PR: Small agency vs. big agency

Sometimes people ask me about my thoughts on what is better: small agencies versus big agencies — not just public relations but also advertising, design and digital service firms.

Since I’ve worked for both large and small PR agencies as well as in-house (and currently own and operate my own boutique consultancy), I’m qualified to answer this question.  Here’s my biased, brief comparison of a traditional agency and Epic PR:

Traditional Agency

Higher costs (overhead)

Most work often managed by junior staffers

Bureaucracy with several layers

Greater likelihood to over-promise and over-bill

Perhaps less ROI

Often overworked with scattered attention

Often constrained to assign the same few individuals to projects

Typically requires lengthy contract periods

Some clients can feel like a small fish in a big pond

Epic PR

Less expensive (little overhead)

Work managed by senior consultants

Flat, efficient, flexible operation

Honest assessments and billing

High ROI

Fewer projects means focused and personalized attention

Flexible structure allows for freedom to handpick expert collaboration anywhere, anytime

Accommodates project-based work and shorter contracts

All clients receive rock star service

If you’re weighing the pros and cons of working with a large agency versus a small agency, here are a few suggested considerations:

It’s a good idea to ask the agency where your organization fits into their client roster.  In my view, you want to be a top priority and receive focused attention, and that simply isn’t possible if an account manager at a large agency has 6 or 7 clients that he or she juggles on a regular basis.

Your budget may dictate your choice for you.  If you have a limited budget, I suggest that you be upfront about it.  Both large and small agencies require a certain amount of budget to deliver results and they will generally be honest with you about whether they can service your organization with a particular scope of work based on the proposed number.  This saves everyone time.

Lastly, whether you’re considering a big PR agency or a small one, make sure there is a good cultural fit between your organization and the agency.   After all, you’ll be spending a fair amount of time liaising with your PR counsel and they need to learn a lot about you.  You have to be able to trust them, like them and be able to work with them. The day will come when an issue emerges or there is a stressful project timeline where you both have to burn the midnight oil to accomplish a task, and it’s always a more rewarding experience to work with individuals that you can work with easily and whose company you enjoy.   – Maria LoScerbo