There was a time not so long ago when, if you were shopping for a PR firm, only a handful of names would come to mind. Not anymore. Now a simple Google search reveals that, in New York City alone, there are hundreds of PR firms of all sizes—from one-man shops operating out of a cafe to huge companies that take up several floors in Manhattan skyscrapers. The clients’ options now seem to be endless and it’s all too easy for fickle clients to jump ship if they’re unsatisfied. A trend has emerged in the last 10 years of established, internationally-renowned consumer brands ditching their big PR firms in favor of boutiques (firms with 20 or fewer employees).
When I started my own practice, Beautiful Planning Marketing & PR, a boutique firm with a strong focus on fashion, beauty, lifestyle, consumer products and events, eight years ago, I was surprised at how fast I attracted top-shelf brands as clients. The Baddish Group, a small firm focused on food and beverage marketing, spearheads PR for a who’s who of liquor brands. A downtown New York boutique called Becca PR attracts some of the world’s most esteemed restaurateurs and chefs. And even a one-woman shop like Brooklyn’s Buzzword PR represents a slew of arts clients that made the jump from large firms. So why is this happening? Here are some thoughts on the benefits of hiring independent firms: Boutique PR firms normally have specialties and particularly tighter relationships with a certain set of journalists. Hiring a firm that specializes in specific practice area ensures that the publicist is not reaching out to inappropriate media contacts and, thus, potentially soiling a brand’s name.
Smaller PR firms have less access to large corporate clients, so when they sign one on, they are especially eager to please. Naturally, they are extra-attentive to the client’s needs.
Clients hiring boutique PR firms typically have a direct line to the principal or senior management, who is likely personally involved in day-to-day PR efforts. Clients can be rest assured that the workload is not being passed down an assembly line from team member to team member or worse—on to interns. There’s no way to get lost in the shuffle. Independent PR firms have greater flexibility with contract term lengths, often open to negotiating a comfortable retainer amount for the client. The appeal of boutique and independent PR firms has much to do with the personalized services that they offer. It's much easier for project accountability and boutique firms are giving the public relations agency giants a run for their money for 2014 as corporations are realizing their marketing & PR spends do go much farther. It’s simply the difference between factory-made and hand-made. Even in 2014, when shopping for dedicated PR resources it seems that 1-2-1 attention simply can not be replaced.