I have had a lot of time to think about my last post, Agency or In-House? The Marianne & Ginger of PR, and finally decided what advice to share: Ideally, you should have both. Hiring an agency brings so much of the sizzle that Ginger offers, but having a PR department that is steadfast and loyal (Marianne, if you didn’t guess) can do wonders for a company.
I was leaning toward tossing Marianne off the island, but then I had a fun conversation with my new friend Henry. We ended up strolling down professional memory lane as we discovered we had worked with several of the same organizations in southern California. He does not remember meeting me, but it turns out that we may have worked on the same project; him on the engineering side, me on the public information side. Thinking back on those corporate communications and government agency public relations days, I realize that there is much about the in-house world that I miss. Like I said last month, “when you work for a corporation, you get an office, a title, and maybe an assistant. Then you get to settle in and begin to nest. You have one client and you are on salary. Your pace of life changes and not only can you stop to smell the roses (remember: happy people make better employees) you are able to think more deeply and broadly about your company. You begin to live in your industry and your roots deepen. You can settle into a predictable schedule that allows you to execute effectively on a daily basis, but also frees your mind so you can focus on new ideas and the future.”
The benefits to an organization of staffing up are huge. Having full integration of all departments creates a synergy (if that’s not an agency word, I don’t know what is!) that cannot be replicated with an agency. For all the good that PR agencies can bring, it is still a gamble as to whether or not the relationship will last. Like an affair with Ginger, you can be old news and the last one to know it. Agencies are notorious for focusing on wooing clients and many do it to the exclusion of actually performing amazing work that keeps clients. With agencies there are budgeting surprises, personnel changes, and the stress that comes from comingling two organizations with competing bottom lines. Yes, an agency always has its client’s best interests in mind, but that doesn’t mean that they do not have goals and aspirations that may change their focus over time.
But as I mentioned, too much consistency and safety can create boring, predictable communications people. Corporate PR has to be careful to keep its Marianne mojo from getting old and frumpy. Corporations sometimes reward loyalty over innovation, disciple over leader, spreadsheet over art board. The problem that I continue to see is the organization that under-funds their communications efforts, but continues expecting agency results. This wouldn’t work on Gilligan’s Island, but when possible, companies should invest resources in both building a strong in-house team as well as teaming with a top-notch agency. Not everyone could handle Marianne AND Ginger, but for your company to be strong, you need to be bold and brazen enough to develop the Marianne’s while courting the Gingers.
What do you think mates? ~ Jules