Home / Do agencies have more fun?

I was asked to give a talk to students studying for the CIPRs Advanced Certificate course at Birmingham City University. Many of the students were already working in in-house PR roles. Over the course of our conversation, it became clear that for many in-house professionals, PR agencies and what they do, is still a minefield….

The agency/client divide is still as wide in the next generation

Talking to the students it became clear that those in-house, possibly in similar early roles, have a bit of trepidation about dealing with agencies. They are unclear on what they can ask for, what service or results to expect and how to get the best out of the relationship.

At the end of the day, we are all people. So finding an agency team you like, respect and ultimately trust to deliver for you is the key. A strong reputation, recommendations, a track record of client results and retention, are all important prerequisites, but to build the partnership needed for meaningful business results, meeting and getting on with the team is a real priority.

It’s all fun and games at agencies

Getting the creative juices flowing, brainstorming and getting that eureka moment where you hit on a gold dust idea, is what many agency PR’s thrive on. For in-house teams, it can seem like agencies get to do the fun stuff, while you are stuck writing reports. For me, agency staff will need ever know as much about a business as the in-house team, they just don’t live and breath it in the same way. Encouraging in-house teams to get involved in the creative stuff – the research, the brainstorms, the messaging, the writing, hell even the sell in’s if they want to – makes for more informed, relevant campaigns that are creative yet firmly rooted in the business’ strategy.

And if in-house teams are just too busy, which they often are, at least let them share in the high fives of a great piece of coverage or a social media trend. There’s nothing like the warm glow of hard work paying off to bring an agency and in-house team together.

Generalist vs specialist

The perennial question, as the industry continues to gain ever increasing momentum…Do PRs, both in-house and agency, need to be generalists who know enough about all techniques to deliver integrated campaigns or specialists with an in-depth and critical knowledge of a few techniques?

My view, like Story’s name suggests, is that it’s about the stories. Be a storyteller. Work out what is different, what is new about your client or campaign and what you can create that will get shared. Whether that’s down the pub after spotting it in the paper, on Twitter after seeing a meme, or on Snapchat as a film.

Channels and tactics are crucial and involve doing lots of homework. Knowing our audience, what they are consuming, what makes them tick, and then designing tactics that stand out in that landscape. That part does involve a generalist knowledge, but if you’re going to specialise, be a storyteller.

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