There are plenty of compelling reasons why organisations choose to do their PR in-house. Familiarity with the mission, the people, and the tone and type of messaging you want to get out.
But unless you’re a large organisation with a decent sized media team – and sometimes even then – your skillset and resources can be stretched across a plethora of media projects.
Social media posts, blogs, written web content, video content, infographics, talking points for the SLT, speechwriting, internal comms, and media releases.
And with a tendency for organisations to want to re-purpose material to extract maximum value or of legal vetting to ameliorate risk, what can often happen is all the comms and messaging starts to blend into one another and become indistinguishable in tone and function.
Media releases that sound like blogs, techno-jargon invades external comms, and very soon what makes your organisation special is buried under a pile of sludge words.
The first thing an organisation should do is make a distinction between internal comms (the staff), stakeholder comms (partners and clients), and external comms (the rest of the world).
External comms is the area where most organisations run into trouble. They try to bring the world to their organisation and say ‘see, look at the amazing things we’re doing’. But nine times out of ten the world (read media who will be conveying this message) is not interested.
These are the types of organisations that obsess about having their logos in media releases, repeating their internal jargon and nomenclature, pivoting to their products and brand name in the first or second paragraph, and have absolutely no connection to the news cycle, no news pegs, or no new information to impart.
External comms & the special role of PR
The four main sources of external comms are advertising, social media, digital media, and traditional media (TV, radio, print, and online). The latter is the terrain of the PR professional and the most important of all the external comms sources because it’s the only one with credibility in the eyes of the public. The rest is bought or owned.
Everyone knows the function of advertising, and social and digital media is very much an extension of that; to create public familiarity with an organisation through saturation of messaging, rather than through engagement with ideas.
PR is really about positioning organisations and individuals to articulate the connection between themselves and the public interest. Whether that’s economic, social, political, or policy wise, the organisation that wants to convince the public of their value needs to do that through the media.
Is the public more inclined to believe what you say about yourself in a paid ad, or what others write about you in a media story? The same can be said of social media content that’s often boosted, or what you say about yourself on your own website.
PR alone is the only external communications function that builds credibility and trust in an organisation precisely because no one owns it. But that doesn’t mean that these comms are out of our control.
A professional PR agency will be staffed by ex-journalists who not only know how newsrooms work and how to package up stories for editors, producers, and journalists, but how to help shape the story being told about their clients.
Why outsource your PR?
The value of outsourcing your PR is that an external PR agency will have a fresh look at your stories, your case studies, your potential calls-to-action, the visual elements of your story, how your organisation intersects with the community and various cohorts and start to put together some story ideas that are not written for your legal or compliance team culture but the world of the Editor, Producer, and journalist.
It offers a fresh perspective, more brainpower to hack out tough stories, and can help break the logjam when internal processes stymie things and create roadblocks.
A well-rounded PR team will have a team of PR professionals onboard whose only function is to come up with stories all day long, who are pitching all day long, and who have established relationships with journalists. Hopefully they have staff that were journalists.
But perhaps the most compelling reason of all is cost. For the price of a part-time employee an organisation can have a PR agency at their disposal who can pitch them proactively and reactively into the media, while the rest of the media team handle the internal, stakeholder, and marketing functions of the business.