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How to Choose Between a Large PR Firm, Boutique Agency, or Consultant

What PR Hire is Right for You?

When you consider adding public relations to your communications department, you know it’s a substantial investment whichever route you decide to take for the hire, so you want to make sure it’s the right fit.

When to hire a large firm

You have to think about a large firm as any large company, one with several departments. Usually, for large PR firms that brand themselves as ‘full service,’ there are executives leading their business development, content, media, digital and admin departments. Having these departments and likely a nice office – in other words their overhead – will cause their fees to be much higher than a smaller boutique firm or PR consultant.

Now, be careful because firms can make themselves appear a lot larger than they really are so they feel they can charge more. Don’t hesitate to ask how they structure accounts, one like yours. Ask how many people would be on the account, who would be doing what etc. Have them walk you through their business model, their culture, and vision for the company to give you background. Also, its quite common to be pitched by a group of senior executives in a pitch meeting but then handed off to other team members after you’ve signed the contract. Ask about the people you’ve met and if you like them, even more reason to ask if they will be the people actively working on the account.

Larger firms will often need at least a six-month commitment and a cancellation policy of 60-90 days. Most firms, large or small, do bill by the hour so be aware of that as soon as you start the PR program. Don’t be afraid to check in on where you are with hours and budget as you may need to switch things up mid-way through.

If your PR needs range from media to content to social, along with crisis and messaging, a larger firm may be the better route. You will likely be able to get it all with one large firm. And the money you pay is worth the investment if they assign senior level experts to work on all these areas.

When to hire a boutique firm or PR consultant

Smaller firms are a lot like start-up companies, where one person may wear many hats. The CEO is usually very involved in strategy and sometimes the day-to-day. Your account team will be smaller, many of the team members will often be freelancers, and their office might not be too fancy. In fact, nowadays most smaller firms are virtual with no office at all. This little overhead allows them to charge lower fees when compared to the larger firms.

But don’t let the lower fees trick you into thinking you aren’t getting quality work and real experts on your PR team. Many smaller firms and individual PR consultants specialize in certain industries and have a solid background in a given area which is extremely beneficial. Same as with the larger firms, ask about the team who will be working on your account.

A few benefits of the smaller firms and PR consultants as they may be more flexible with time commitment, cancellation policy, overages, and overall scope of work. Since they don’t have as many team members and such a high overhead, they are more willing to work with you in certain areas.

So, if your PR needs are more singular, such as a media campaign for your launch or a crisis PR plan or content marketing plan, a smaller firm or PR consultant might be your best bet. Also, if you have a very specialized niche audience, you should try and find a small firm or PR consultant that really caters to that group. There are PR experts in niche areas such insurance, cannabis, CBD, risk management, healthcare policy etc. Do pay close attention to whether the firm is more focused on B2B or B2C as that level of experience really matters. Communicating to those audience differ a great deal.

Its important to do the research up front before making a final decision. It should beyond just the proposal. Now that meetings are happening less and less, ask for video calls with the team to get to know them. A good working relationship with your PR team or consultant is key to the success of the program.

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Lacey Trejo

Lacey Trejo Public Relations (LTPR) is a boutique PR consulting firm founded by Lacey Trejo, a senior-level PR professional with 15 years of experience. LTPR’s mission is to drive widespread visibility and strong ROI on behalf of various clientele.

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