Building a high profit-margin PR agency

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What do successful, high-margin PR agencies look like? 


Do they frequently achieve positive coverage in relevant business publications? Are their shelves lined with industry awards? Both are classic indicators of success - but they don’t tell the full story. 

PR agencies are traditionally profit-oriented - but the working landscape has changed post-pandemic. Employees’ priorities don’t always revolve around pay cheques anymore. And leaders face an uphill battle trying to maximise profitability whilst ensuring burnout is avoided and wellbeing doesn’t fall by the wayside. 

Workload sizes are constantly growing as clients ask for more, for less. Leading PR agencies must effectively manage client projects without allowing their teams’ health to become neglected. 

Our latest white paper - ‘How to Build a High Margin Agency’ - uncovered the core elements behind maximising profitability. Surveying 163 agency leaders, we highlighted three core areas that need to be factored into the equation: 

  • Employees
  • Technology
  • Metrics

PR agencies are often praised for their agility and flexibility. But these capabilities don’t always lend themselves to operational efficiency - and a lack of set processes can hurt communication, execution, and morale. 

Our research found that only 9% of agencies believed they were currently maximising profitability. There are a number of areas the other 91% can improve on to optimise their profitability.

Longer Employee Hours Don’t Improve Productivity

Winning new business will always be the life blood of PR agencies. Asking employees to spend more time at their desks, however, won’t reap the rewards you are looking for. 

Burnout has been in the spotlight over the past two years - yet only 7% of agencies we spoke to felt that burnout was a contributing factor towards high staff turnover rates. More understanding and education is required if PR agencies are to retain talent and work towards long-term, sustainable growth. 

Leaders should be striving to strike a balance between their teams’ performance and their wellbeing. Fostering a positive work environment is all the more important due to the current talent shortage and the ’Great Resignation’.

How To Solve A Problem Like Admin Overload?

Maximising profitability doesn’t mean cutting costs - shrewd investments can still drive improvements. 

Machine learning and technology can weed out the work-intensive processes. This frees up employees’ time - time better spent on writing bylines, thinking creatively, pitching and securing coverage. 39% of agencies acknowledge that inefficient delivery processes are a barrier preventing greater productivity - and 31% said the same for excessive time spent on project admin. 

Embracing greater automation offers PR agencies the perfect platform to succeed. Allowing employees to develop journalist relationships and focus on creative work - whilst allocating admin duties to technology - will be a cornerstone of success. 

You Can’t Fix What You Can’t Measure

Metrics are a crucial part of any PR agency. Profitability isn’t achieved through sheer dumb luck - defined processes and procedures are the driving force behind operational efficiency. 28% of agencies we spoke to, unfortunately, admitted to having no set process methodology. 

Client retention is always earmarked as a priority. Yet 47% of agencies concede that less than a quarter of their total revenue comes from existing clients - and only 40% of agencies believe they have the necessary tools to accurately forecast revenue from client work. 

PR agencies often overestimate both client and employee satisfaction rates. Centralising data and tools is an effective way to put this practice to an end. These together with qualitative insights from casual catch-ups will help develop a better understanding of your current position. 

It’s A Marathon - Not A Sprint

High-margin PR agencies aren’t built overnight. Agencies don’t want to sacrifice the flexibility and agility that got them where they are today. Innovation is a core part of PR - it attracts new talent and clients alike. The way businesses channel this, however, will define their results over the next few years. 

Maximising profitability is the end goal and embracing the need for change marks the start of the journey. Implementing more technology across your agency and educating employees how to use it properly will ease your teams’ workload concerns. Listening to client and employee feedback will uncover areas for improvement - and fuel meaningful change. These factors are what separates the PR agencies that are only just surviving - from those that are thriving. 

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