Outsourcing PR for the First Time
Among the shifts in how businesses are operating in the Covid era, there’s certainly evidence to suggest more companies are looking at what functions they maintain ‘internally’, and which they could potentially look to outsource to specialists.
It’s no surprise then, that marketing and communications might be seen as one area for which a different delivery method is adopted.
The benefits are obvious – you can use more or less of it as you need to; can draw on the expertise of very accomplished and senior practitioners who have a contacts book far better than you yourself have access to; and the specialist is most likely taking charge of all their own taxes and commercial obligations.
But of course, there are some very significant considerations, before you go trying to snuggle up with your specialist.
What should you consider, before you enter into what you hope will be the dream partnership?
Know Your Objectives
Like any relationship, you’ve got to enter into it, knowing what you hope to come from it.
Do you have your heart set on tonnes of national media coverage? Are you wanting someone to be your go-to for all your stakeholder communications? Is your aspiration that this person will secure you 100 new sales leads in the next month, purely as a result of their efforts?
Make sure you’re clear about why you’re engaging a consultant, and be fully transparent about that so you’re both comfortable with what’s expected.
Does Their Skill Match Your Need?
Are you in need of someone who has a real niche level of expertise?
If you’re after someone who can write scientific-speak at a moment’s notice, or can turn around content related to macro economics, you may want to consider whether the person whose only experience is in beauty PR.
Most PR specialists do, however, know a little about a lot, so don’t only consider what they’ve done previously. There’s always a ‘first client’ in that sector, but if they’re a good ‘fit’ and give you a real confident sense in how you could work together, it could be the ideal match regardless.
What Will the Reporting & Delivery Structure Be?
Do you have an existing marketing team or junior comms person who’ll work alongside the specialist?
How will you make sure this person fits into your current PR function?
If they’re going to work in isolation, and you don’t have any existing PR staff, who will they go to to get sign-off, or to ask questions?
Make sure you’ve considered that structure so that no-one feels frustrated by being asked for feedback or input. PR people are great at sourcing information and tailoring for the delivery, but it requires contribution and collaboration from your end too.
Long Term, or Quick Fix?
It’s always useful to have your cards on the table in terms of how long you envisage calling on the services of the consultant.
Is this a short-term fix while you recruit an internal team? Are you wanting to form a long-standing comms relationship, and perhaps to have your specialist help you recruit or mentor other employees in the future?
Know what your ‘end game’ is and be as open about that as you can.
What do You Intend to Pay?
There’s nothing worse than both sides feeling disappointed when a consultant pitches you the options with the assumption you have a champagne budget, and then ends up having to withdraw the proposed specification when you reveal your lemonade budget.
All anyone wants in these professional relationships is honesty, fairness, and a clear understanding of expectations.
No-one wins when you deliberately hide how much you’re prepared to pay, or seek to ‘chase the budget to the bottom’.
Consider what the outsourcing will achieve you by comparison of a member of staff, for example. Know the VALUE as well as the PRICE.
Is the Chemistry There?
Your specialist can be, on paper, absolutely what your brand needs.
They can have all the qualifications and the contacts, but if they don’t strike you as someone who really ‘gets’ your sector or your business (or wants to), or is spectacularly different in personality to the way you or your fellow colleagues work, you may seriously want to reconsider your options.
In an ideal world, this will be someone you’ll want to share brand secrets with, turn to for creativity at the drop of a hat, and help you out of the worst of potential commercial crisis – so you’re going to have to believe there’s a great ‘fit’ before signing them up as part of your team.