If agencies are struggling, is this an opportunity for PR consultants?

March 14, 2016

PR Week just published an article, “PR agencies face mixed future,” prompted by financial reports that were issued by holding companies such as Omnicom, which owns big public relations agencies including FleishmanHillard, Ketchum and Porter Novelli. Among other findings, organic revenue was reported to be down 6.9 percent. Says the article, “No matter which way you spin it, that’s a disappointing performance.”

So what does this mean for PR consultants? Is it bad news? No. In fact, it could be viewed as an opportunity.

The PR Week article goes on to say, “Using lowly paid account staff churning through accounts that come and go regularly because clients become frustrated with poor service is a common complaint. CCOs are seduced by charismatic leaders who pop up at pitch or review time and occasionally thereafter, but aren’t physically and emotionally connected to the account on a regular basis.”

This was my experience when I worked at a large agency—it was actually one of the reasons I decided to launch my PR consulting business. This is the way it would go: The agency would bring in the big gun for the client pitch meeting, then, once the business had been won, the majority of the work was turned over to junior account staff, who were often like deer in the headlights when it came to many of the day-to-day responsibilities of the job. It’s no wonder clients are frustrated with the service they receive.

But, this actually opens up opportunities for consultants who can deliver the expected results and service because they remain in direct contact with clients and execute the work themselves. Not to mention, consultants are generally less expensive (less overhead) and can work as a team with other vendors and partners as needed. They can scale up and down, depending on the needs of the client. Many don’t require a long-term contract or monthly retainer fee.

Is a PR consultant a great fit for every business? No. But companies would be wise to consider all their options in the wake of these latest reports:

“In general, the biggest firms have to grow constantly to sustain their business models, and this can cause a syndrome of crunching through accounts, work, and people, and rolling on remorselessly regardless, like a large tank.”

Consultants are a bit more nimble and can move more quickly to achieve results for your business. If you’d like to talk about how a PR consultant can help your business, get in touch.

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