Hiring a PR agency vs. keeping it in-house: what’s the best option?

Hiring a PR agency vs. keeping it in-house: what’s the best option?

27 Oct 2021

Choosing between an external PR agency and in-house marketing is always a tough call! After all, Public relations is an essential aspect of marketing without which your company will not succeed, let alone grow in a profitable manner. In fact, PR is believed to be about 90% more successful in influencing consumers than other means of marketing such as advertising. As you can see, the scope of public relations is well documented with its market value expected to reach over $90 billion by 2022. Yet, as important as it is, choosing the right kind of PR campaign could be equally challenging. Especially in this age of information where media relations are getting harder to maintain than ever before. Aside from that, partisan politics and advancements in technology are making public relations even more challenging. No wonder why most business owners find it to be extremely confusing when it comes to choosing between an external PR agency or in-house marketing. Either way, the primary goal of a public relations strategy remains "publicity of your brand!” i.e. creating, maintaining, and improving your brand’s public image for scalable growth in your business. Although many businesses are transitioning to in-house marketing as of late, that does not mean that you have to do the same. Remember, the key to choosing the right PR agency depends solely on your business goals and your own limitations. Before we get into that, let’s quickly find out what PR is.

What is public relations (PR)?

Public relations is the process of creating a positive image of a person, brand, or service. In business, it’s usually done by using various means of marketing and branding such as press, digital media, social networks, automation, and analysis. What is public relation? Unlike marketing, which is mostly to do with promoting your products and services, public relations is a vast domain that impacts many areas of a business. Along with creating a positive image of your brand, it also increases brand visibility, brand awareness, and boosts the over-all search engine rankings of your website which is quite crucial for if you want to run a successful business in today’s digital market. So with that in mind, I’ve put forth an explicable account of both agency marketing and in-house marketing along with their pros and cons which will hopefully help you get to a final decision without wasting any more time. But first let’s quickly understand the major difference between the two.

Difference between PR agency and in-house PR team

PR agency is an external marketing firm which you can hire to promote your brand and market your business. An in-house marketing team refers to a dedicated team of PR professionals from within your company who are responsible for handling public relations and media affairs. Now let’s go through the pros and cons of each without any further ado.

Why should you hire a PR firm?

A PR agency is a suitable marketing solution for if your brand is new and eager to build a larger audience base. It’s also a quick way to build your brand’s credibility in the market should you choose to scale your business. Let’s take a closer look at the various benefits of hiring a PR firm:

  • PR Agency has pre-built media relationships: Media relations are getting harder as we speak. About 3/4th of PR professionals admit to seeing a 25% rise in the challenges associated with building new media relations. This could get even more challenging if you’re new in the market. That’s because building new connections can take months and years of effort. A PR firm in this context can help you a great deal due to the network of long line of media relations that they might already have built. A good PR agency could cover a variety of marketing channels to get you the publicity you need in quite a short span of time.
      • They've got the experience you need: Let’s say you’ve built your business from ground up but have no idea how to manage your public relations. Employing a full-time in-house team, in this case, won’t do you any good either unless you as the owner have prior knowledge of the field. And that’s where an agency, which has worked in the industry for years and have gained substantial experience comes into picture. The agency would be well-versed with all there is to know about public relations. Not only would it reduce your workload but also bring in a lot of insight into how public relations is managed in real-time in modern digital market. Plus, you’ll also get their experience!
        • You gain a new perspective on your company, brand, and customers: Imagine paying someone to give you the most honest feedback about your brand and business practices! Sounds awful? Well, it shouldn’t! Getting a fresh opinion on your business, products, and customers is never a bad idea. Even if you have to spend a little. While your in-house team may not be very critical of your work ethics and business values, an external agency would be more than open in telling you where you lack. Most PR agencies look for new ways to boost your publicity and will leave no stones unturned even if it means changing the entire make-over of your company.
          • Agencies have a greater understanding of trends, the media landscape, and the big picture: Being in the industry for long, the agency would have seen many ups and down in the market. As a result, they’ll be well prepared with all the knowledge of what’s working in the market and what’s not. Besides, acquiring deep understanding of the local market, trends, tactics, and the habits of the target audience, is what PR agencies do. It’s basically what PR agents eat for breakfast!! And then they go to PR events across various industries and sectors so as to have a broader sense of the current landscape of the media and the future it holds. A clear understanding of the big picture that PR agencies have could help you a great deal in building your public image the way you desire.
            • PR Agency has countless workers under them to do your bidding: A PR agency is a separate firm with its own pool of talented workers who’d be more than dedicated to improving your public relations. What’s more is that these skilled individuals would be able to cover a wide range of marketing channels and outside resources in a very short time. They’d be well versed with latest tools and technologies to cover all your marketing needs and which brings to our last and the most important advantage with hiring a PR agency.
            • PR Agency comes with its own list of tools required for success: Modern businesses tend to use every technological advancement that they can for a variety of purposes. Be it automation, analysis, collaboration, or data transfer. PR agencies haven’t stayed behind in this race either. Most PR professionals use a number of marketing solutions including automation tools, web analytics, marketing cloud, email automation, and CRM software for marketing and branding. A PR agency would apply various tools and technologies depending on your goals and requirements.

