PR Agency vs. In-House PR

PR Agency vs. In-House PR: What’s the Best Choice for Your Business

In the fast-paced business world, where how people see you can make or break your game, figuring out the best way to handle public relations (PR) is a real head-scratcher. Businesses often face a dilemma: should they bring in an external PR agency or build their in-house PR team? It’s like choosing between two paths, each with perks and challenges.

On the one hand, hiring a PR agency sounds like a party. They have the know-how and media connections and can sprinkle magic on your PR campaigns. But here’s the catch – they don’t come cheap and they focus solely on the PR communications task given.

On the flip side, having your in-house PR squad seems cosy. They know your company inside out, and you have more say in how things are done. The downside? It’s like starting a garden – there’s some upfront work in getting the right people and tools.

Picking between a PR agency and in-house PR isn’t a straightforward decision. It’s like choosing an outfit; it depends on your style, budget, and destination. This article is here to help you unpack the pros and cons of each option so you can make a savvy decision that fits your business like a glove. Let’s dive in!

Overview of a PR Agency and In-House PR

PR Agency

A PR agency serves as an external powerhouse specializing in sculpting and safeguarding a company’s public image. Offering an array of services, a PR agency’s expertise lies in the:

  • Developing and Executing PR Campaigns: Crafting strategies tailored to achieve specific PR reputation goals, whether boosting brand awareness, securing positive media coverage, or navigating a crisis.
  • Writing and Distributing Press Releases: Creating attention-grabbing news distributed to media outlets to spark media interest and coverage.
  • Building Relationships with Media Outlets: Leveraging established connections with diverse media outlets to pitch compelling stories and secure valuable earned placements.
  • Managing Social Media Presence: Taking charge of social media accounts, curating content, and engaging with target audience bolsters the brand’s online presence.
  • Handling Crisis Communications: Offering expertise in managing and mitigating public relations fallout before, during and post crises, such as product recalls or data breaches.

In-House PR

Contrastingly, in-house PR is the internal backbone of a company’s day-to-day public relations activities. Collaborating closely with departments like marketing and sales, the in-house PR team ensures a cohesive messaging approach across all channels. Notable distinctions include:

  • Deeper Understanding of Company Culture and Goals: In-house teams have intimate knowledge of the company’s ethos and objectives, allowing for developing deep-dive PR strategies aligned with broader business goals.
  • Greater Control Over Messaging: Unconstrained by external client pressures, in-house teams enjoy more autonomy in shaping and controlling the company’s messaging.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Typically, more budget-friendly, in-house PR teams offer cost advantages as they eliminate the need to pay an external agency markup.

Comparison Between PR Agencies and In-House PR Teams

Aspect PR Agency In-House PR
Nature External professional firm specializing in PR practices. Internal team within the company.
Roles and Functions
  • Develop and execute PR campaigns.
  • Write and distribute press releases.
  • Build relationships with media outlets.
  • Manage social media presence.
  • Handle crisis communications.
  • Act as external communication advisor to represent a brand/client.
  • Develop and execute PR campaigns.
  • Write and distribute press releases.
  • Build relationships with media outlets.
  • Manage social media presence.
  • Handle crisis communications.
Understanding External perspective, broad expertise, proven track-record, full functioning practitioner team In-depth understanding of company culture and goals.
Control Over Messaging Limited to consultant and advisor role Greater autonomy in shaping messaging.
Cost Often involves a significant financial investment depending on the scope of work, as agencies are paid to succeed. Typically more cost-effective without agency markup.
Advantages Specialized expertise, vast networks, full service practitioner team, high bargaining/lobbying power, no staff retention/training concern Intimate understanding, greater control.
Challenges Higher cost, potential external disconnect. Limited external perspectives, resource constraints

When standing at the crossroads of choosing between an in-house PR team or enlisting the services of a PR agency, several crucial factors come into play, each demanding thoughtful consideration. Let’s delve into the significant facets that shape this decision-making process.

1. Cost:

  • In-House PR: Typically, in-house PR comes with a lower price tag as it eliminates the overhead costs associated with a PR agency. However, companies must factor in salaries, benefits for the in-house team, and any necessary PR software, staff training and retention expenses, typically they are an employee to the company and not trained to provide guaranteed campaign results. Professional in-house team can be more costly than hiring a PR agency in many cases should the SOW be extensive.
  • PR Agency: Costs vary based on agency size, experience, and the scope of work. Expect monthly retainers and hourly rates for additional services. While potentially pricier, agencies provide a team of experts without the burden of managing individual employee costs.

