Handling PR: Outsourcing or In-House?

by Sharon Gefen

Many non-profits struggle with the decision as to whether or not to outsource their public relations efforts or to hire an in-house “spokesperson”. The answer certainly isn’t clear cut. It depends on the size of the non-profit, what it wants to achieve from its public relations efforts, and in the case of Israeli non-profits, if they want to reach international audiences as well as local.

From my experience – and I’ve worked on both sides – as a client and as a PR consultant – it generally makes sense to hire a PR agency or professional to promote the non-profit in the media.

This is due to the fact that an outside PR consultant usually enjoys contacts with the media that an in-house person needs to create. Moreover, the level of strategic PR consulting services that the right consultant brings is usually on a higher level than what an in-house spokesperson can achieve. In the case of international PR for Israeli non-profits, the best results are generated by a PR agency that has broad experience working internationally.

Some of the larger non-profit organizations actually work both ways. They employ a full time person to handle PR, as well as other marketing communications needs, Sometimes the person responsible for resource development is also responsible for public relations. The organizations also hire the services of an outside agency or consultant to do the actual publicity. This solution is a very effective one for the non-profit. Not only do they have someone in house who knows the organization and can do research to find the stories they want to promote, but they have an outside agency to deal directly with the media, set-up interviews, generate feature stories and organize press conferences.

It’s important to stress that outside PR counsel can only be as effective as the organization itself. That means that in order for the PR counsel to be effective the organization needs to know what it is seeking to achieve, and needs to place public relations high on its list of priorities. The organization needs to make its top management available to the media, and to be open and willing to provide information. The organization also needs to respond in a timely way to media requests. A true PR professional understands how the media works, its need for immediate response and can help the organization in taking advantage of media opportunities and in navigating the complexities of the media.

Sharon Gefen is a marketing and communications consultant with rich experience in local and international public relations for non-profits – large and small – as well as for large corporations, specifically in the financial world.