The PR Dilemma: keep it in house or hire an agency?

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Nearly every single company from small to large businesses need public relations. The big question for small businesses in particular is: can I hire staff to keep the PR in house or should I hire a PR agency instead? This article aims to help ease this difficult decision.

First off, let’s add a little disclaimer to the above by clarifying that start-ups should focus on developing media relations and social media channels in their early lives, with full-blown PR being rather premature.

The case and requirements for agencies:

Specialized expert knowledge and experience

If you go down the marketing agency route it’s imperative that the chosen agency have experience and knowledge in your industry field. This can be a hard task, but it will be a major benefit and save the time and money involved in training a more general PR agent in the whiles of your sector. If the PR agency in hand has good knowledge of your sector they will know what affects your brand and reputation and be able to avoid common pitfalls.

Clear objective, external thought

An agency is less likely to kowtow to company hierarchy and say what they think you want to hear. As such they offer a valuable independent way of looking at your brand. This neutrality offers many advantages extending beyond the realms of media relations.

It’s who you know that counts

Agencies can bring with them a certain degree of credibility. They have experience in working with media firms and usually bring with them a sizeable little black book! Their connections will extend to clients other industry pros and conference organizers. They may well serve as a conduit to introductions and new clients. They can also, at times use their position to get you featured in otherwise unapproachable publications, invites to key conferences and other valuable networking.

Disadvantages of using a PR agency:

Disadvantages of Agencies


In reality the only major argument against PR agencies is their expense. You may be able to get staff inside your company to complete the work for less.

Lack of inside knowledge

All industries require intimate knowledge of rules, clients, accepted behaviour and other quirks. PR agencies may lack this and also lack the commitment and desire to gain a detailed understanding of your sector and business. It is important you get on top of this.

Alternative (in-between) solution

In what can be a good compromise for start-ups and smaller businesses, freelance PR specialists can be employed, offering a cheaper option. They may lack the range of contacts (or not) but they can be great for swift completions and one time jobs.

Brief tips should you decide to go solo

  • Engage with others on social media channels, sharing ideas and concerns
  • Create unique content and share using snappy hashtags to network
  • Establish rapport with industry blogs by commenting on hot topic news articles and showing your take and demonstrating knowledge and expertise
  • Ensure to implement the right social media platform and strategy for your brand