2. Expertise:

  • In-House PR: May lack the breadth of specialized expertise in PR agencies. However, companies can offset this by building an in-house team with specific expertise tailored to their needs.
  • PR Agency: Offers immediate access to a diverse team of PR experts with experience across industries. They provide strategic planning, press release writing, media pitching, and social media management expertise.

3. Control:

  • In-House PR: Provides more direct control over messaging and strategy. Companies can make decisions autonomously but may invest more time and resources in managing PR efforts.
  • PR Agency: Involves relinquishing some control to the agency. However, agencies bring expert guidance and align PR plans with overall communications & business goals, offering a collaborative approach.

4. Scalability:

  • In-House PR: Scaling can be challenging, requiring the hiring and training of additional staff as PR needs to grow. 
  • PR Agency: Easily scalable up or down to meet changing needs. Agencies deploy a ready-made team of experts, providing flexibility without the challenges associated with in-house scaling.

Pros and Cons of a PR Agency

PR Agency


  • Access to Specialized Expertise: PR agencies boast a team of seasoned experts spanning various industries and disciplines. This collective experience equips them to provide strategic guidance, aligning your PR plan with overarching business goals.
  • Network of Media Contacts: With an extensive network of media contacts, PR agencies excel at pitching compelling story ideas and securing valuable media placements. This facilitates enhanced visibility for your brand among the intended target audience.
  • Fresh Perspective: PR agencies inject a fresh perspective into your PR endeavors. This outside viewpoint proves invaluable in identifying new opportunities and crafting creative, impactful PR campaigns.
  • Scalability: PR agencies offer easy scalability, adapting swiftly to your changing needs. This flexibility proves advantageous, especially when PR requirements are prone to fluctuations over time.
  • Access to Resources: PR agencies bring resources not always available in-house, including PR software, tools, and data. This access enhances the effectiveness of executing PR campaigns.


  • Cost: Hiring a PR agency can be costly, involving a monthly retainer fee and hourly rates for additional services. This financial aspect may be challenging, especially for businesses with budget constraints.
  • Lack of Control: Entrusting your PR to an agency means relinquishing some control over messaging and strategy. Decision-making authority shifts to the agency, potentially leading to misalignment with your intended PR direction.
  • Potential for Conflict: The potential for conflict arises as goals and expectations differ between you and your PR agency. Navigating these disparities requires effective communication and alignment.
  • Limited Understanding of Your Company: PR agencies may lack a deep understanding of your company’s culture and goals. This gap in comprehension can hinder the development of PR campaigns aligned with your business objectives.
  • Difficulty Managing Day-to-Day Tasks: With numerous clients, PR agencies may struggle to give your account the attention it requires for day-to-day tasks. This challenge can impede the seamless management of ongoing PR efforts.

Pros and Cons of In-House PR

In-house PR Team


  • A deeper understanding of the company: In-house PR teams boast an intimate knowledge of the company’s culture, goals, and brand identity. This depth allows for developing PR strategies finely tuned to the company’s broader business objectives.
  • More control over messaging: Enjoying autonomy, in-house PR teams have a more significant say in shaping the company’s messaging. Freed from external client pressures, they can align communication with the company’s vision.
  • Greater flexibility: In-house PR teams exhibit agility in adapting PR strategies to changing circumstances. Unlike PR agencies tied to long-term contracts, they can pivot as needed, responding swiftly to dynamic business environments.
  • More cost-effective: Typically, in-house PR teams are budget-friendly, sparing companies from paying the markup associated with PR agencies. This cost-effectiveness enhances the overall financial appeal.
  • Stronger internal relationships: In-house PR teams foster robust relationships with other company departments. This synergy promotes cohesive and consistent PR efforts, ensuring a unified brand narrative across all channels.


  • Limited expertise: In-house PR teams may lack the specialized knowledge of PR agencies, as they might not have access to the same training and resources. This can limit their ability to tackle complex PR challenges.
  • Smaller network: Possessing a smaller network of media contacts, in-house PR teams may find it challenging to secure media placements compared to the extensive connections of PR agencies.
  • Higher upfront costs: Establishing an in-house PR team demands a significant upfront investment in hiring, training, and resources. This initial cost can be a hurdle for some companies considering this approach.
  • Potential for bias: In-house PR teams, closely tied to the company, may be more susceptible to bias. This can pose a challenge in developing objective PR strategies, potentially affecting the credibility of the messaging.
  • Difficulty managing day-to-day tasks: In-house PR teams may be overwhelmed by the daily operational tasks, such as writing press releases and managing social media accounts. This functional load may leave limited time for the strategic development of PR plans.

