Gini Dietrich

Boutique PR Agency vs. Large PR Agency: The Pros and Cons

By: Gini Dietrich | August 16, 2011 | 
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Most of you know I spent the early days of my career at Fleishman-Hillard. I loved that job. It was where I learned all about PR, but also where I came out of my shell.

When I interviewed for the job, the GM of our office, Gary Kisner, asked me where I saw myself in five years. I remember looking around his office and saying, “In here looks good.”

He laughed at me and offered me the job on the spot.

It was going really, really far out on a limb for me. I was incredibly shy and saying something like that took every cajones I had (clearly I’ve gotten over that).

I became somewhat of a pet to him. I used to bite my fingernails, clear down to the cuticles. He pulled me aside one day and said, “Gini. You are so smart. You’re beautiful. In this world you can have just about anything you set your mind on. But you have to stop biting your fingernails. It’s demeaning your credibility.”

And stop biting my fingernails I did. So he began to put me in new business presentations. And suddenly I also came out of my shell.

Leaving there was bittersweet for me. I was on the fast track to making partner and to getting a company-owned BMW and parking spot…by the time I was 30.

But something was pulling me out of Kansas City. I had to move.

From there I went to work at Rhea & Kaiser to help build their PR department, which didn’t exist in 2001. And I learned what it was like to work for a mid-sized company.

By the time I opened the doors at Arment Dietrich in 2005, I had big and mid-sized agency experience. Now I needed to create boutique agency experience.

Boutique vs. Large Agencies

I’m often asked by young professionals what are the pros and cons for working at a global agency vs. a boutique firm. And clients typically usually work with one or the other. Having been inside both, I can tell you.

Pros of a Global Agency

  • You have access to minds smarter than your own all around the world.
  • Your access to software, expense accounts, and newest technologies is unlimited.
  • Bringing together a team that is right for the client is as easy as calling another office.
  • You learn how to do one job really well. If you’re in media relations, you learn that skill until you’re an expert. Then you get promoted.
  • The process and procedure is already in place…and works pretty well.
  • No one, from a client perspective, ever got fired for hiring a global agency.

Pros of a Boutique Agency

  • You have direct access to the CEO, both as staff and the client.
  • Your team knows how to react quickly and get something done, even if they’ve never done it before.
  • This may sound trite, but there is a personal touch because you’re working with the owner and a select, very carefully chosen team.
  • The team that pitches a piece of new business is the team that works on that business when it becomes a client.
  • As a team member, you become a jack of all trades and learn different parts of the job very quickly…because you have to.
  • The team is always very flexible and nimble.
  • A small budget to a global firm is usually a gigantic budget to a boutique firm.

Cons of a Global Agency

  • Learning a new skill takes years, if ever at all.
  • Flexibility and being nimble are like asking the Titantic to turn quickly.
  • The team that pitches new business is always the most polished, smartest, best presenter the office has to offer…and they almost never work with that client.
  • Clients that have smaller budgets are left to the young professionals to manage, which is great for the employee, but not so great for the client.
  • Having access to the CEO, unless you’re a Steve Jobs, is almost non-existent.

Cons of a Boutique Agency

  • The shininess of presentations, projects, and work isn’t as slick; some of the stuff we have to bootstrap with you.
  • Clients have been fired from their jobs for taking a chance with a boutique agency, if that agency screws up.
  • Bringing together a team that is right for the client sometimes means calling in other agencies.
  • Process and procedure are almost non-existent; you create it as you go.
  • The resources available are sometimes pretty slim.

The lists could go on and on so I leave it to you now. What are the pros and cons of each…either having worked inside them or having worked with them, as clients?

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks,ย co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She alsoย is the lead blogger atย Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

  • What? I’m first??? I spent my agency days in Chicago — 18 of them avoiding the largest firms. I freelanced with them, interviewed at them and somewhere along the way decided the cut-throat environment wasn’t necessarily what I wanted. Getting chewed and spit wasn’t for me; so I got chewed and spit with mid-sized firms and small agencies until I started by own at age 30.

    What I can say to anyone — the experience of an agency is priceless. After 7 years with my own firm hiring kids out of school and paying office rent, salaries and health insurance, I went back in to learn what I had missed during those highly formative years.

    Gleaning the goods is what an agency will bring you; you pay your dues; you get stabbed; you develop a thicker skin; you learn the ropes early and often; and you know what it takes to climb one rung at a time and become a survivor. (Quick, hit post comment before someone swoops in!)

  • W00t!!!!! I’m first! Kewl!

