The Public Relations Practice: Agency Life

This semester, my class had the opportunity to visit two Toronto PR firms: Hill+Knowlton Canada and Cohn & Wolfe. Each firm gave invaluable insight into agency life, leaving me pondering, "Could I see myself working in a PR agency one day?" Each PR student eventually asks that same question. So, to make the decision process that much easier, here is what I've learned about agency life.

The PR Practice: Agency Life

Probably the most irritating part of agency life is the reality of service charge fees. Be prepared to receive payment in one or all three of the following ways:

Preferred method of billing: This method involves your basic hourly fee, plus out of pocket expenses. The tricky part? You must keep track of your billable versus non-billable time. Had a busy day and forgot to track your time? Unfortunately, you have no one but yourself to blame.

Retainer fee: This is where an organization retains the services of your agency by paying a basic monthly charge, whether they use your services or not. So, let's say your retainer fee is $5,000 per month, but you are not needed during the month of April. It's your lucky day - you still get paid $5,000 for April! The flip side? If you did more than $5,000 worth of work in April, you still only get paid - you guessed it - $5,000.

Fixed project fee: This has the same concept as the retainer fee. For example, if your agency is hired for $5,000, then $5,000 is what your agency gets - even if the work ends up costing more or less.

So, you may be wondering, "Why would an organization go out of their way to use a PR firm?" The reality is that not all organizations feel the need to have their own PR department; therefore, they prefer to outsource their PR needs to an agency. Or, they may have a special project coming up that requires a high level of PR expertise. If an organization encounters a crisis, and is clueless on how to handle the situation - that would also be the right time to hire a PR agency. Now, let's imagine that an organization already has a PR department; they don't need a PR agency, right? Wrong. A PR agency can still be very helpful in providing resources that are not available internally, and to assist in a large-scale project.

Fun Fact: Organizations most frequently outsource writing and media relations.

Now, let's break down the pros and cons.

Pros of PR Agencies:
  • They bring objectivity to an organization
  • They have a variety of skills and expertise
  • They have extensive resources
  • Many have offices throughout the country
  • They specialize in problem solving
  • Most importantly - they have credibility.
Cons of PR Agencies:
  •  Although they are objective, they also have a superficial grasp of issues, since they're only working with the organization for a relatively short amount of time.
  • There is a lack of full-time commitment. Trust me, PR agencies are not working with one client at a time.
  • Organizations need to give a prolonged briefing of the situation.
  • Be prepared to feel resentment from internal staff.
  • There is a need for strong direction by top management.
  • There is also a need for full confidence that the information given to the hired PR agency will stay private.
  • And, of course - cost.

What are your thoughts? Are you still enticed by the exciting, fast-paced, and attractive lifestyle of agency life? Or, is working in-house looking like the sweeter deal?

Signing off,

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.