Building the Agency – Part III

Previously we examined challenges that arise in staffing a firm with so many new skills-based areas being added to the PR and marketing umbrellas of communications. We then took a look at the two philosophical sides of the spectrum when it comes to filling out the ranks for digital skills and expertise – whether agencies should hire based on tools-based expertise or for subject matter expertise.

Each of the hiring philosophies had their own sets of pros and cons:

  • Hiring for tool expertise gives the company a very strong resource in that area, but limits that person’s flexibility in other areas of communication.
  • Hiring for subject matter expertise may mean a loss of depth in the platform knowledge, but gives you a person who can shift more adeptly from digital to traditional and overall strategy.

In this, the final installment of the series, we’ll take a look at Bliss Integrated’s own strategy for building a B2B firm with digital strength while still keeping the foundational core of public relations.

The question is perhaps better answered with a question – would you hire a carpenter to build a house that only worked with a certain variety of lumber or only knew how to make stairs? Even if you were hiring a fleet of carpenters for a project – how much specialization would you want?

And when you do have that specialist – what do you do, as a company, when they change jobs, become ill, their specialization becomes obsolete or they otherwise can’t perform (or you don’t need them to)? Are you building in your own weakest links?

Even assuming none of those things happen – what do you do when that person becomes senior enough that they should begin having overall control and strategy over an account? While it’s always assumed some functions will need to be delegated, are you really okay having someone supervise core public relations functions who has never organized or attended a deskside briefing (and may not even know what one is)?

As you might expect, given our strong focus on our core disciplines – healthcare, financial services and professional services – we staff for subject matter expertise (or the ability to pick up that expertise). A communications professional (or team) that knows insurance, the legal industry, or pharma backwards and forwards is more valuable than someone who can set up a Twitter account, Facebook page, or SlideShare account without looking.

That’s not to say we don’t need the skills – we just teach them internally (and pull in outside specialists when needed), but make sure we start with good “material” – curious, inquisitive folks. Professionals who have a desire to learn and do the most for their clients – whether it’s a 6-figure custom built Facebook app, or client profile in a business journal.