  • KarlSakas

    I haven’t worked at a large agency (marketing vs. PR for me) but I really like my experience at a small agency now (we have 7 full-time people). I like that I can see ways to improve the company… and actually implement them. As a member of the management team, I can see the impact of what I do, rather than being a cog in a larger machine. But indeed, there’s no massive expense account…

  • JodiEchakowitz

    This post is fabulous and should be shared with anyone that is trying to decided whether they want to be a small fish in a big ocean, or a big fish in a small pond.

    Here are some other Pros of hiring a boutique agency:

    ** Budgets are often flexible vs. fixed all year round.

    ** Billing rates are typically lower than in a global agency. (For example, we offer flat-rate billing across our team, which provides a huge advantage to clients.)

    ** Teams are often highly experienced so companies are not paying big $$ to train juniors. (People on my team have at least 10 years of experience in PR.)

    ** Teams are also typically very responsive, and generally don’t require several levels of approval to make a recommendation.

  • John_Trader1

    Good job on pointing out the differences Gini, I would say that you deftly covered most of them.

    At a job I recently held, during an RFP for our marketing and PR services we had five firms make it past the first evaluation round and to the stage of a presentation to the committee we established to review their pitches. The differences in their live presentations based on whether they were large vs. boutique were truly amazing and reflected a lot of what you pointed out above. 3 of the 5 bidders were large agencies and they sent a team of people (4 or more – even 8 in one case!) on the day of the presentation for their pitch. I found each of their presentations to be very professional and straightforward but dry and bland lacking tangible sparks of creativity. It was as if they didn’t give the pitch serious thought and present themselves in a way that left us really wanting to know more. Dare I say that because they were so large, it almost didn’t matter to them whether they won the contract or not, they would just move on to the next potential candidate.

    Then the boutique agencies came in and one in particular sent 2 people. They knocked our socks off with their creativity and even went to far as to pull a ballsy, risky move and suggest that we market our services with a picture of our Board Chair with a wig on (which they mocked up). We loved it and ended up choosing them as winners of the RFP. Throughout the contract we battled some of the demon “cons” you pointed out above for boutique firms (lack of process and procedures, misinterpretations due to bringing in other agencies for larger scale projects, etc.) but in the end it was the right fit for our business and we didn’t regret the decision.

    I think that the choice of boutique vs. large agency should not place as much emphasis on what they can do for you (because in the end, you will find one that stands out from the rest) but rather the risks of the obstacles (cons) you face if you decide to enter into a relationship with them.

  • You had a shell Gini? I just can’t see that. ๐Ÿ™‚

    As a “young professional” I think that I’ve always been more into the “boutique” lifestyle than a corporate one. Like Jayme said, the idea of getting chewed up and spit out doesn’t really appeal to me. Now, I don’t work for a PR agency, but we are a business, and naturally – we have people who handle that. (*wave, that’s me*)

    I agree with Karl, I like being able to see that what I’m working on is directly affecting a larger goal — and I feel like I’ve had more responsibility in a smaller atmosphere. For me, at least, this is the perfect place for me to learn the ropes and besides — there are smart people like you all writing great stuff that teaches me a lot of what I need to know. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • HowieSPM

    I think a Boutique Agency will serve the clients better in an ethical way. One thing I use in my Advertising Pitch is would the Agency that has a $100mil media buying account ever tell a client ‘I can reach the same number of people and save you $10mil’ thus reducing billings and their revenues? Never. I feel a quality Boutique Agency would. A major Ad Agency would never tell a client ‘I was looking at your goals and while we do TV stuff I think you would be better served going Digital here is a number to someone who can help you’ vs ‘Hey you need to spend more on TV’

    That BTW is why I don’t see many major Ad Agency upper management hanging out on twitter or the blogs that expose them for milking clients. They kind of hide.

  • ginidietrich

    @Soulati | PR LOL!! You were the first. And your last sentence cracked me up!

    I totally agree with your synopsis about paying your dues and understanding how a big agency works. You’ll find stuff you love and stuff you’ll hate. The stuff you’ll hate you can use to make change if/when you leave.

  • ginidietrich

    @KarlSakas Really great point about seeing your work actually changing the company! A couple of years ago, we changed our business model and I gave people the option to stay or go. That never would happen in a large agency. If your manager felt your skills weren’t aligned with the new direction, they’d just let you go.

    But the expense account….I learned all about wine taking clients to dinner.

  • ginidietrich

    @KarlSakas Really great point about seeing your work actually changing the company! A couple of years ago, we changed our business model and I gave people the option to stay or go. That never would happen in a large agency. If your manager felt your skills weren’t aligned with the new direction, they’d just let you go.

