Does size really matter? Other things to consider when hiring a PR firm

August 2, 2018

Does size really matter? Other things to consider when hiring a PR firm

August 2, 2018


There’s a common assumption in the business world that going with a name-brand service provider is a safer bet than choosing a smaller, lesser-known firm. That perception exists in the PR industry, too. However, a firm’s size isn’t the real indicator of risk. There are other important factors that companies should consider when searching for the right PR partner.

Level of service

When choosing a firm, consider the level of service, attention, and interaction your company wants or needs. Does your company or internal communications team prefer an arms-length relationship with an agency or is the expectation that the PR firm will be a true creative partner? Do you want to feel like a big fish in your PR partner’s portfolio? Because boutique, or small firms, often have fewer clients, each client in the portfolio is critical for the business. This means you’ll likely have more of the firm’s time and creative resources. While some small firms work across different sectors, many specialize in a specific industry in which they have cultivated deep expertise and relationships. A larger firm is more likely to work in many different areas of business which may be crucial if your company holds multiple business arms in different industries, all under one roof. Larger firms also have more manpower to deploy across greater geographies in service of its varying accounts. If your company’s communications needs span multiple countries, using a larger agency with global offices may simplify your coordination strategy.


When exploring PR partnerships, assess the typical flow of communications-related activities at your company. Is the landscape unpredictable, with frequent shifts in the industry or new developments requiring immediate action? Does your industry and company’s rhythm have a more predictable beat? At smaller PR firms, the management structure is usually flatter and less hierarchical, with smaller teams working on client accounts — this allows for quicker responses to opportunities and challenges. Teams at larger agencies typically have more layers of seniority, which can mean lengthier processes for oversight and communication. You’ll have more people working on your behalf, but that can also require more coordination and slower movement on projects.

Team dynamic

Fit is so important when you hire an agency. At a minimum, work styles and skillsets should be complementary with your internal team’s talents and resources. You should also feel a sense of trust in the team and faith that they understand your business goals. In the best cases, the firm and the client challenge each other in productive ways to elevate their game. Do you feel energized and excited during conversations with your PR firm? Maybe you even share a few laughs on the initial calls? These are all cues to pay attention to when assessing the team dynamic. After all, research shows that a positive, collaborative working relationship almost always fosters a better work product and a healthy workplace environment.


It is important to consider whether or not an agency can provide the best value for your company’s financial resources. Smaller firms often have comparable playbooks of tactics, contacts, experience, and creativity to larger firms but often at lower fees. You may also have more access to senior executives, ensuring that you’re receiving the mindshare of higher-ups at the firm. On the flipside, because of their size, a smaller firm may subcontract work for certain projects. Larger firms often provide a wider range of in-house capabilities—such as design departments, digital capabilities, as well as advertising and marketing arms—which can help ensure that the final product is aligned across all touchpoints.

Regardless of size, the PR partner you choose should feel like the right fit for your business needs. Be sure to keep these considerations in mind during your next search and you’ll be sure to find the firm that’s just right.