Big PR agency v. small PR agency

Phil Gomes has posted his life story on his blog. Well actually it’s more of a quick round-up of his career and a reflection on his experiences in his first year at Edelman. The bit that had resonance with me was:

Some folks like to make baseless and easy-target value judgments about big agencies versus smaller ones. (When I was at a smaller agency, I did much of the same, to tell you the truth.) I’ve now been at agencies of pretty much all sizes. Trust me: There’s a market for everyone. In my case, I had to move from a micro-agency to an agency of 2,000 in order for my voice to be heard.

He’s right about being at a smaller agency and doing the value judgment thing. I think one of the issues is that quality control is so much harder for big agencies. I know lots of fantastic people who work at big agencies, but I’ve also come across lots who aren’t. In a small agency there is less room for passengers so you tend to get good small agencies and not so good ones. There is no room in a small agency for weak links.

I’ve had some horrendous experiences where I’ve had to work alongside big agencies where our clients are collaborating on a project. I remember one where the big agency’s monthly fee was our annual fee. My client was running an event and the big agency’s client was a sponsor. I was asked to ‘approve’ a news release (actually they called it a press release) which started “Leading PC solutions provider, CLIENT, is delighted to announce it is the primary sponsor for EVENT.” It continued in a similar vein for two pages. The big agency took great offence when I politely explained that I would need to rewrite it to contain some news and remove the marketing bullshit. In the end we got some OK coverage, but it was despite their ‘assistance’ rather than because of it.

The point is that it wasn’t the agency that sucked – I’d worked with them before and they were fine. It was the account director who was clearly far too inexperienced and wasn’t being supervised properly.

Phil’s other comment that struck home was that “I had to move from a micro-agency to an agency of 2,000 in order for my voice to be heard”. Now that I can relate to.

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About Stuart Bruce

International communications consultant and PR trainer specialising in online public affairs, digital corporate communications, online PR and social media; frequent national media commentator and conference speaker.
  • http://profile.typekey.com/richardbailey/ Richard Bailey

    There are two forces pulling in opposite directions: pressure from large clients to operate globally, and the observation that creative people often prefer not to work in teams of hundreds.

    There are barriers to entry for the sole trader or boutique consultancy, but there's equally a huge management overhead just to be big.

    I'm a champion of 'small is beautiful' but reading Phil Gomes suggests another view. You can be small and beautiful; you can be big and efficient. But what's the USP of being mid-sized, I wonder?