    But the expense account….I learned all about wine taking clients to dinner.

  • ginidietrich

    @JodiEchakowitz Yes, yes, yes, and yes! I like the flat billing rates that you employ. In fact, your business model is one a lot of small agencies should emulate.

  • ginidietrich

    @JodiEchakowitz Yes, yes, yes, and yes! I like the flat billing rates that you employ. In fact, your business model is one a lot of small agencies should emulate.

  • ginidietrich

    @John_Trader1 This reminds me of a gigantic pitch we had a couple of years ago. We were up against three of the largest PR firms in the world. We didn’t win the business. You know why? Because our presentation had creativity and even gave some ideas (just like the agency you chose). The big firms just did capabilities. And, in the end, the CMO was more concerned about keeping his job (and even told us so) than about doing something risky and, likely, more successful. So, in that case, the lack of capabilities with multiple offices and skills hurt us. But if I were to do it again, I’d do it the same way.

  • ginidietrich

    @Maranda OMG, yes! I am an introvert and painfully shy. My mom used to make me call to order pizza on pizza night just to get me to talk to another person. I still hate the phone because of those early days.

    You know, you’re right in that it doesn’t matter if it’s an agency or not. Small vs. big works for any company. I had a lot of value from working at FH. I was given a ton of opportunity. I was not chewed up and spit out. But it isn’t a job you keep forever, either.

  • ginidietrich

    @Maranda OMG, yes! I am an introvert and painfully shy. My mom used to make me call to order pizza on pizza night just to get me to talk to another person. I still hate the phone because of those early days.

    You know, you’re right in that it doesn’t matter if it’s an agency or not. Small vs. big works for any company. I had a lot of value from working at FH. I was given a ton of opportunity. I was not chewed up and spit out. But it isn’t a job you keep forever, either.

  • KarlSakas

    @ginidietrich Yes, I love flat billing rates — they’re just more transparent for everyone. A long-time client shared how a PR agency had pitched them on a proposal that included “blended” rates, and I can only imagine how the firm planned to game that at billing time.

    My employer (a web design and interactive marketing agency) charges a single rate for everyone. We also don’t bill clients for most account manager time. Beyond that, we actually publish a transparent Client Bill of Rights, explaining how everything works: http://www.coalmarch.com/client-bill-of-rights.php

  • KarlSakas

    @ginidietrich Yes, I love flat billing rates — they’re just more transparent for everyone. A long-time client shared how a PR agency had pitched them on a proposal that included “blended” rates, and I can only imagine how the firm planned to game that at billing time.

    My employer (a web design and interactive marketing agency) charges a single rate for everyone. We also don’t bill clients for most account manager time. Beyond that, we actually publish a transparent Client Bill of Rights, explaining how everything works: http://www.coalmarch.com/client-bill-of-rights.php

  • KarlSakas

    @ginidietrich Yes, I love flat billing rates — they’re just more transparent for everyone. A long-time client shared how a PR agency had pitched them on a proposal that included “blended” rates, and I can only imagine how the firm planned to game that at billing time.

    My employer (a web design and interactive marketing agency) charges a single rate for everyone. We also don’t bill clients for most account manager time. Beyond that, we actually publish a transparent Client Bill of Rights, explaining how everything works: http://www.coalmarch.com/client-bill-of-rights.php

  • KarlSakas

    @ginidietrich Yes, I love flat billing rates — they’re just more transparent for everyone. A long-time client shared how a PR agency had pitched them on a proposal that included “blended” rates, and I can only imagine how the firm planned to game that at billing time.

    My employer (a web design and interactive marketing agency) charges a single rate for everyone. We also don’t bill clients for most account manager time. Beyond that, we actually publish a transparent Client Bill of Rights, explaining how everything works: http://www.coalmarch.com/client-bill-of-rights.php

  • Shelley Pringle

    Like Gini I’ve worked at a big shop (in my case Hill & Knowlton), at a mid-sized integrated marketing communications company and now run my own boutique agency in Toronto. I think clients (and employees) can benefit from both kinds of agencies–it just depends on what clients’ needs are and where employees are in their careers–but I am a bit partial to boutiques. At my company our tagline is “Big agency thinking. Small agency attitude” which attempts to summarize some of the advantages. @JodiEchakowitz offers up some really good points. There are many benefits of working with senior practitioners, including the fact they climb the learning curve really fast and can start to contribute to a client’s business without lots of briefings.

  • I’ve worked at one large agency (Ruder Finn), one boutique agency, and now running my own biz – I don’t know if you’d call it a boutique agency, but I *think* I operate long those principles (except my presentations are *always* slick, LOL).

