Only one thing really counts in PR, and that’s performance. Whether
it’s raising awareness, generating sales leads or managing a crisis,
global partnerships of PR agencies are often best suited for delivering
Eventually, every agency, no matter what its size or specialisation,
will need to be a partner in some form of worldwide network.
The reason for this is simple: partnerships work. They work for the
client and they work for the agency. They deliver results with cost
They can also perform better than single brand networks or the pic’n’mix
strategy discussed by Mark Jackson of Bite Communications (Platform, 12
They perform better for a variety of reasons. For a client utilising
more than one agency, PR must meet three key criteria: location,
performance and cost. The single-brand network can often be too
conservative, with too many off-shore managers or distant bosses.
Partnerships, however, are are comprised of local people in local
agencies across the globe, resulting in better knowledge of the trends
and culture of each market.
The right partnership can be tailored to reflect the size of the
Whether it’s a global brand company employing more than 100 agencies in
each geographical market, or a small IT operation requiring the services
of just two or three agencies across Europe, partnerships can ensure the
cost effectiveness of activities employed.
Setting up a pic’n’mix network is time-consuming and costly, and once
employed, ad hoc agencies will always lack the synergy levels found in
partnerships. Equally, some argue that single branded networks can often
suffer from the ’not invented here’ syndrome, or are too busy chasing
the bigger budgets.
The ’getting to know you’ process can be bypassed by employing a
partnership: internal communication processes ensure that agencies are
constantly updated on the client activities of other partners. Meetings,
internal newsletters, group intranet sites and video conferences ensure
the network is fresh, full of ideas and ready to provide high levels of
Employing a partnership means the client is working with allies,
colleagues, even friends. By employing a pic’n’mix strategy, the client
can be working with strangers.
As each agency within a partnership is a separate business, it is in the
interest of each partner to make the group work. This can only be done
through delivering the highest levels of performance. Partnerships are
thus also more accountable.
Jackson says companies should not be ’shoe-horned into a solution they
neither want nor suits them’.
But we shouldn’t underestimate the client. Also, these partnerships
(unlike many single brand networks) are not closed shops and many global
activities are undertaken with retained agencies from outside
partnerships, even from other networks.
When things aren’t going so well, in times of crisis, the client needs a
structured and co-ordinated resource that can be called upon at short
notice, briefed and will then perform to meet particular criteria.
Crises are mostly unexpected, and only an existing network can deliver
rapid response. An an affiliated network of agencies can deliver this
For these reasons, the PR industry should embrace partnerships. Single
brand networks and pic’n’mix strategies have their place, but for a
fresh global resource with high levels of cost effectiveness and
performance, look no further than the partnership.
James Motley is international co-ordinator at Kestrel Worldcom.