            Why should you handle your public relations in-house?

            While a PR agency would offer many advantages to a start-up or a small-scale business, an in-house team would be perfect for well-established brands that have been in the industry for a long. Let’s take a thorough look:

            • You know your business better: Unlike a PR agency, which may or may not understand your business values, an in-house team would have a fair idea of your goals and vision. And so in a way, they’d be more committed towards your goal than an external agency. While an external PR agency could definitely help you come out of an emergency setback, your in-house team would be more than capable of building your brand’s authority in a long run. It would also allow you to manage the team and projects from up close, and help you monitor the quality right from the start to finish. Plus, you’ll also get first hand-experience of the market.
              • Less expensive than a public relations firm: Although a PR agency would cost you somewhat less, in no way would it be a long-term investment. Remember, a PR agency is fine if you want to be build some credibility in the market in a short term, but if you’re looking to build a solid image for years to come, then having a dedicated in-house team would be your safest bet. And given the right tools and training, I’m sure a dedicated lot would be able to meet all your marketing needs without having to ask for a PR agency! No wonder why more PR work is taken in-house than being outsourced to external PR agencies.
                • You’re the top priority: Since a PR agency handles several clients at a time, it may not always be possible for them to give you priority. Although most agencies are flexible with communication hours and payment, you can’t always be too sure. Having an in-house team, on the other hand, does not pose any such challenges. It’s reliable, easy to connect with, and easy to manage. And since they would all report to you, you can adjust their skills and responsibilities depending on different tasks, the company’s needs, and financial situation. The sole aim of employing a full-time PR team within your organization is its public relations, and that’s all.
                  • You own the relationships you form: While an agency would apply every trick at their disposal to boost your public image, they may not disclose their connections and media relations with you as part of their business code. And in-house team on the contrary would be owned entirely by you. So every connection and every media relation your team builds would be on behalf of your company. Besides, building your own connections from the scratch means earning them for life.
                    • Much closer to the information, able to respond quicker than outside firm: An in-house team would also be able to keep you up-to-date with all things latest including the current market, your PR status, important events, schedules, and meetings. This means you’d be able to monitor and communicate on your projects much faster than your competitors. Having a dedicated team of PR professionals by your side would give you an easier access to the data which you can analyze in real-time so as to respond more responsively in the industry and much quicker than outside firms.


                    While it’s safe to say that PR plays a vital role in the over-all success of a business, choosing whether to hire an external PR agency or employe a full-time in-house team depends totally on your goals, budget, and requirements. While each of these has their own pros and cons, the smart strategy would be to integrate both of them into your marketing campaign. Also known as hybrid marketing, it may cost a little more initially, but once your newly appointed team has gained sufficient experience from the PR agency, you can start giving them more responsibilities until they learn to manage your public relations completely on their own.

                    About GEM COMM

                    We are an International Investor Relations firm (IR) based in Singapore. We specialise in Investor Relations, Public Relations, marketing, branding and messaging strategies for clients that include organisations of all sizes across Asia, Oceania and US.
                    GEM COMM advice and solves stakeholders' issues, drive growth, reposition your business, improve your marketing and Public Relations (PR) or engage with investment community in your leadership or strategy story. We have a track record of helping clients reach these goals. We create and implement PR & media content, mitigate crisis and issues, establish and improve thought leadership & content marketing.
                    GEM COMM Engagement types include:

                    • IR/PR retainer program
                    • Crisis and issues projects;
                    • Content marketing (from research to lead generation) inclusive of Press Release drafting, Media Pitch, Website content, etc.

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