    You know, if I had to go work for someone else, I think I’d opt for a boutique/medium size. They’re just more fun. You get to think more, do more, learn more, without having to jump through all the hoops that a boutique agency normally puts you through (granted, I’m generalizing, but you know what I mean).

  • @HowieSPM Howie, I’m not standing up for any “big agency” here – I don’t have a vested interest in any – but I don’t think ethics are dependent on whether an agency is boutique or not.

  • ginidietrich

    @KarlSakas Wow Karl! This is great! I just scanned it and will read fully later so I can shamelessly steal!

  • ginidietrich

    @KarlSakas Wow Karl! This is great! I just scanned it and will read fully later so I can shamelessly steal!

  • ginidietrich

    @Shonali@HowieSPM I agree with Shonali. I was thinking about your comment and my experience of working for a global agency was quite the opposite. I remember sitting in a Bridgestone/Firestone meeting where the partner told them where to stick it because their board wanted us to do some unethical things. He fired the client right then and there, in front of all of us.

  • @KarlSakas@ginidietrich I’m going to steal that too!

  • jackielamp

    I literally just had this discussion with someone this morning. I’m at a smaller agency and she works at a larger one. She’s worked at a couple larger ones, actually, and I was surprised to find there are big differences between them.

    But, it was interesting to hear the big agency perspective. I’m a young professional who always thought eventually I’d make the switch from small to large. After hearing more about the larger agencies and even reading these comments, I’m not so sure if I’d like it. I think a lot of what I love about the small agency has do with what Shonali said: “you get to think more, do more, learn more…” I’ve also seen our small agency produce the same results as larger ones.

    The one thing I’m curious about: what do you like better about a large agency? Not just pros and cons, or what the client wants, but just on a personal level….what do people like most about large agencies?

  • jeanineblack

    Although I’ve enjoyed my career working at smaller agencies and for myself, (although now I’m on the client side), one thing I have always regretted is not getting big agency experience. I think, as Soulati commented, and everyone else, the education alone is priceless. Plus, you’re tested – you make it or you don’t. I feel like my experience is missing a huge chunk of the overall PR/marketing picture and I wonder how I would’ve done in that environment.

  • jeanineblack

    Speaking as a fellow introvert, as well, Gini. I also wonder if a bigger agency would’ve helped me come out of my shell faster. But, I’ve come a long way! Still hate the telephone, too, though. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • JodiEchakowitz

    @Shonali@KarlSakas@ginidietrich I love it! Think I need to steal that too ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Great photo.

    It’s all about people (as most of business ends up being) – and whilst I have had good (and bad) experiences working with both Sumo and Kid sized agencies – the main difference for me was making true friends when dealing with the smaller agencies…. (plenty of buddies at both)

    Maybe it’s something about each client being more important (you have less to look after), maybe it’s because smaller agencies tend to be more interested n your brand (larger ones may be more interested in your larger competitor’s brand), or maybe it’s just the kind of people you meet (and gravitate to the boutique).

    It might also be the psyche of wanting to give the ‘little guy’ a break – but I would always go boutique and then take on the world together!!

    Loving the nail biting story aswell – yet to meet my ‘prevention guru’

  • During a recent search for PR representation, we reviewing both boutique firms and large firms. The difference that stuck out was that if we hired a boutique firm, we would have access to the senior team (partners) more often than the junior PR group when it came to building strategies and gaining coverage. When asked, the individuals who worked for the boutique firm also said they loved the environment because they had so much access to the partners. They also seemed to be less traditional in their approach and open to new ideas (they wanted us to give them content and infographics instead of product stories) and ways to reach the media.

    But, and this depends on who exactly the boutique is you are talking to, their connections were what they were and we found it difficult to break out of their network to capture more media attention (we really needed to focus on a boutique who had a client list within the same market but not directly).

    On the flip side, we noticed very quickly that although they wanted new business and new clients, they could only handle so much given their intimate size. At times we felt that either we were not getting the representation we had bought into or their other clients were suffering because they spent so much time with us.

  • I haven’t worked for a PR agency but I have worked with them. Nonetheless I suspect that my experience working for Fortune 500 firms and small companies provides enough background to comment.

    So much of our work experience is contingent upon people and their ability to make use of resources. Some of the best experiences I have had have come from working for smaller companies where we had to take on multiple jobs and build our skill set. I loved learning and growing from that.

    But there were moments of angst that came from the craziness that emanated from owners who panicked because they feared that the clients would figure out that we were flying by the seat of our pants.

    Most of the time I think that the clients were well served because good people worked hard to make sure that they were, but there were times….

