Internal vs. External PR Roles

04.01.2009 | Sylvia Park

The overarching goal of a public relations team is to provide strategic support for a company and its products and ensure the highest quality of communications to foster a positive public perception of the company. When organizing a PR team, there are many factors to consider.

There is no right or wrong organizational structure for a PR team. PR teams vary depending on the company’s size, business objectives and level of support needed. Some companies employ in-house PR teams, hire external PR agencies or use a combination of the two.

Many times, when a company decides to hire both an internal and an external PR team, one of the areas of confusion revolves around the roles and responsibilities of the teams. In order to strategically leverage public relations and foster a positive relationship between the two teams, the roles and responsibilities should be clearly outlined. It is also ideal if the external team and internal PR specialists and managers have shared expectations about processes and procedures.

Based on our collective experience and observations on both the client and agency side, these are the roles and responsibilities that you should consider for your external team vis-a-vis any in-house PR staff:

Roles & Responsibilities of an Internal PR Team

  1. Secure internal buy-in from the executive management team. Build support for PR as a strategic tool, determine how much the company is willing to spend on PR initiatives and clearly outline the activities the team plans to implement.
  2. Manage the PR budget to ensure it is being used efficiently. The internal PR manager should act as a liaison between the external agency and the company, and help both teams meet expectations.
  3. Drive the PR strategy and make sure the company develops long-term strategic plans that mesh with its overarching business goals. The internal PR manager may want to involve the PR firm in developing a strategic plan. Oftentimes, this is a smart idea especially if the firm is going to be charted with executing the plan.
  4. Coordinate with other internal teams to make sure the public relations program reflects consistent messaging and supports the company’s business and communications goals.
  5. Define measurement criteria and evaluate results against those criteria. The internal team should establish, along with other internal stakeholders (e.g. product marketing, program managers, etc.), the criteria for determining whether the public relations programs are meeting internal expectations and requirements. Again, you may want to ask your agency to participate in this discussion so they can share their perspective and you can come to shared expectations about what is realistic.
  6. Prioritize PR requests in order to ensure the agency is focused on the right value-added programs and supporting activities that are most strategic.

Roles of an External PR Team

  1. Work in tandem with the internal PR team to develop a strategic PR strategy and provide counsel on campaigns or projects.
  2. Proactively respond to editorial inquiries and requests as appropriate and manage the process accordingly. Field interview requests, coordinate and facilitate interviews, and develop briefing materials to prepare key spokespeople. Manage the angle of the story and work with the journalist to provide additional information. It is also important to monitor for the article and develop and deliver a recap to the clients in order to merchandise the results.
  3. Assist the internal team in developing press materials including press releases, key message and Q&A documents. Conduct reactive outreach to key media targets to inform them of upcoming announcements, key customer wins, product releases, etc.
  4. Work with the internal team to flesh out messaging or to develop a messaging architecture.
  5. Champion program planning activities with strategic input from the internal team. The agency is responsible for identifying key audiences, major messages, objectives, strategies and tactics for carrying out these programs.
  6. Execute on plans as needed. Write press materials, such as press releases, corporate backgrounders and media alerts. Draft speeches or presentations. Develop briefing materials for executives so they are prepared for key interviews. Secure speaking opportunities.
  7. Provide weekly and monthly status reports to the internal PR manager so he or she has a sense of what work is being completed and what results are in the works. Communication is key. Erica Iacono with PRWeek recently wrote an article about showing agency value to clients and said, “Constant communications between an agency and client is essential . . . It’s also important to keep clients apprised of new developments within an agency, including its staff and capabilities.”

As companies grow, change and reorganize, it is important to re-evaluate the roles and responsibilities of both the internal and external teams. Although selecting the right PR team can be time-consuming, a winning PR team can help cultivate a positive company image and successful business.

AARP CEO William Novelli commented to PRWeek, “Most organizations recognize team building is key to success. Communications pros must be strong and true partners in management team building. This means aligning with the organization’s goals.”

If you have any other thoughts about the roles of internal vs. external PR teams, we’d love to hear them. E-mail us at info@communiquepr.com or post a comment.


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