Specialist versus generalist continues to be question posed by many businesses looking to hire a public relations agency. Is a broader sweep of knowledge better for media relations, or does technical acumen and insight matter more to you, the client?
Why your desired audience could influence your decision
One of the major benefits of a sector specific PR agency is their awareness of and connections to trade publications and industry journalists – how they work, what they want, even who they are (particularly some of the more obscure titles). For example, if your target audience is decision makers in offshore wind maintenance (specific, right?), who are interested in the type of detailed features and educational articles that the trade press is known for then a dedicated clean energy PR agency will be more suitable because they both understand the what, why and how of connecting with this audience.
However, if you need your story and message to be heard by a wider audience – for example, if it’s relating to how digitisation of the energy industry can benefit the entire energy chain right down to consumers – then specialisms may not be as important as the level of technical knowledge required is far lower.
Who builds a stronger agency/client relationship?
On average, it takes between six months to a year for a good PR agency / client relationship to form. It takes time to understand approaches and different methods of working and it takes time to establish the right ways to communicate with each other (how/when) and for the agency to really get to grips with your business. As someone who’s worked in niche sectors for most of my PR career, one of the benefits of choosing a specialist PR agency is their ability to digest complex subjects and learn new things far outside their comfort zone, quickly and correctly. It cuts down the time spent getting your agency up to speed with new products and services – resulting in a much stronger working relationship.
Adaptability and being at the top of your game
I think it’s fair to say that the b2b sector – specifically trade – is slower to change than some other areas of PR. The risk is that things get a little formulaic and stagnant; there isn’t quite the same need to alter client activity or to stay abreast of the changes happening at the forefront of PR, the status quo will suffice. But much like how the runway looks of Paris and Milan eventually trickle down into the trends of the High Street, developments in techniques and skills will be needed to continue to deliver the best service to clients. Thankfully many specialist PR agencies have realised this and now dedicate time and resources to upskilling and implementing relevant tools that will improve the work they do for clients.
Choosing a PR agency is a difficult decision in general terms but for those businesses working in highly technical and specialist areas like clean energy and renewables it’s even trickier to identify the agencies that are right for you. If you’re approaching the stage of hiring a PR agency keep the points above in mind and don’t be afraid to ask questions – you can read more on important things to consider when choosing a PR agency here.