    And in regard to your comment about large agencies and change- damn if that didn’t make me laugh. So very true.

  • Billy_Delaney

    I’d no idea until this post about agencies that supplied the PR. But, I did understand the size issues. This makes a lot of sense, and your authority shows through, a lot.

    I expect that the smarts you have online that show up as rankings and such, transfer to the offline world you really work in.

    Gini this post gave me some really good insights into the pull and push of your world.

    Thanks Billy

  • Busy_BOO

    Enjoyed this! RT. @PamMktgNut Boutique PR Agency vs. Large PR Agency: The Pros and Cons http://t.co/BgBkCi4 via @ginidietrich

  • danieleagee

    @ginidietrich Hold up, you’re from Kansas City too? How is that I find myself surrounded by Kansas City folk?

  • Clarity4theBoss

    @ginidietrich – Nice ๐Ÿ™‚ thanks for sharing.

  • HowieSPM

    @ginidietrich@Shonali ahh but you are talking PR. That is different. I come from an Industry that accepts 50% of ad spend is wasted and does nothing about it! LOL I feel like it is congress where elected officials become lobbyists etc.

    BUT there is a big CHECK and Balance in all this. CFO’s! There is a reason CMO’s at Fortune 500 companies have tenures averaging less than 1 year. Shortest of any C Suite position.

    Seriously look at how many ads were created for the superbowl that did nothing to sell product. Pepsi is a great example. 3 commercials showing people assaulted by soda cans. VW and Chrysler won awards yet did nothing to sell product.

    I don’t think this would last in PR. Much easier for an Agency to bid on a huge yearly contract and tell the Brand they will spend it all. In fact I bet all the bids show spending the total budget just in different ways with different angles.

  • ginidietrich

    @Billy_Delaney Thanks for the nice comment, Billy!

  • ginidietrich

    @TheJackB LOL!! Flying by the seat of our pants…so true. And could be seen as both a pro and a con.

  • ginidietrich

    @C_Pappas That’s a very interesting perspective, Christina. My guess is they oversold their capabilities and didn’t budget correctly. That happens a lot with smaller agencies. The big agencies do it, too, but they have room to absorb over-servicing. Small agencies can’t do that.

  • ginidietrich

    @Nic_Cartwright I tried to find a David and Goliath photo and didn’t find one I liked. So Sumo and Kid were it!

    It’s interesting that you became friends with those at smaller agencies, and a great perspective. One of the things I push my team hard on is developing the personal relationship with clients. That didn’t happen at the big agency.

    P.S. Guys can get away with biting their nails. Girls, unfortunately, cannot.

  • ginidietrich

    @Nic_Cartwright I tried to find a David and Goliath photo and didn’t find one I liked. So Sumo and Kid were it!

    It’s interesting that you became friends with those at smaller agencies, and a great perspective. One of the things I push my team hard on is developing the personal relationship with clients. That didn’t happen at the big agency.

    P.S. Guys can get away with biting their nails. Girls, unfortunately, cannot.

  • ginidietrich

    @jeanineblack My friend Mark Wiskup talks about communicating (at the leader level) with introverts. He always makes the comment that, if you know you have to call an introvert, the best way to get their attention is to call after hours and leave a VM. That way they can return your call on THEIR terms. Isn’t that true?!

  • ginidietrich

    @jeanineblack I was just talking with a friend about how people with an agency background can go to the client side, but those who start on the client side have a harder time going to an agency. I’d love to hear your perspective (guest post perhaps??) on the pros and cons of agency vs. client side.

  • ginidietrich

    @jeanineblack I was just talking with a friend about how people with an agency background can go to the client side, but those who start on the client side have a harder time going to an agency. I’d love to hear your perspective (guest post perhaps??) on the pros and cons of agency vs. client side.

  • ginidietrich

    @jackielamp I LOVED working at FH. I mean, loved. I had all sorts of opportunities. But, as you know, I’m a take the bull by the horns kind of person. And you really have to have that kind of personality in order to make it in a very competitive environment. I remember they used to post billable hours every Monday and you’d see where you ranked among your peers. There was only one person who ever beat me. I don’t like losing…even if it is second place. But they also rewarded hours worked vs. results produced. If you didn’t go in to the office every Saturday, you may as well not count on a promotion. If I were to do it now, I don’t know that I’d make it. But more because I don’t take direction well anymore. Not because of the hours.

