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Communications: Agency vs. In-house

Pool resource in-house, or appoint an agency?

agency or in house

The age-old question: pool resource in-house, or appoint an agency?

When looking at your marketing and PR resource, a business has a number of questions to answer, and a number of choices to consider. Will it make sense to hire a person or team, with specific experience relevant to your company, to look after communications from both an internal and external perspective?

Or, do you look at appointing an agency, with a wealth of experience across your (and other) industry, which can help facilitate a number of integrated communication tools? Sorry to tell you, but, there is no one-size-fits-all package with PR and marketing communications. What works for one business, may not wholly translate to another, so thought must be placed into what objectives your business is trying to achieve, the results you wish to see, and how quickly you wish to see them.

Let’s look at the key differentials. Hiring an in-house marketing and communications team gives you access to a person or persons experienced in one industry, which would mirror that of your business. They may have varying skill sets but will know the length and breadth of their chosen sector – and will want to grow your business from within. They bring with them internal communication focus, and are part of your team from the beginning, having access to company information, values and access to high-level personnel when required.
 Agencies bring with them a number of resources: numbers, creativity, expertise across various industries, extended output, integrated services that stem a wide variety of communication channels, not normally just one, and valuable contacts. Hiring an agency will give you access to a number of their employees, and their creativity as well as knowledge – across varying skill sets and career stages – all there for you. An agency has their finger on the pulse, mixed with longstanding expertise in communications, giving your business the extra support it requires in both traditional and more digitally led means.

An in-house specialist can help redefine brand values but may struggle to be as impartial as an agency, who can sit outside of a company and consult from a third party perspective.

However, what needs to be considered if you choose to appoint an agency is that an agency is only as strong, and successful as the person controlling and leading them from within your business. If the agency cannot become a true partner to you, have access to information and key people to gain information from; if they cannot become an external resource to your team – and instead remain at arm’s length, without being trusted, they cannot thrive, or deliver.

An agency needs someone internally within your business who understands communications and the importance of them, and for that person to be able to share information in a relatively timely manner so that they can ensure they’re providing the best possible service to your company. An agency can be creative, but to really add personalisation and ensure the company they represent is being promoted effectively, they need to have support, buy-in, and assets from within.

The same can be said for in-house teams. Instead of the potential lack information, often a PR and marketing team is thrust in various different directions or asked to complete tasks or skills that are outside of their remit, to bring in new campaigns, ventures or challenges. They then run the risk of being pulled in too many directions, or not having the time to truly apply this to their areas of expertise, or learn new skills to bolster the company. That’s where my personal opinion comes to the fore. Personally, I believe that the best solution often lies with a business looking to diversify its communications efforts, with a mix of both in-house and agency support.

This way the in-house team can focus on their internal tasks, as well as ensure an agency is working to the best of its ability. It also ensures that the agency has a key contact within your business that understands their communication practices and what they’re doing, as well as provide information so they can complete their role and deliver results. I feel that there shouldn’t be a constant question over which is better, but a joined-up, concerted effort, where a business chooses the correct support for their objectives, and sometimes, this requires help from both in-house and agency experts, who each bring their own expertise and skills to the table.