If you work in PR; whether it be in-house or for an agency, the chances are that you have had to work with the other at some point within your career. Looking back on those times, can you remember how these collaborations went?
For some time now, there has been a lingering tension between in-house and agency PRs, with one or the other often being reluctant to work together on client campaigns. This is something we as an agency have experienced, and so we set out to find out why this is the case and share some ideas as to why both in-house and agency PR teams can work together to generate real success for the mutual brand.
As with any partnership, there are areas where tension could arise, for example a conflict of ideas or direction could certainly have both teams butting heads, but like everything, there is a way around it. We spoke to Lisa Wisniowski from Stickyeyes, who has worked within an agency and in-house, to get her thoughts on why these two teams can often work so fiercely against one another.
Often agencies and in-house PR’s have very different masters, who have different expectations of both input and output. This can cause frustrations between the two teams, especially if it’s seen that an agency gets all the ‘fun stuff’ whilst the in-house team manages more day to day, functional activity.
A source on Twitter who has worked both in-house and within an agency adds:
I think there is a fear from both sides that toes will be trodden on. As PR's, whether in-house or agency, we are very protective of our own reputations as well as our media lists, contacts and relationships, therefore we will do anything to guard these. There is always the fear of one-upmanship as well – that one team will make the other look bad or try to steal the limelight.
Understandable frustrations, sure! But they can most certainly be avoided.
After all, client happiness is the main goal for any agency team, and sometimes to achieve that both groups simply have to put their differences aside.
In a bid to diminish any negative feelings out there, should brands and agencies find themselves in this situation, here is an outline of some of the benefits of working together, along with a few things to keep in mind to make the process run as smoothly as possible, and get the best from the partnership!
Without these, you may as well call it quits before you have even begun.
In order for both teams to work together and deliver a successful campaign, there needs to be a certain level of trust and transparency between the two. Both teams must be clear on who is doing what, and trust that each team is being honest and fair throughout.
Respect is also important and will be the make or break of a well thought out and distributed campaign. Respect between all involved will not only improve communication and reduce stress, but it will also encourage productivity and innovation. If there is a good level of respect for each company's expertise and experience, staff will feel more comfortable sharing ideas and knowledge with one another, which can only lead to BIG things!
Before making headway on any campaign, both the in-house team and external agency should be laying out a solid plan with manageable deliverables and delegating them accordingly. This will save any conflict in activity, be that SEO, PR or the creation of content - each team will have their own actions that will run smoothly without impact the other. Speaking from experience;
We all know that deadlines can slip or curveballs appear which throw a set-course of action but, close, regular communication alongside clear management of expectations (well-before a deadline is missed) can help stop friction and frustration between teams. It also makes a huge difference if you get on as people - working with someone you like, and respect, can have a huge bearing on the success of a working relationship.
Between the two teams there is likely to be a copious amount of PR experience - think about all the media contacts this opens you up to! Pitching out to national and regional press is key when it comes to getting your content in front of a large audience (if they feature it that is) and really impressing your client.
However, building relationships with journalists can be notoriously difficult, so if one team has a solid contact with a particular journalist, then you should utilise that. Be very clear on who speaks to what contact to avoid any crossover.
Finally, possibly the most important of all the points that have been made, communication! This will be the key to working collaboratively and pulling it off.
Lisa told us the best way to move forward together;
Encourage regular communication (on both the good and the bad stuff), be honest when things aren’t going the way you want them to and take time out, together, to celebrate all the good stuff that is happening. Challenge each other to stretch the output and make sure you take inspiration from other agencies, competitors and sectors to keep things fresh.
Of course, there are always advantages and disadvantages to everything, and the working relationship between in-house and agency teams is no exception to that. Below you will find some examples.
Lisa focused on the advantages of working together, saying:
I often found it refreshing and enlightening to work with agencies who had previous experience in your sector. Not only can they bring years of experience from competitor accounts but, they’d already built up working relationships with the key influencers in your space. Dependent on your sector though, it can be just as beneficial to work with an agency who has alternative sector experience – they can bring a fresh eye to your account and an unbiased view of what could and won’t work, as long as they knew they had a receptive client (of course).
In conclusion, the way in-house and agency teams work together falls heavily on the attitudes of the people on both sides. If they go into a collaborative project with an open mind, the same end goal and the willingness to share, learn and succeed together, there is no reason why there should be any hard feelings or animosity between the two – go into this with a negative mind-set and focusing on the disadvantages of working together, then it is likely that you are setting yourself up for unnecessary discord.
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