What is the difference between a freelance PR consultant and an agency? Ultimately, I believe, it concerns loyalty and results.
The size of the organisation is an obvious difference. A freelance PR consultant is usually a specialist who works on their own. A PR agency tends to be a partnership or a small company. Usually they have smart offices and a bigger set-up with support staff. This puts the agency in a different league of costs.
Besides this, the difference between a PR agency and a freelance consultant is smaller and more subtle than it was in the past. It is now relatively easy to set up a virtual PR agency and operate from a remote office. As they say in the technology world, work is now ‘something you do’, not ‘a place where you go’. Also, most freelancers have networks of contacts who can join a project as associates if required.
An agency will have consultants and staff at all levels of their careers, and generally the more experienced consultants talk to their clients and the juniors carry out the work in the office. If you are an agency client, your work will probably be done by the junior members of the team. In particular, the routine work of contacting journalists will be given to them. Your project will be part of their early career development, and experienced editors do sometimes have a little moan about the calls they receive from agency juniors.
If you work with a freelancer, they will do the editor liaison in person. There is less chance that your message will be misunderstood, as the PR consultant did not need to brief a colleague about your business. You can be more certain that you will be represented the way you hoped. This can be really important if you are selling complex technology products and services.
Fee structure could by another important difference. A freelance PR consultant is more likely to agree to a flexible fee arrangement that will fit with your budgets.
How a freelance PR consultant works
I believe the real difference concerns loyalty and commitment to goals. With the PR agency model, account managers are rewarded for billing their clients a good amount at the end of the month. The agency doesn’t want to expend too much resource and effort to deliver the services agreed. That means that the account manager’s first loyalty is to the agency, and they will always act in the agency’s interests.
A freelancer looks at it differently. A freelance PR consultant doesn’t have to report to management in the same way, so their loyalty is directly to their client. They are likely to have a greater personal commitment to their client’s business, and they will be 100% focused on achieving success for their client.
Your freelance PR consultant will probably not have a long term contract. This means that he or she will work as hard as they can to achieve great results, as this is the way to build a lasting relationship.
Finally, to succeed as a freelance PR consultant, it’s paramount to have a great portfolio of published work. That’s another reason to give your very best to every client project.