Agencies and Consulting.
Agencies and Consulting: A Guide
Agencies and Consultancies: Differences and Definitions
An agency is a firm with several departments of specialists designed to deliver specific professional services to businesses. Common types of agencies include advertising agencies, marketing agencies and public relations (PR) agencies.
Similarly, a consultancy is hired when companies need to outsource business needs. Consulting typically is more advisory and is meant to provide advice on strategy and top-level decision-making, rather than deliver tangible work to clients, which is what agencies do. Both agencies and consultancies play a large role in the corporate world.
Agencies vs. Consultancies: What’s the Difference?
One way to distinguish between an agency and a consulting firm is through deliverables. Typically an agency works on specific goals and projects outlined by a company and delivers a product or service as a result. Companies will work with an agency when they need additional help but don’t want to hire more full-time employees.
Consulting firms don’t offer tangible deliverables the same way agencies do. Consultants typically work with companies to identify strategies to improve operations, marketing impact and more. A company might hire a consultant when they are looking for an industry expert whose experience and ideas can inform the company’s processes. For example, a company looking to grow and hire a pool of new employees over the next several months may hire an HR consultant to advise on hiring guidelines and employee onboarding.
Although there are differences between agencies and consultancies, there is some overlap. The nature behind why a company would use an agency or consultancy is usually the same: there is a need for additional help on projects or advisory roles, but the company doesn’t want to take on another full-time employee. Both agencies and consultancies operate under a contract with a company that specifies what services will be provided, what the company will pay and the timeline for the partnership. Many contracts can be renewed or extended if both parties still see the relationship as beneficial and some contracts operate on a continuous basis.
What Is an Agency?
An agency is a firm that has departments of specialists who work with clients and provide specific services and deliverables. Agencies can come in many forms and work with a variety of clients ranging from individuals to Fortune 500 companies. An agency may also facilitate transactions between two companies. For example, an advertising agency is responsible for identifying and purchasing media placement opportunities on behalf of the company for which they work. Some common types of agencies include advertising agencies, marketing agencies and PR agencies.
Types of Agencies
Marketing agencies help brands and organizations unlock growth opportunities and increase their visibility to multiple audiences. Generally speaking, there are two types of marketing agencies: integrated marketing agencies and specialist marketing agencies. Whereas integrated marketing agencies have the expertise to create strategies and execute full-fledged marketing deliverables across multiple formats, specialist agencies focus on one specific marketing niche, such as creative or digital marketing.
Advertising agencies typically provide holistic, unified services in the form of campaigns. Advertising campaigns incorporate multiple forms of creative, digital, strategic, interactive and production-based executions designed to be activated either simultaneously or in succession to reach a common goal. Many companies will choose to retain an agency as their “agency of record,” meaning the partnership will continue indefinitely and campaigns will continue to be launched and adjusted based on various metrics. Not only do advertising agencies create campaigns, but they also seek out and purchase media placement opportunities on the brand’s behalf.
Public relations agencies, more commonly known as PR firms, also work to increase a brand’s audience size and boost public perception. PR firms can serve niche markets or cross-industry clients but do so by utilizing unpaid media opportunities, also known as earned or free media. Common unpaid media opportunities include news publications and social media channels. Businesses that hire PR firms most commonly utilize them to produce press releases, company statements and other various other forms of communication.
Staffing agencies help rapidly scaling companies hire the right talent to grow effectively, often utilizing teams of recruiters to help organizations source talent they may have otherwise missed.
Occasionally, companies need to fill roles on a short-term basis due to a project’s demands or the unexpected departure of team members. Temporary staffing agencies, also known as temp agencies, maintain a roster of industry professionals available for short-term work and ready to integrate within a company’s staff, who then match workers with the right opportunities based on their experience.
Types of Agency Services
Marketing Agency Services
All marketing agencies offer a wide range of services and capabilities but not all agencies specialize in every skill. To find the right agency to meet their needs, it is important to understand which kind of agency will possess the services required to meet your goals.
Digital Marketing Agency Services
Typical digital marketing services include search engine optimization, paid search engine marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, website building, content marketing and digital product creation.
Creative Marketing Agency Services
Creative marketing agencies offer holistic campaign creation and activation. Typical services provided by these agencies include campaign copywriting, art direction, graphic design, photography, video and audio production and interactive marketing.
Production Agency Services
Common services provided by a production agency include filming, photography, video production, graphic design, interactive media and experiential marketing activations.
