Do Ad Agencies Really Need PR?

Does a creative shop need a full-time PR staffer or firm? From my perspective, there are four times when an ad agency may not require a sustained PR effort.

Reason #1: When your work doesn’t involve thought leadership

Agencies that don’t need an ongoing PR effort might create great work but are simply not interested in thought leadership (and that’s ok). If an agency doesn’t want to communicate about the issues driving the industry, we recommend sticking to one-off project press releases. Why? Thought leadership PR work is the rocket fuel that powers an ongoing public relations initiative. Given its importance as a vehicle to build and sustain industry visibility, PR without thought leadership is a stool with two legs. But for agencies that aspire to be provocative and put their opinions out there in the press and on-stage, a PR firm that knows how to harness the power of insights can be particularly helpful. In other words, while PR is, in part, about publicizing an agency’s creative work, that doesn’t make for a full-fledged PR initiative.

Reason #2: When you run the risk of getting overexposed

Over the years, we’ve had the good fortune of working with companies for which we delivered sustained exposure, verging on overexposure. How do you go from exposure to overexposure? It happens. One advertising agency client we worked with for seven years went from a small shop in Soho with little name recognition to the point where the CEO said to me: ‘We’re getting too many opportunities, and it’s distracting to vet them all. We need to close the pipeline a little bit.’

It’s hard to argue with that. One counterpoint to consider is using PR to selectively cherry-pick a handful of only the most meaningful publicity opportunities that can translate to quality, not quantity exposure.

Reason #3: When you are afraid of losing your “under the radar” mystique

For the advertising industry, in particular, having an air of mystery around your agency is one way to compel brand marketers to knock on your door. In some cases, driving awareness for an agency’s creative process in the press might risk losing that mystique. At some point, a company will grow out of this stage, whether they have PR or not. Droga5 is now well established enough to have outgrown whatever air of mystery they once had — other than the fact they do great work.

Reason #4: When you produce a great, but low volume of work

PR may not be the best choice for some agencies that don’t produce a lot of work or work for different clients. If you’re only doing four big campaigns a year, and two are for the same client, an ongoing PR initiative may not be the best option for you. Of course, yet again, good thought leadership insights can make up for a low volume of noteworthy work to show reporters. Bottom line: The best strategy is a one-two punch approach of great work and great thinking. Combined, the two will maximize an agency’s PR opportunities.

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