A Hat Tip To Spur Discussion
A while back, Paul Roberts, a PR practitioner and all around good Twitterer (@paulrobertspar), asked an open-ended question, “Which delivers more value, PR agencies or in-house PR departments?" in a blog he wrote here. In the interest of full disclosure I can’t vouch for Paul outside Twitter, but based on his profile I feel like we’d have more than a few things in common aside from PR and social media, including (bad) golf. I would have thought the question he asked would spur a great deal of discussion.
Surprisingly, crickets began to chirp.
It’s funny because I’ve been fortunate to work with a number of great PR people over the years; great internal folks, great agency folks and great independent folks, and have spent the better part of seven years talking through this debate with a few of my favorite storage PR people.
The reason many may not jump right into the discussion is they may mistakenly think there’s only one right answer to the question. Agency or internal. However, what has made my seven year long discussion so lively with one storage PR practitioner in particular is he often jokes with me, “I wish I only did PR.” He often mentions how his focus is applied across multiple disciplines, including: comms, marketing, customer relations, social media relations, employee relations, and media and analyst relations. In any given day, he may wear many of those "hats," some of which could be considered classic public relations.
Many times, especially with small-to-emerging companies, PR professionals wear more than just one hat -- traditional PR is only one of them. That speaks more to the evolving role of PR and those of us who love doing it more than anything else. Wearing many hats is not new to agency PR practitioners, as it’s required attire in much of the work we do. The only difference is it’s often done for more than one company. What I see more than anything is it’s never going to be an either/or answer. There is value in each role (agency and internal) and, ultimately, success usually comes when both are collaborating, working together and executing as a closely, integrated team. And, in the digital age we work in, transparency and authenticity extends between roles as well.
So, I’d suggest revisiting the debate in the interest of spurring discussion, which hat is most important?