  • ginidietrich

    @jackielamp I LOVED working at FH. I mean, loved. I had all sorts of opportunities. But, as you know, I’m a take the bull by the horns kind of person. And you really have to have that kind of personality in order to make it in a very competitive environment. I remember they used to post billable hours every Monday and you’d see where you ranked among your peers. There was only one person who ever beat me. I don’t like losing…even if it is second place. But they also rewarded hours worked vs. results produced. If you didn’t go in to the office every Saturday, you may as well not count on a promotion. If I were to do it now, I don’t know that I’d make it. But more because I don’t take direction well anymore. Not because of the hours.

  • ginidietrich

    @Shonali If you had to go work for someone else and I had to go work for someone else, we’d form a girl power conglomeration and work for one another.

  • ginidietrich

    @Shonali If you had to go work for someone else and I had to go work for someone else, we’d form a girl power conglomeration and work for one another.

  • ginidietrich

    @Shelley Pringle I love your tagline. I’ve always loved your tagline. When we were rebranding, I wanted to steal your tagline. Now that I’ve said it out loud, if I steal it, is it really stealing?

  • ginidietrich

    @HowieSPM@Shonali Oh no. It’d last in PR. We measure things with media impressions and advertising equivalencies (total BS). I just think the ethical issue happens at global agencies. There are good people and there are bad people. Where they work doesn’t really determine whether or not they’re ethical.

  • ginidietrich

    @HowieSPM@Shonali Oh no. It’d last in PR. We measure things with media impressions and advertising equivalencies (total BS). I just think the ethical issue happens at global agencies. There are good people and there are bad people. Where they work doesn’t really determine whether or not they’re ethical.

  • ginidietrich

    @danieleagee I”m not FROM Kansas City. I lived there for eight years, after college.

  • ginidietrich

    @Clarity4theBoss You’re welcome for sharing!

  • danieleagee

    @ginidietrich That’s at least a tie. First 6 years of your life don’t count. 12 years until you left for college. 12 in KC. Yep.

  • danieleagee

    @ginidietrich So. There!

  • danieleagee

    @ginidietrich So. There!

  • @ginidietrich Ha! That is absolutely true. I much prefer to get a voicemail, gather my thoughts and return the call when I’m ready. So funny, though, I never thought of it as a “tactic” for dealing with introverts! But I like it.

  • @ginidietrich Ha! That is absolutely true. I much prefer to get a voicemail, gather my thoughts and return the call when I’m ready. So funny, though, I never thought of it as a “tactic” for dealing with introverts! But I like it.

  • Clarity4theBoss

    @ginidietrich – @DannyBrown and @TroyClaus were right, you’re good people ๐Ÿ™‚

  • EdwardMBury

    First, I have a hard time believing my friend Gini was shy — ever.

    But seriously, I think any conversation regarding hiring public relations counsel should also focus on confidence, trust and determining whether the team in place can tackle your threat or opportunity strategically and deliver measurable results.

    You can get all the above — in many cases — from the firm next door or the one with offices all around the world.

  • @ginidietrich I would tend to agree with that as well. And thank you for the suggestion, I would love to do a guest post on the pros and cons!

  • @ginidietrich I would tend to agree with that as well. And thank you for the suggestion, I would love to do a guest post on the pros and cons!

  • @ginidietrich I would tend to agree with that as well. And thank you for the suggestion, I would love to do a guest post on the pros and cons!

  • @ginidietrich I would tend to agree with that as well. And thank you for the suggestion, I would love to do a guest post on the pros and cons!

  • ginidietrich

    @jeanineblack Awesome! I’ll let lisagerber know!

  • @ginidietrichlisagerber Sounds good!

  • ginidietrich

    @EdwardMBury Oh Edward Bury. Flattery will get you everywhere!

  • I’m with you, @jeanineblack . I regret not having any big agency experience either. Would love to talk to you about a guest post. can you send me an email at lgerber at armentdietrich dot com? (See @ginidietrich ? I got my email right this time.)

  • ginidietrich

    @Lisa Gerber HAHAHAHAHAH!!!

  • ginidietrich

    @Lisa Gerber HAHAHAHAHAH!!!

  • han_ma

    I think one of the key advantages of working at a boutique agency (for both the client and the indiviual) is the increased ablity to develop and establish a stronger rapport, both internally and externally.

    Working in a smaller team, you have the opportunity to become more personable and build stronger bonds with your fellow colleagues, hence creating a more trustworthy and comfortable atmosphere for you to flourish in.

    And simultaneously as a result, your improved efforts produce stronger results for the clients in the long run. And in an industry that is founded upon maintaining relationships… that’s a win/win in my opinion.

    DIsclaimer: I’ve worked for both a boutique (formulapr) and global mid-sized @bitecomms) agency.

