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Virtual Agencies: Lean, mean PR machine

Virtual Agencies: Lean, mean PR machine

Looking back, we can still remember the buzz of our first London PR agency.

Ok, so it was in White City not Soho and our first job was sending out printers to IT journalists – not glamorous, but we loved it. It was the early 90s; the Golden Ab Fab era of PR companies with client and journalist lunches and generous budgets. Our car park was bursting with soft top sports cars owned by a handful of ‘twentysomethings’ who were, quite frankly, conquering the world. There was no limit it seemed, to our success and within two years of joining, the agency had almost doubled in size. The sky was the limit and surely every client wanted an agency just like us on its books?
But the market was rapidly changing. The dotcom boom was history, the economic climate was tougher and clients were a lot cannier. Top of their agency wish lists were flexibility, accountability, measureable results and business value – but perhaps the reality was that they’d always wanted this? They began to push back on annual retainers and constantly changing teams. Belts were tightening and agencies needed to respond.

For us, this coincided with a lifestyle change – with young children, commuting into London wasn’t a viable option but we still loved our work. Some might say we just turned to freelancing but for us it seemed to kick off a new trend – that of the ‘virtual’ agency. It was very straightforward – with each new business opportunity, we pulled together like-minded and suitably skilled ex-colleagues to create virtual teams. For clients, this meant low overheads – no more company cars, swanky offices and client expenses. Instead, they got a senior team with complementary skills. Some clients found this hard to believe in; others loved it.

Fast forward several years, and we know that the model works. Having worked in agencies for seventeen years, we’d grown tired and cynical of the traditional agency model. Several successful years of freelancing with our virtual model has taught us this – that what clients want is smart consultancy, straight talking and above all fast results. This year, we launched our own virtual agency, Firework Public Relations.
We’ve established an experienced and highly skilled network of likeminded communications professionals, many of whom have worked together for years. We’re passionate about our work, offering value for money with a commitment to excellent service. Our whole ethos is a belief in offering clients a fresh alternative to traditional PR firms. The people who pitch for business will work on the business with little if any staff turnover.

Ultimately we’re about offering a better service at a lower price. So far it’s working well. Clients seem to understand the model but more importantly what it gives them.

The future looks bright, but we’ll resist those city centre offices and company cars – for now anyway!

Posted: 19 March 2012

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