You must have witnessed many debates on working with a freelancer versus a full-fledged communications consultancy either from your prospects or current clients. Some strongly advocate freelance practitioners while others prefer an organized approach and will always stick to an established consultancy. As each one’s experience and perception differs, this debate never throws a conclusive approach.
While I wanted to personally write on this debate, thought being at a consultancy side throughout my career, there would certainly be some bias towards consultancies. So instead thought of bringing two industry veterans who will present their side of the story, there might not be one right answer and a concrete conclusion but will leave the platform open for discussion and seek your views on the topic so that both sides are equally represented.
Representing Freelancers is Vipul Bondal, Sr. Communications Professional, who recently started on his own after working for over 11 years with top consultancies such as MSL India, Genesis, Weber Shandwick and IPAN, while he also had his share of corporate communications experience of over 6 years with corporates like Roche Diagnostics and Siemens.
Vipul Bondal, Veriitte Consulting:
Veriitte Consulting’ is my first stint as a free-lance communications professional. Having worked on both the corporate comms and PR agencies for fairly long stints and now as a freelancer, I see a few advantages that clients have by engaging the latter (in an comparable situation). A freelance professional is a master of his / her own time and resources. This means the client gets better quality time from a freelance professional – especially during a crisis or any other important period – than a senior person in a larger agency can ordinarily do. Besides, a freelancer is faster at decision-making and taking a call on things which can be a big advantage for clients. The biggest advantage for clients that a freelancer provides is personalized attention and focus without worrying about filtered information or hierarchy. A freelancer is usually better placed to travel, if required, at short notice or do a meeting or two. It also saves time for doing extensive pre-briefing as they are usually clued-in to what’s happening at the client’s end.
The disadvantage is that any setbacks in terms of ill-health or other personal issues can severely hamper your focus. A couple of weeks of absence due to illness or injury to you, or to your spouse or child, can cause severe inconvenience to you and your client. As a freelancer, it’s therefore important to maintain peak physical fitness, guard against illnesses and keep your batteries always charged (both your personal and your mobile’s), because you never know when the next opportunity may come calling!”
Representing the consultancy is Anand Mahesh Talari, Co-Founder & Managing Director, Mavcomm Consulting Pvt. Ltd., who again is a senior professional with over 14 years of experience in the communications domain. Before co-founding his consultancy, Anand has worked for over years with reputed agencies like Ogilvy PR, Adfactors, PR, Good Relations and Mutual PR. He and his partner have been successfully running Mavcomm for over 8 years now and have many known brands on their roaster.
Anand Mahesh Talari, Co-Founder & Managing Director, Mavcomm Consulting Pvt. Ltd.,
Consultancies are better equipped to deliver in the long-term
I have gone through the dilemma myself. The possibility of being completely on your own, not having to mother youngsters joining the consultancy, saving on establishment costs and thus having more cash in hand. This in the backdrop of regularly getting queries through friends and well-wishers tempting to take up work. However, the objective for us was completely different. We wanted to be a full-service PR consultancy growing in terms of services as well as geography to give our clients the best of results. We wanted to create an establishment which will deliver results even if we are not around to deliver it personally. An entity on it’s own different from me, my partner or our team.
A lot of my friends are freelancers and are doing some really great work. However, I will always be in favour of a consultancy when it comes to consultancy vs freelancers’ debate. Here are my reasons:
- Planned, delibrate and sustained: I am a firm believer in Sam Black’s definition of PR where he has advocated PR being a planned, delibrate and sustained effort. I believe consultancies have an edge over freelancers when it comes to both planning and sustenance simply because of the number of minds brainstorming and hands and legs working to get the message across
- Game of combining skills: PR requires mutiple skills coming together for decoding brief, researching, strategy, content and implementation along with scale to reach various stakeholders. I believe consultancies would always have an edge over freelancers when it comes to offering a 360-degree approach to clients.
- Being future ready: A freelancer may be brilliant and have a great past enabling him to perform in the current scenario. However, an agency is definitely more future ready because it has to move with the times to stay relevant in such a competitive industry. A number of new disciplines have emerged disrupting the traditional Company-Message-Platform-Media-Stakeholder chain to direct engagement of Company-stakeholders-Media-Customers through social media. The role of an agency has to rapidly change in this background to innovatively reach out and create new intervention levels
- Creative ideas which are implementable: A client has access to a number of team professionals from the junior most member of the team to the senior most in a consultancy. Quite often some of the most creative ideas emerge from youngsters in the team which are further refined to add practicality by the seniors
- Benchmarks and best-practices: A consultancy sets its own benchmarks and brings in its best-practices. These eventually helps the client not only in getting better results but also analysis as the members of the consultancy are working backwards not only on client deliverables but also on internal benchmarks to be met
- Talent Pool: Moreover, Public Relations agencies have a pool of people who come from various sectors, like from PR itself to social media, advertising, print and electronic media. Their understanding of the requirement of media and most crucially, meeting of deadlines is matchless.
- Focused approach and nationwide reach: A consultancy is more likely to package-in elements like Crisis Management, Investor relations, Trade relations and Consumer relations because of its team’s past experience and expertise in these areas. A freelancer may have these strengths but may face bandwidth issues. A related point is nationwide/ global reach to target stakeholders across geographical areas because of branch offices and network. This helps in better results as well savings of costs.
Over to you Now…
What do you think works better for clients: Freelancer’ or communications firms? We would be happy to read more comments from corporate communications professional on their experience and views.