Why you need to understand your PR agency

“Nothing makes you understand the value of an issue like an issue,??? says Dustee Jenkins, head of global communications at music streaming giant Spotify. As a PR agency, we think it’s a point well made.

The comments were made during Cannes Lions last month, one of the planet’s most prestigious and important marketing, advertising and comms industry gatherings.

For those looking vacantly at the screen right now, the idea is simple— brands regularly undervalue their PR agency until they really, really need their PR agency. For example when reputations are on fire, flames need dousing, and public perception has to be improved.

We’ve talked, written and thought long and hard about the benefits of integration within an agency or indeed within a business. When the various departments and skillsets involved in establishing, building and fine-tuning the name of a business are all on the same page, and collaborating properly, the impact can be huge. Financial outlay is, more often than not, reduced as the services become more streamlined, and in all instances where integration is successful, ROI will grow.

But this isn’t always in the best interests of campaign output. In fact, far from it.

“The integrated agency is a procurement dream. Not a creative dream,??? says Bacardi’s head of Brand PR, Lisa Jedan, who was also present at the Cannes event.

So what does this mean for brand and PR agency relationships?

Well, for one, thing, it’s not a case of being at loggerheads. Ultimately, both brand and PR agency, or comms department, want the same things— the greatest quality of work and the best results delivered with the best value for money.

However, it’s not always apparent to brands that these goals are co-dependent. You only get the finest results when the work actually stands out. Stand out work produces the best ROI, because it more than serves its purpose, and that stand out work is only possible with creativity.

What this means is that brands need to fully understand what it is their PR agency does in order to allow them enough freedom to get creative with projects and campaigns. Without this understanding the likelihood for disagreements and unrealistic expectations is greatly increased. And that’s when problems begin to cause rifts, leaving both parties unhappy at the arrangement.

In recent months we have blogged extensively on the benefits of great PR, and how many of these benefits are hiding in plain sight. ROI isn’t as easy to calculate when the role of the contractor— in this case a PR agency— isn’t to sell, but promote products and services, and keep brand names in the public eye, increasing the chances of marketing and sales teams meeting their targets.

With this in mind, it can be easy to slip into the habit of stifling the creativity of a PR agency in a bid to reduce expenditure, without fully grasping that reducing expenditure— whether that’s in terms of billable hours or hiring specialist skillsets— will, more often than not, negatively impact on the PR agency’s ability to perform its role properly.

Read our guide to earned media