We’ve all experienced the cyclical impact of the highs and lows of the economy on our business and ultimately during a low, the first thing to be affected tends to be the marketing and PR budget. Companies who have traditionally enjoyed bigger budgets and local PR agency representation in each territory they operate in are suddenly required to cut back, forcing them to pursue a more centralised communications strategy. There can of course be no real substitute for feet-on-the-ground. However, well co-ordinated PR deployment from a central location can be incredibly successful. More importantly, it’s a really cost-effective way of delivering global media coverage.
Is it really that expensive?
From a cost standpoint, if we were to draw up a rough analysis of a global direct representation model with a “lead” or “hub” agency you can easily rack up 1 million USD per year on fees. 100k USD of this may be allocated for the lead agency to manage the network. Aside from the financial cost, our belief is that this model falls down at a human level too – trying to co-ordinate a unified, consistent message when dealing with multiple languages and cultures is tricky at best. When you also consider that all of these agencies are reaching out to hundreds of journalists, then you can imagine the confusion and lack of consistency which can occur, resulting in a fragmented and wholly unprofessional brand image.
What’s the alternative?
In our experience, for the past 20 years we have found that by creating material centrally and approaching stakeholders in their local language you can be impactful, control messages and flow, and, most importantly, succeed at much lower cost. If we look at a rough budget analysis for a centralised PR model, we would see typically one agency fee, perhaps amounting to around 300k USD per year. In a centralised model, even if you’re reaching out to 30 countries, all those countries talk to just one agency who reports back to the client. There are fewer lines of reporting and human intervention which ultimately means clearer messaging and a sharper way of working. If those 30 countries all had individual agencies approaching thousands of journalists, there is huge margin for error and loss of clarity. Centralisation shortens the lines of communication and allows a PR agency to become an extension of the client, operating seamlessly and integrating easily into the organisation. Additionally, for companies with complex technical products, there is a far more accurate interpretation of data, particularly if working with a specialised technical agency.
So where’s the catch?
Of course, centralisation cannot be considered as the ultimate solution for global PR outreach, particularly in certain countries where PR is a relatively new discipline and you simply cannot act remotely. You need to have local language materials and an on-the-ground presence when it comes to public relations – press, influencers etc. However, somewhere in between there is a happy medium which delivers the best solution. Most specialist agencies belong to a network where they can tap into local expertise in markets where it is required.
There is not a “one size fits all” solution but rather a customisable approach which takes the best of centralisation and integrates the need for local representation, the point being that at the end of the day if you need to reach out to a plethora of markets, you do not need a blue chip budget to have a blue chip impact.