Case Scenarios: When to Choose Which

These case scenarios below highlight the tailored solutions based on specific business circumstances, emphasizing the importance of choosing between in-house PR and PR agencies to align with unique goals, resources, and challenges.

Startup with Limited Budget:

  • Scenario: A young startup, buzzing with innovation but operating on a shoestring budget, aims to create awareness and positive buzz for its groundbreaking product.
  • Ideal Solution: In-house PR

Reasoning: Given the financial constraints, building an in-house PR team allows the startup to manage its messaging, intimately understand its target audience, and effectively steer PR efforts within budgetary limits.

Established Company with Complex PR Needs:

  • Scenario: A well-established company boasting a diverse product range and a global presence requires adept reputation management across multiple markets and languages.
  • Ideal Solution: PR Agency

Reasoning: In the face of intricate PR requirements, partnering with a PR agency becomes crucial. The agency, equipped with specialized skills and a proven track record in managing complex campaigns for multinational companies, can meet the company’s diverse and expansive needs.

Company Facing a Crisis:

  • Scenario: A company is in a crisis threatening its reputation and business. Swift and effective crisis management is imperative to minimize damage and restore public trust.
  • Ideal Solution: PR Agency

Reasoning: During a crisis, time is of the essence. Engaging a PR agency with experience in crisis communications ensures a rapid and expert response. The agency can develop a crisis communications plan, manage media relations, and strategically safeguard the company’s reputation.

Hybrid Model: Best of Both Worlds?

Hybrid Model

In the dynamic realm of public relations (PR), where flexibility and expertise are paramount, the hybrid model emerges as a compelling synthesis, blending the strengths of PR agencies and in-house teams. This innovative approach involves strategically leveraging internal and external resources to navigate the intricacies of a company’s PR activities.

Benefits of the Hybrid Model:

  • Access to Specialized Expertise: The company gains access to the specialized expertise of a PR agency when specific needs arise, all while retaining control over day-to-day PR activities.
  • Deeper Understanding of the Company: The in-house PR team contributes a profound understanding of the company’s culture and goals, complemented by the PR agency’s fresh perspectives and insights.
  • Greater Flexibility: The company can tailor its PR approach based on specific needs and budget considerations, adapting dynamically to the ever-evolving business landscape.
  • More Cost-Effective: The hybrid model proves to be a cost-effective alternative, striking a balance between the budget considerations of an in-house team and the financial investment associated with a PR agency.

Considerations for Implementing the Hybrid Model:

  • Clear Roles and Responsibilities: Defining clear roles and responsibilities for both the in-house PR team and the PR agency is crucial to prevent duplication and conflict, ensuring a seamless collaboration.
  • Effective Communication: Establishing effective communication channels between the in-house team and the external agency is paramount, fostering alignment on the company’s PR goals and strategies.
  • Regular Evaluation: Regular evaluations of the hybrid model’s effectiveness are necessary. This ongoing assessment allows for adjustments and refinements to optimize the combined strengths of both approaches.

Tailoring the Choice to Your Business Needs

In the intricate dance of public relations, choosing between a PR agency, an in-house team, or the hybrid model is not a mere decision; it’s a tailored strategy sculpted to fit the contours of specific business goals and situations.

There is no universal answer, no magic formula that fits every business scenario. Determining whether to outsource PR, build an internal team, or strike a balance with the hybrid model demands carefully examining budget constraints, company size, and the intricacies of PR objectives.

As we conclude this exploration, the resounding takeaway is that the chosen PR strategy should deliberately align with the company’s unique essence. Whether it’s the external dynamism of a PR agency, the internal resonance of an in-house team, or the nuanced blend of both in the hybrid model, the ultimate goal remains constant – crafting a PR narrative that echoes the company’s identity and resonates with its audience.

In the symphony of business, where perception plays a leading role, the chosen path should meet immediate needs and set the stage for enduring success. It’s about more than managing crises or generating positive buzz; it’s about building a reputation that withstands the test of time, one strategic decision at a time.