, especially given that the very nature of PR is about building real relationships. Therefore, your relationship with the agency should feel like a true partnership, not a short-term investment.
If all this sounds daunting, the proxy route might not be the answer.
McKinnon agrees, saying: “One of the biggest takeaways from my career working in-house, and one that I share with my team, is that once you find your agency, you can play A huge role in setting you both up for success is seeing them as true partners.”
5 PR tasks your internal team can manage
1. Press Releases.
In today’s world, businesses have to generate their own buzz. Whether it’s sharing a new product launch, an upcoming event, or an organizational change, a well-written press release can spread the word about your business. Check out this helpful guide on how to write a great press release.
2. Social media communication.
What people say about your business on social media can affect your overall reputation. Every internal team should “closely monitor” these conversations.
Social listening tools like HubSpot’s social media management software, Sprout Social, and Buffer track mentions of your brand, relevant keywords, and direct feedback via hashtags and DMs. Additionally, many of these tools will allow you to reply to mentions on your social media accounts directly from the dashboard.
3. Blog writing.
Community outreach is the backbone of public relations. A great way to engage with your audience is through your own channels, such as a company blog. When developing a comprehensive blogging strategy, your in-house team may need to divide and conquer—one creates an editorial calendar, another seeks out guest contributors, and another writes blog content.
4. Promotional Emails.
With tools like HubSpot’s Marketing Center, Mailchimp, and Constant Contact, it’s easier than ever to manage, design, and send emails to customers. However, in order to send an email, you first need someone to send the email. So building a healthy email list – and making it easy to choose from – should be a long-term focus of your internal team.
5. Employee communication.
Employee communication, also known as internal communication, has quickly become a major focus of PR. After all, employees can be the company’s harshest critics or its most ardent advocates.
Employee communication involves sharing information through various channels, such as email or internal forums. The internal PR team can share company news, project updates, and more. When employees feel “in the loop,” they are more engaged, connected, and empowered at work.
back to you
At the end of the day, no one knows your business and its needs better than you. If you’re deciding whether to hire a PR firm, start with the advice in this article. Remember, as long as you incorporate PR factors into your business strategy to some extent, you are already heading in the right direction.