Do you need a PR agency? Or would an Independent Consultant be a better fit?

Is there a stigma attached to the term ‘freelance’? It’s a subject that is hotly debated, despite the fact that, as reported by PR Week, demand for Freelance PR services continues to soar. The value of freelance PR support is clear where PR agencies are concerned; flexible support for large projects, specialist expertise and help with creative ideas, but do businesses appreciate the benefits of working with an independent PR consultant?

Do businesses consider whether an agency and a larger team would better suit their needs than a freelance PR? 

Sometimes a PR agency - or a fully integrated agency depending on the brief - will be the right choice, but for those clients who perhaps don’t require an extensive team of people, appointing an Independent PR Consultant could well prove a smarter choice for their business.

So, for those businesses considering whether a PR agency or an Independent PR Consultant would be most appropriate, what are the benefits of working with a Freelance PR?

Extensive experience

Many Freelance PR consultants benefit from more than a decade’s experience within the PR industry, often managing large teams and working with big name brands and sizeable budgets. We’re talking about enormously capable - and talented - people, who are confident enough in their skills and ability strike out on their own. 

Independent PR consultants are focused and hugely motivated people with established, often extensive networks - the sort of person you’d like to represent your brand or business.

One dedicated consultant

While there are many excellent PR agencies out there, there is a real chance that, beyond initial pitching and strategy reviews, your work will be handled by junior members of the team. That’s something that some brands and businesses will be completely prepared for and unperturbed by, but one of the key benefits of working with an independent PR consultant is the knowledge that your work - from the pitching and strategy through to the day-to-day - will be handled by an experienced, senior PR professional who will be your single contact. No more miscommunication, no unnecessary time wasted by team meetings - just one contact who is completely up-to-date and able to operate very much as an extension to your own team.

However, this does sometimes raise questions around contingency planning in the unfortunate event that your PR consultant is unable to work - in reality, the chances of this happening are slim and most Freelance PR’s operate within an extensive creative network and would be able to organise interim support at short notice from  someone whom he or she can trust to deliver the work. I was once asked what would happen if I were hit by a bus, which I hope should never happen! 

Specialist skills and sector knowledge

Many Independent PR Consultants specialise in a particular sector or industry, with specialisms often developed over many years. I personally specialise in corporate PR, property and financial and professional services.

Specialist knowledge of your industry will be of enormous benefit to your business, reflected both in overall strategy and quality of results - as well as in the reduced time it will take you to amend copy and other work sent over for approval! While many agencies claim to specialise, expertise may be reflected in the client base but unmatched by knowledge and ability to appreciate opportunity and risk for your business, talking with confidence to journalists and clients, pitching features and sniffing out a news story.

Commitment and continuity

You’ve been working with a great account team for a while and everything is clicking into place; the results are good and you get along well with your day-to-day contact - but then the news comes that he or she is moving onto pastures new. We’ve all been there. Unfortunately, thanks to the reliance on fresh ideas within the PR agency, turnover is high. Some agencies have a much lower turnover rate than others, but many businesses prefer to work with a Freelance PR consultant to avoid this issue. 

By appointing an independent consultant, entrepreneurs and business owners can ensure continuity and continued focus on delivering results.

Credibility and personal recommendations

When considering agency recommendations, they will primarily be based on the skills of a transient team. Yet when reviewing recommendations for an Independent PR consultant, you can be sure that each relate to the ability, skills and service provided by the individual, giving you confidence that your business or brand is in the right hands. 

Effective use of budget

Whether dealing with PR agencies or PR Freelancers, most will calculate their rates based on a day rate. It’s no secret that agency day rates can be significantly higher, primarily owing to the need to cover staff costs and other overheads. By working with an Independent PR consultant, businesses can make their budget stretch much further while benefiting from equally impressive results - if not more so. 

The jury is still out on whether businesses appreciate the benefits of working with an effective Freelance PR, but I hope this list can shed some light on why it should at the very least be a consideration when looking for effective, top-flight PR support.