by Jodi Amendola, CEO and founder, Amendola Communications
January 2020 – Companies on a quest for market domination will inevitably encounter the same question. Should they hire an agency with a full roster of PR and marketing services—or add that talent in house?
I’ve been a career agency leader for 30 years so you would probably expect that my answer will be “always outsource.” But in reality, we do our best work with company liaisons who have a savvy sense of marketing or PR, and understand that great storytelling is essential to capture market attention and share. These are the liaisons who make sure we’re connected to company thought leaders and dialed into the latest company happenings.
On the other hand, these are busy people—immersed in building a hugely successful company. Few have internal teams that can do all or even a lot of the necessary marketing and PR, and they need an agency yesterday. So, here’s how to reframe the original question of whether or not to hire an agency. Instead, ask yourself: “What do I need an agency or internal team to accomplish that we presently can’t right now?”
Here are the top factors to help you focus on the right path.
GOALS. Quick, think about your three greatest wishes for PR and marketing. To stand out from the competition and grab the lion’s share of voice on industry trends? To position for acquisition or IPO? All are significant goals and require a broad set of professional capabilities, including PR and digital strategy, outstanding writing, and media relationships. You could build an internal team to include these talents, but it would be a far slower process than hiring a full-service agency, and the cost would be more, too.
On the other hand, if you have yet to build out much if any of an internal marketing apparatus, you may have difficulty getting the value out of a PR agency. Here’s why. Hiring a PR agency is like any other relationship—it requires good communication. I’ve found over the years that companies without even a basic marketing team in place, helmed by a forward-thinking and organized leader, struggle to keep us updated on news and happenings. That job is inevitably put on a president or CEO…someone who really doesn’t have the time to be the regular liaison for a strategic PR and marketing program. The best internal roles we’ve seen for this liaison typically include VPs and directors of marketing, and VPs and directors of communication.
STRATEGY. Now that you’ve identified your chief goals, it’s time to move onto planning how to achieve them. That is, your strategy. If you’re aiming for share of voice over the competition and frontrunner market status, that calls not only for a precise understanding of your target audience, but how to reach them…and convert them to sales. Internally, you would need, at minimum, someone to strategize and drive the appropriate PR and marketing program; PR and media relations specialists; a digital marketing guru; a top tier writer; and graphic design expertise.
Actually, many of our clients already have the above talent in-house…but not for every department. Some of our clients have maybe half of these roles fulfilled. In either scenario, we’re full-time, full-service partners.
Of course, the best such partners bring more to the table than just their advertised services. They should be able to advise you on a host of related issues, from how to boost your sales enablement efforts to leveraging your content in more and better ways than at present. Ultimately, an agency, even those who become embedded partners, bring in new perspective, fresh ideas and the actual execution of campaigns.
This is actually one of the most quickly apparent advantages of working with an agency. I’ve seen companies that only leverage internal resources to a fault – meaning as they become more immersed in the company and its culture, they lose perspective and focus more on what the organization wants to say than what buyers will actually respond to hearing.
Another and related benefit of working with agencies is they will (or should) bring a much broader industry perspective as a result of their exposure to other clients. This helps them connect the dots to larger industry trends and stories. It also gives them the necessary objectivity to address customer/client needs rather than simply repeat company messaging points.
TACTICAL HELP. Many of our clients use marketing automation to drive their content marketing and demand generation campaigns. It’s very process-oriented work that requires diligent lead nurturing and scoring to turn interest from these programs into qualified sales leads. In my experience, this is a key area where companies should invest in internal resources—including the marketing automation platform and the people to manage it. However, this is a job in itself and your content marketing managers will soon be asking for creative and writing help. Here is where your PR agency can bring the creativity and bandwidth needed for a prolific content marketing program.
BUDGET. Hiring an agency isn’t necessarily less or more expensive than hiring internally. In addition to an employee’s basic salary, there are benefits and payroll taxes, plus the time and costs of onboarding. The sum total could easily equal or surpass an agency retainer. On the other hand, a larger retainer for a full services program will likely be more than hiring an internal employee. However, you do need to have a realistic understanding of what you can afford. Good PR and marketing take time to fully develop and that in turn takes a commitment. Thus, the chief reason why PR agencies prefer retainers over project-based work.
RESOURCES. In our tech-driven world, there are a host of applications that run PR and marketing more efficiently than ever. They make it easier to target and contact media at scale; plan, schedule and monitor media postings; assess brand perception; measure share of voice compared to the competition; study and act on the findings from website analytics; and much more. This is in addition to graphic design, video editing and podcast production software. Few companies have all of these apps, and those that do, rarely use even half of them enough to get a return on their cost. But many of these are built-in tools for established agencies, who have digital marketing and social media gurus on their teams.
Bottom line, an agency can get you to where you want to go more quickly. The resources, experience and industry expertise are already there, rather than needing to be cultivated and added to from the ground up. But agencies work better in a partnership model where a two-way communication channel is always open.
About the Author
Jodi Amendola is CEO and founder Amendola Communications (https://acmarketingpr.com), a national, award-winning full-service healthcare and healthcare technology PR and marketing agency. She is widely regarded as one of the most connected PR experts in healthcare and healthcare IT, with 30 years’ worth of industry and media relationships, and experience in providing strategic counsel and campaigns that deliver bottom line results. Amendola’s impressive client roster includes over 60 of the most innovative companies in healthcare and healthcare tech today, serviced by the agency’s “A-Team” of 25 seasoned PR and marketing pros
Jodi has been repeatedly singled out for awards, as well. She was named one of PR News’ Top Women in PR in 2017 and 2019, and in 2018 received the Top Women in Healthcare award. Jodi has also been personally recognized year after year as a Top PR Pro by PRSourceCode. Jodi also was named an elite Forty-Under-40 business leader by the Phoenix Business Journal. She regularly shares her thought leadership as a Forbes Agency Council contributor, and previously chaired the Arizona HIMSS Marketing & Communications Committee and was an active Board member of X2 Health Network (X2HN), a not-for-profit exclusive executive women’s health network.
A committed philanthropist, Jodi serves on the board of the Help in Healing Home Foundation, and previously on the board of Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation. She recently completed a 6-year term volunteering for National Charity League (NCL).