Written by Sophie Hodgson
It used to be that the big boys of PR wouldn’t get out of bed for less than £20k per month. Like the supermodels of the 80s, they were much in demand and could afford to be picky. But times change and budgets such as that are few and far between. Survival is a strong instinct and it drives people to adapt.
As a result, increasingly over the last five or so years we’ve seen larger brands in PR start to pitch for sub £10k per month accounts and this year they’re even popping up in £5k monthly retainer pitches. For many prospects, that they can now afford the glitterati can be intoxicating. There is a saying in tech that as an IT manager you’ll never get fired for hiring IBM/BT/HP etc., because even if it goes wrong they’re established. They have heritage. In short, they are a safe bet.
Don’t get me wrong this isn’t a big is bad, small is good type blog.
It’s more an observation of changing industry dynamics. That Harvard, Lewis et al are prepared to pitch for smaller clients not only underlines just how tech PR budgets have fallen, but also presents a challenge because how can smaller companies possibly compete?
They bring with them big wigs, a brand and… well yes. And what? That’s the question. What else do they bring to the party? I’m sure they’d argue that they have some of the smartest PR minds working for them and that their history speaks for itself. And I’m sure they do and it does.
The thing is, smaller agencies are more prepared to take creative risks. In a fragmented media world, approaches of old no longer cut it. You can have the best contacts list in the world, but if the story is weak no self-respecting journo is going to run with it. Fact. PR has also had to evolve and adapt. It can no longer operate in siloed isolation. It needs to be integrated, a piece of content (visual or written) needs multiple applications across the marketing mix. And it must deliver a business outcome.
A client of ours recently called on his sales team to think big and be bold – or go home. That’s the type of mentality smaller agencies bring to comms. Freed from the legacy of timesheets, they can focus on delivering results, developing new ideas and helping clients to pioneer a different type of comms. One that compels their audience to engage.
Sure, not all tech brands are ready to buy that brand of comms right now. But they will. Why? Because they want to be seen as the innovators of their time. Many need to re-establish relevancy in a new world, others want to build brands and raise investment.
And you don’t do that by playing it safe and following the crowd.