Does size matter?

Does the saying ‘the bigger, the better’ apply when it comes to PR agencies?

“NO” says Katie Harvey, Co-Founder, DPQ Communications

KatieHarveyIn a market where brand differentiation and reputation is key, why would you choose a PR agency where you are just a number?


‘The bigger, the better’ must be a phrase coined by a PR. We are known for leaning on the side of exaggeration rather than modesty as a whole. However, the same cannot be said for agency size, as more and more petite players give the big boys a run for their money.

I love being part of a press release factory – said nobody ever. In a market where brand differentiation and reputation is key, why would you choose a PR agency where you are just a number? I am referring to team members and clients alike.

From experience, rarely does the generic approach work – dear Sir/Madam does not evoke the same reaction as a handwritten invitation with your name on it. The same goes for PR agencies. The idea that you are client number 68 does not instill the same confidence as having a personal relationship with your PR team.

A smaller agency allows for a real personal connection between the team and with the clients. Time is our finite resource (albeit PRs magically cram 48 hours of work into 24) and as such we are just as selective with taking on clients, as clients are at appointing agencies. Our boutique nature allows us to work with brands and companies we are passionate about – not just ones that will hit the department’s quarterly targets.

Significantly, face-time – not on your phone – but actual face-time, is something money can’t buy. In many a pitch we are asked by potential clients ‘will we ever see you again?’ and the answer is a resounding ‘yes!’ You are guaranteed that the person who is selling you the dream of market domination will also be the person you work with, not another three account executives that you’ve yet to meet and will probably only know via email.

Do not misunderstand; I have respect for large operations. Global powerhouse agencies help give our industry recognition and respect. It’s just that if I were choosing an employer or a PR partner, I would opt for an environment where everybody knows my name (cue Cheers soundtrack), my voice is heard and my success as an individual or as an account will impact the business. That way I know we are all on board.

When it boils down to it, PR is all about relationships. A smaller agency is generally more flexible, nimble, quick to respond and has the ability to nurture a relationship more effectively than their larger counterparts. And remember, it’s not the big that eats the small – but the fast that eats the slow.


“YES” says Bashar AlKadhi, COO, ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller

BasharAlKadhiSmaller agencies are often constricted by their size while we are able to draw on our network offices across the region and beyond, giving uniformity in messaging and a seamless execution of strategy

Bigger doesn’t always mean better, but when it comes to PR agencies I am a firm believer that this is the case. Larger agencies are able to offer clients a number of distinct advantages, from geographic reach to consistent messaging and sector specialisation, as well as to provide budding talent the opportunity to learn, develop and progress, which benefits the industry as a whole.

One of the first things clients ask an agency of any size is about is their ability to disseminate information to a wide audience. Smaller agencies are often constricted by their size, while we at ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller for instance, are able to draw on our network offices across the region and beyond, giving uniformity in messaging and a seamless execution of strategy. Crucially, local offices are able to add nuances and offer on-the-ground expertise whilst maintaining consistent messaging.

There may well be a (misguided) perception that large agencies are not able to stay close to their clients – a crucial facet in our industry – due to size. This is one of the reasons for setting up our specialist practices, and we are the first PR agency in the region to do so. These practices create a ‘small agency’ mindset and level of commitment to clients, while also offering the benefits of a large agency in terms of scale, reach and expertise. It has certainly proved a winning combination for our clients and us.

Also, as an increasing number of clients look for a more integrated approach to their communications in the digital age, large agencies are the ones able to provide it because of their capacity to invest, either in-house or by working together with sister agencies. As well as ‘traditional’ PR services, large agencies like ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller are able to offer clients a 360-degree approach to communications programmes, including evidence-based research from our sister agency PSB Middle East and design and digital services through Proof Integrated Communications. We also have great working relationships with all of the MENACOM Group agencies, including Y&R, MEC and Wunderman.

As I said, it is not only clients that benefit from an agency’s large network. Employees are also able to grow and further their careers with long term job opportunities and access to worldwide training tools. Our colleagues in the region have come from Burson-Marsteller offices from as far as Montreal and Milan. Given the region’s large expat population, there is also the opportunity to secure a role within the Burson-Marsteller network for those who wish to return to their home countries or just those seeking a new, international challenge.

Just like the Burj Khalifa, big can be beautiful.


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