Many years ago I had a letter published in one of the marketing magazines in response to an article about a multi-national pharmaceutical company that had awarded its entire diversified marketing budget to one global holding company on the promise of greater integration.
I said in the letter that I couldn’t see the logic because the market place knows that talented people work for a range of different agencies of varying sizes for a heap of different reasons. There’s just no logic in believing that one holding company will have either a local or global monopoly on all the brightest people across PR, media strategy, advertising creative, content marketing and market research.
Plus I reckoned the people from the different teams under the umbrella of the holding company were likely beavering away in their own silos and had probably never even met each other.
My view still holds and was also recently verified (certainly at the level of the individual PR agency) over a cup of coffee with a colleague from the public affairs department of big pharmaceutical company.
He had just overseen the process by which his company had settled on a panel of “preferred specialist PR agencies”. So preferred in fact that the marketing team was prevented from commissioning any PR agencies or any PR work from consultancies outside the list. No correspondence entered into.
The company had developed a set of criteria built around capacity, experience, value for money, terms of business, hourly rates and a raft of other quality measures. His job was to scour the market and secure the best possible PR agencies for his restricted panel. And guess what?
Every agency selected was independent, medium sized and still owned by the principal. Every selected agency.
It’s more than just the arithmetic. Most clients can work out that while a multinational PR agency might have 30 consultants in total, only 5 or 6 of those typically (if they are going well) will be exclusively in the healthcare team. So their teams are the same size as the well-established independent specialist health PR agencies (like Palin Communications and our independent competitors).
The preference for independent agencies is underpinned by the demand for commitment, longevity and experience.
Clients that examine the relative benefits of independent versus big multi-national agencies see the value in having an agency with the key guy’s name on the door. They know that the quality of the agency’s work is the only thing standing between the principal being out of business and the staff being unemployed. So it’s unlikely the team will be cutting too many corners or disappearing any time soon.
So the next time the question of “global agency versus specialist independent” comes up, think about the capacity, experience and commitment of the relative teams. Avoid getting distracted by nonsense about “global footprints” and “international integration”. Because it is capacity, experience and commitment that is going to get you the best PR result.
So think independent.
The Palin team. Proudly independent and specialised.