  • han_ma

    I think one of the key advantages of working at a boutique agency (for both the client and the indiviual) is the increased ablity to develop and establish a stronger rapport, both internally and externally.

    Working in a smaller team, you have the opportunity to become more personable and build stronger bonds with your fellow colleagues, hence creating a more trustworthy and comfortable atmosphere for you to flourish in.

    And simultaneously as a result, your improved efforts produce stronger results for the clients in the long run. And in an industry that is founded upon maintaining relationships… that’s a win/win in my opinion.

    Disclaimer: I’ve worked for both a boutique (formulapr) and global mid-sized (@bitecomms) agency.

  • Shelley Pringle

    @ginidietrich Nah, go ahead. As long as I can ‘steal’ what you do on your blog. Just have to think a bit about how I can tweak Gin and Tonics…A Shel of my Former Self (oh, has that been taken?). As an aside, if you google my tag, you’ll find a PR agency in Bangladesh that totally ripped it off, including the copy I have on my web site (word for word). They say imitation is the highest form of flattery but that’s a bit much.

  • ginidietrich

    @Shelley Pringle Um, yeah. That’s not imitation. That’s copyright infringement.

  • @ginidietrich that’s the way (for me anyway) – as long as it is ‘real’ – nothing better than seeing an agency you are paying get truly excited about you and your product…. you can up your rates then!!!

    I am in partial control now of my nails – as long as I stay away from the cinema and long car journeys ….

  • I think the “Boutique vs Agency” is a issue that can be debated in many an industry. And, I think you listing pros and cons of both shows that ultimately it is what is best for each company/individual and that may even differ from project to project. I think in the end the decision has to be made by what speaks to you, and where you feel the best results lie.

    Dont get me wrong, I am pro-boutique all the way, since this is how we roll. However, we have had initial consults when even though our products/services was better the potential client was more comfortable with a big firm because of habit. If the comfort level isnt there, it will be a rocky start.

  • lauraclick

    I’ve never worked at a large agency – only a boutique firm right out of college. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. Although I was ready to leave when I did, it was a great way to learn a lot – and FAST. You’re synopsis is right on – you have to become skilled at so many things and be able to spin a lot of plates. I thrive in that kind of environment (for the most part).

    While I’ve never worked at a large agency, I’ve worked for government and can say I totally get the Titanic comment! Man, change is hard in larger companies and in government agencies. I’d rather fly by the seat of my pants any day! I love being flexible and nimble – I’d rather find the resources to get the job done than being constrained by process. But, that’s just me.

  • lauraclick

    Ok – I’m going to pull a page from soulati ‘s book. I’m going to officially hijack this blog post and let folks know that “hey, I’m guest posting on Spin Sucks today about tips for finding jobs!”.

    So, since there are lot of really smart folks here (and it’s a little lonely that direction), why don’t you scurry on over to my guest post today and help the fine folks looking for jobs by offering your advice on what they need to do to land their dream job.

    And, if you’re one of the fine folks looking for jobs, you better check it out. There’s some good stuff there (not that I’m biased). Oh, and if you have questions or want help, head over there and let me know that too.

    Ok, come say hi, why don’t ya?

  • @Lisa Gerber Sure will. Thanks, Lisa!

  • ElissaFreeman

    @ginidietrich Ok. When I was a kid, my mom made me call the operator just to practice in case I really needed to; and I wouldn’t do it cuz I was afraid as I didn’t know the person on the other end of the line. Really. And now? The fact I’m in PR is certainly strange karma. I would submit most PR folks started off as shy kids…

  • ElissaFreeman

    @ginidietrich Ok. When I was a kid, my mom made me call the operator just to practice in case I really needed to; and I wouldn’t do it cuz I was afraid as I didn’t know the person on the other end of the line. Really. And now? The fact I’m in PR is certainly strange karma. I would submit most PR folks started off as shy kids…

  • ElissaFreeman

    As ‘the client’ here’s what I’ve done based on experience of dealing with both big and boutique: my current AORs are a mix bw one big int’l agency and one niche/boutique agency. One is more strategic, the other more ‘where the rubber hits the road. Each presents their own strengths and challenges. Whereas I need to work to get the Big Guy to think “how the strategy boils down to what it means to the people” – at the same time I’m working with my Niche Guy to elevate his thinking to be more strategic. It’s an interesting ‘push/pull’ relationship, but I believe our business will be all the better for it. (And? For the record, I’m NOT saying smaller agencies aren’t strategic!)

  • @ginidietrich@Shelley Pringle It is a great tagline :).

  • @ginidietrich@Shonali@HowieSPM GD, I have heard that story too and you are right. Ethics are based on people, not agency size. So is experience and what you can learn on the job, IMO.

