Editor’s note: This is the 11th in a series of 12 guest posts from industry executives predicting key trends that will impact the public relations industry in 2012. Hosted under the hashtag #PRin2012, the series began Dec. 19, 2011, with a compilation post previewing all 12 predictions.
A confluence of events will make 2012 the year the public relations profession discovers that independent public relations consultants are its secret weapon.
With growing recognition that independent practitioners are not in a transitory blip between traditional jobs (in fact, a study found that less than 1 in 10 independent contractors would return to a traditional job if given the opportunity), there is a growing understanding within the business community that solo PR pros are experienced and savvy professionals, who play a key role in our profession.
As the economy edges toward recovery, the key to weathering the oscillating business cycles that have become the norm is the effective use of independent PR contractors. When new corporate business initiatives commence before a hiring freeze is lifted, or PR agencies endure a waiting period after landing new clients before hiring additional full-time staff, partnering with independent public relations practitioners offers significant benefits.
The U.S. Department of Labor confirms this, noting that “firms [will] hire contractors to provide public relations services, rather than support more full-time staff when additional work is needed.” With expected response times shrinking and real-time public relations — both planned, or in the case of a crisis, unforeseen — becoming the norm, 2012 will see new levels of interest in partnering with independent contractors as the most effective way to manage workflow without sacrificing quality.
Perhaps more importantly, as the media continues to fragment and niche influencers gain in importance, independent PR consultants can offer a strategic advantage by providing specific expertise — from strategy and planning to execution — that can hit the ground running immediately. Why wait for internal staff to learn a new industry, market or specialized tactic, when an indie practitioner can deliver better results today?
The New Year will see broader understanding, by both agencies and in-house PR teams, that the challenges of maintaining influencer relationships across different business units can more efficiently — and effectively — be addressed by partnering with independent consultants.