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Kindred and Skeptical: Personas that Buy PR Firm Services

Kindred and Skeptical Personas that Buy PR Firm Services

There are three types of buyer personas that buy PR firm services:  1) Kindred Spirits 2) Arm’s Length and 3) Been Burned.

Those are the findings from research by Drew McLellan and the Agency Management Institute titled, 2015 Agency Hiring & Firing Insights.

The research, in the form of a PDF report, is freely available for download with registration, which I did to review it and found the data impressive.  It’s a worthwhile read for corporate communications and agency heads alike.

The study provides “quantitative attitudinal segmentation research with over 500 marketing decision-makers” with the authority, budget and history of hiring firms.  The sample set includes a near-equal mix of both B2B and B2C marketing leaders.

Buyers in the “Kindred Spirits” (31%) persona, “have a favorable opinion of agencies overall. They believe that most genuinely want to understand their customers and their business.”


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Those in the “Arm’s Length” (35%) persona “are comfortable setting marketing strategy, and are more likely to say they just need agencies to execute those ideas.”

The “Been Burned” (34%) category tend to be “much more skeptical about agencies” and believe most agencies pretend to know more about their industry and their business than they really do.”

While only 20% of respondents reported having an Agency of Record, the Kindred Spirits are most likely to only have one (59%).

Reasons to Hire and Fire PR Firms

The research also shows that these buyers are very confident in the process of selecting an agency. That process — the RFP — also doesn’t seem to be optional:

 “While agencies might prefer to believe that dread of the agency search process discourages organizations from moving to a new agency, most of our respondents feel otherwise. 57% of the group says they “like” or “love” the process of choosing an agency – more than 60% of ‘Kindred Spirits’ and ‘Arm’s Length’ respondents, and 48% of ‘Been Burned’ respondents.”

About half of the respondents or 46% said, “there are factors that automatically disqualify agencies.”  Disqualifying factors listed in the report ranged widely from employing staff with criminal histories – to poorly designed websites.

Why do agencies get fired? According to the report:

“The top reasons for firing agencies are that their work didn’t achieve the desired results (46%) and not receiving the appropriate level of attention or responsiveness (31%).”

While I didn’t see it come through the report, there’s one other reason agencies get fired. In all my years across agencies and in corporate communications, a common reason agencies get fired is the team stops bringing ideas to the table.

At that point, PR is nothing more than an order-taker.


Is your PR firm bringing ideas to the table? If they aren’t, contact us today to learn how the Atlanta-based PR agency, Sword and the Script Media, LLC can bring big thinking along with seven possible services including PR and content marketing that deliver results.


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Switching PR Firms: The High Cost of a Steep Learning Curve

Photo credit:  Flickr, Matt Deavenport, The Skeptical Face (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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