  • First of all, having worked at FHKC for two years now, boy do I have some stories to tell about you, @ginidietrich :). Kidding. I think your assessment is pretty spot on. What I would add is that the people you work with at whatever size agency you work at make or break the experience. For me, your manager and your team are the most important factor in your growth potential at any agency or company for that matter.

    I always tell prospects/clients that FHKC is the best of both worlds — access to resources of a global agency and flexibility of a 40-50 person office. I think a lot of the time that holds true. One example…We are really trying to get away from the “this team goes in and pitches and then this is the team that actually does the work” mentality. Clients don’t like that and we are trying to get better at listening to our clients. That said, there are plenty of times I wish we were a bit more flexible. Just being honest.

    I am still very new to the agency world, so I appreciate your perspective. Extremely solid line in the interview, btw. All I would say is choose where you work based on who you get to work with. Life is too short to work with jerks and people that will hold you down, big agency or small. And just like we preach to our clients all the time…people and relationships are what matter when it’s all said and done. Cheers!

  • ElissaFreeman

    @JGoldsborough @ginidietrich Also? You forgot to tell Gini that she was one of the ‘hot’ topics during #pr20chat!

  • findsujit

    @timepass @ginidietrich niche smaller PR teams are the better choice.

  • timepass

    @findsujit i guess it would be subject to what a client would need as well as what the goal is

  • ginidietrich

    @Nic_Cartwright You bite them when you go to see a movie? That’s totally funny!

  • ginidietrich

    @sydcon_mktg Totally agree. And, I’m telling you, people whose jobs rely on the perception of a big name behind them are better off with a large agency.

  • ginidietrich

    @lauraclick See, you’re a better person than me. I would not last a week working inside government. The red tape, alone, would kill me.

  • ginidietrich

    @ElissaFreeman Boy I’d really love a pros and cons blog from you about working with both. Don’t know if you can do it right now, but maybe after the Games?

  • ginidietrich

    @ElissaFreeman@JGoldsborough Oh I saw lots of tweets from last night just now.

  • ginidietrich

    @JGoldsborough It’s interesting how much it’s changed since I was there. We were a 250-300 person office. I have to say I think I’d like it even better at the 40 person range.

  • @ginidietrich lol… It’s like Jaws in there – not one nail survives…. don’t….. go…… in……. the……… cinema!!! Have a cracking Tuesday.

  • ginidietrich

    @findsujit I agree on the smaller PR teams

  • jamescrawford

    Boutique agencies are the way forward.

    Small agencies can attract the top talent because they have the freedom to pay what they want. Their salaries aren’t dicatated by company structures, HR policies or shareholders.

    Mentioning shareholders brings me on to another point. Any company that is publicly owned and not independent, has to pay a dividend. This dividend is cash that is not being used to pay staff. This means staff at bigger agencies are “overworked and under paid.” while shareholders take home all the winnings.

    Of course, independents might not necessarily pay that well all the time either but it is in their interest to be able to pay to retain the best. An owner manager won’t think twice about dishing out a bonus to those that deserve it.

    All this rubbish about big agencies being more to pay for systems and technologies is rubbish too. On a day to day basis there is very little technology that a PR person needs.

    All in all, go Boutique. I’ve just launched my own http://www.pragencyone.co.uk

  • jmbogash

    @lizscherer thnx vry much!

  • findsujit

    @timepass PR is a cmplx funcn esp in 2day’s hyper-connected wrld. It is imperative 2 hve a PR agency dat hs dedictd & cls knit teams.

  • findsujit

    @timepass bigger the team greater ur chances of gaps and dus lower efficiencies and missed opptys

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  • ginidietrich

    @jamescrawford I’m quite partial to boutiques, as well, but was trying to show an unbiased bent. ๐Ÿ™‚ I LOVE the name of your new agency. Good luck with it! It’s the hardest (and most rewarding) thing I’ve ever done.

  • @ginidietrich Yep, I like it better at that number of people.

  • Pingback: Agency vs. Corporate: Which One Is Best? by @jeanineblack | Spin Sucks()

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  • JayB2B

    Hi Gini!

    I really enjoyed your article. We work with varying sizes of PR firms, but definitely find Boutiques to be the most nimble and communicative.

    For a company like mine, we are always looking for ways to get in front of as many PR firms as possible…can you recommend an effective vehicle for getting our message out directly to as many PR firms as possible, preferably Boutiques?

    Thanks, and great work. Happy New Year!

    Jay Cooney

    @JayB2Bbiz2blogger

    Business2Blogger.com

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