One of the PRCA’s predictions for public relations in 2019 is that virtual PR agencies and PR networks are really going to take off.
But what is a virtual PR agency exactly?
Well it’s a PR agency in which the PR pros who work on your account don’t necessarily all sit together and work in one location. Nor are they always permanent full time employees. Often you’ll get a group of two to three PRs working as a virtual team – each working remotely from home. Individuals will have been selected for the different skills and experience they bring to your account.
So, what’s so impressive about that?
Well there are a number of benefits for PR clients…
1) You get senior PR professionals who ‘know their onions’
Most PRs who work in virtual PR agencies have bags of experience. This is not an agency model for juniors who are still learning the ropes (junior PRs need ongoing direction and handholding – and are more liable to make mistakes as they learn). Instead, you get public relations professionals who know what they are doing and are unlikely to be fazed. Most will have cut their teeth in the big PR agency networks, so will know how to handle most scenarios. They’ve decided to work this way, because they value the freedom and flexibility of working under their own steam on clients and projects they enjoy.
2) You get the personal touch of a freelance PR – plus scalability
Lots of PR clients prefer working with freelance PRs. Thats because freelancers tend to provide a more personal service and a level of dedication that’s sometimes difficult to replicate in a traditional agency. In many traditional PR agencies you often have account managers allocated a small number of monthly hours each on 7 or 8 separate clients – which means they’re spread very thinly. Most virtual agencies on the other hand will tend to have experienced freelancers allocated more time on fewer clients – because they’ll be doing more of the work that in traditional agencies would usually be handed over to juniors. If you’re the client, then a virtual PR model means you get senior PRs spending more time getting to know your business intimately. This tends to mean the ideas and strategies will be more relevant. more workable and more finely tuned to your requirements.
And with a virtual agency, you won’t just be relying on a single freelancer. Because they operate as part of a virtual team or network, you can scale things up and can bring in other like-minded freelancers as and when you need it. You can bring more hands in as part of a big PR launch or campaign for example. Or bring in specialist freelance PR skills when it becomes necessary – whether that’s social media expertise, video or podcast specialists or PRs who can help you target new geographical markets. Plus if the main freelancer on your account is away – there will be someone else who can step in to fill the gap temporarily.
3) You get value for money
If you want a PR agency with a slick big city office, you’re out of luck going the virtual PR agency route. A virtual agency usually won’t have an office at all – which means it will avoid the related management and operational expenses. Plus it will have fewer recruitment costs (virtual agencies will have lower staff churn and won’t be constantly looking to replace juniors who’ve moved on). In general the costs are slimmed down, with individuals working from home offices using technology to collaborate (they might meet up in a services office once or twice a month). All this means a virtual agency can be more cost effective – and you, the client, end up getting more value for your money.