Local Marketing Agency Services
Local marketing agencies specialize in connecting small businesses with the communities they serve. Services provided by these agencies include email marketing, local SEO, social media marketing, audio production and social advertising video production.
Advertising Agency Services
Full-service advertising agencies offer services such as campaign development strategy, media buying and placement, art direction, graphic design, video production, copywriting, SEO and SEM marketing, email marketing, photography, social media marketing and custom experiential and interactive activations.
PR Agency Services
PR agency services include press release strategy and writing, speech writing, crisis strategy and management, pitch writing and market research. PR agencies are also responsible for contacting outlets such as newspapers, radio stations, news stations, online publications and additional unpaid media placement opportunities.
Types of Agency Jobs
Agency jobs can vary widely. Someone starting out at an agency may start as an intern or assistant but eventually work their way to roles such as a marketing or brand strategist, account supervisor or creative director.
Common skills needed in agency jobs include active listening skills, strong written and verbal communication skills, and experience with design and Photoshop. Many people who work for an agency have a background in marketing, public relations or communications and have a bachelor’s degree related to these fields.
Advertising and Marketing Agency Jobs
Jobs you will commonly find at marketing and advertising agencies, whether full-service or specialist, often include:
- Creative director
- Associate creative director
- Head of accounts
- Account supervisor
- Art director
- Graphic designer
- PR strategist
- Brand strategist
- Media buyer
PR Firm Jobs
PR firms also cover a lot of ground for their clients, especially in areas where traditional advertising and marketing can’t reach. Earning media placements and other PR work is most often done through these positions:
- PR specialists
- Social media managers
What Are Consulting Firms?
Consulting firms help companies outsource for specific needs in areas like IT, change management, marketing and HR. The advisory role of a consultant is meant to provide feedback on business strategies and high-level decision-making instead of offering physical deliverables to a client company.
Consulting firms provide a way for companies that are looking to increase their market share or workplace capabilities to receive expert advice. While a company may have the necessary staff and expertise in place to make these kinds of changes, consulting firms provide an outside point of view on market share, possible scenarios and outcomes, and where the competition currently stands. Whether a company is weighing a massive jump into a new market or simply wants to upgrade its technical infrastructure, consultancies can help.
Types of Consulting Services
IT consultancies work with organizations to ensure their technical abilities are up to snuff. In terms of upgrading technical capabilities, IT consultants are skilled in helping companies upgrade to cloud servers and systems, migrate data from one server location to another, replace legacy networking systems, introduce new software, and much more. Additionally, IT consultants may be brought in to aid with specific types of development projects, fix niche components on failing systems, or help with strategic technical development.
Strategy consultants help organizations plan for achieving growth and winning market share well into the future. Often, strategy consulting involves working with financial advisors to ensure goals and timelines can be reasonably projected and achieved. Plans are formulated through constant collaboration with leadership and teams throughout the company.
Business consulting involves the best ways to approach department structuring, team and staffing needs, day-to-day workflow and workplace environment.
Many companies with a large staff do not need to outsource their marketing work to agencies to get the job done. When it comes to creating an overarching marketing strategy, though, marketing consultants can be invaluable. These professionals work with company executives and marketing directors to forecast strategy to meet long-term goals, help design marketing funnels, create plans to break into new markets, and provide suggestions for decreasing churn and increasing conversions amongst qualified leads.
When companies want to better align themselves with their audiences, brand consultants can help. From influencing the company’s general PR approach and sense of differentiation in the marketplace, brand consultants utilize their expertise in perception and competitive analysis to help brands stand out in changing times, embrace new opportunities and, above all else, feel authentic.
Public Relations Consulting
PR consultants help companies determine how to authentically communicate and address their audiences through earned opportunities. Many PR consultants will act as a liaison between companies and the public, while others may simply provide strategic advice and create materials for marketing teams.
Companies without dedicated legal teams or who need additional advice when making a critical decision can work with legal consultants to help with a variety of legal needs. Common situations legal consultants provide assistance with include government regulations, settling IP/trademark disputes and reaching appropriate resolutions to lawsuits.
Aspiring consultants either join existing consulting firms or create their own one-person consultancy. Individual consultants usually set their own fees, while consulting firms typically pay a base salary. Consulting jobs can range from HR consulting to insurance compliance to legal consulting and much more. Here are some common roles found in the consulting industry:
- Consulting director
- Safety compliance consultant
- Strategy consultant
- Financial consultant
- Associate consultant
- Healthcare consultant