The great mismatch: What brands need vs what major PR agencies focus on
Posted on 2023 Aug,30  | By Amani Ghanem, Keel Comms

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‘Navigating the intricacies of brand-PR agency relationships is often hindered by a lack of clarity on brand requirements, which leads to a significant gap emerging between what brands truly seek and what big PR agencies prioritize,’ states Amani Ghanem, PR executive at Keel Comms Dubai, who draws a parallel between brands’ need and PR agencies’ focus.

Navigating the intricacies of brand-PR agency relationships is often hindered by a lack of clarity on brand requirements. As PR and brand managers at the client side grapple with defining and communicating their needs to their agencies, a significant gap emerges between what brands truly seek and what big PR agencies prioritize.

This is what brands often need, even if they aren't fully aware of it.



We live in an era where authenticity reigns supreme. Brands yearn for strategies that go beyond the generic. They seek tailored approaches that align with their unique essence and resonate with their target audience. Generic solutions fall short of creating a lasting impact, emphasizing the need for personalized PR strategies. For instance, most agencies utilize template pitch decks and idea for new client presentations.


Action-oriented approaches

Plans and strategies are essential, but brands are increasingly seeking PR agencies that emphasize tangible actions. The era of flowery language and grandiose plans is giving way to a demand for actionable steps that lead to concrete outcomes. Brands want to see their PR efforts translate into real-world results.



We’re not talking about the concept of "measurable results". Instead, the point here is to focus on achieving the deliverables at least. This could be as straightforward as publishing a feature as soon as it's written, rather than letting it languish in folders and transition from one progress report to the next.


Proactive stance

Today's business landscape is dynamic and fast-paced. Brands require PR agencies that take a proactive stance, identifying opportunities and challenges before they become apparent. Proactivity involves understanding the market trends, anticipating potential hurdles, and devising strategies that position the brand ahead of the curve.


Distinctive identity

A crowded market calls for distinctive branding. Brands are looking for PR agencies that understand the importance of establishing a unique identity. It's not just about getting noticed; it's about creating a brand presence that stands out in a featureless sea of competitors. Thought leadership is an underrated example of how PR agencies could achieve this differentiation for their clients.


Commitment to sustainability

PR agencies that educate brands about sustainable practices and execute eco-conscious initiatives are becoming increasingly valuable partners. Brands want their PR efforts to reflect a commitment to a better future.

On the other hand, here are several key priorities major agencies focus on, creating a sense of disconnection and misalignment with their clients’ requirements.


Mechanized approach

Unfortunately, some major PR agencies have adopted a mechanized approach, treating brands as mere cogs in their PR machinery. The factory-like approach to client servicing and content lacks the finesse needed to capture a brand's essence and communicate its unique value proposition. These kind of agencies are commonly referred to as the Press Release agencies.


Pitch prowess, execution lag

The art of the pitch has become a hallmark of many PR giants, but the execution often falls short. While grand strategies are promised during presentations, the real-world implementation may lack the same level of enthusiasm and precision, leaving brands disappointed. Talk to any marketing head and most likely they will voice this concern. Unrealistic pitches just to win clients often leads to trust issues in agency pitches in general.


Key account focus

Major agencies often prioritize key accounts over smaller ones, allocating resources disproportionately. While key account management benefits an agency’s bottom line, it would most likely leave other clients feeling neglected and undervalued.


Pitch-perfect awards

Winning awards is testament to an agency's prowess, but some agencies focus excessively on crafting pitches that are geared solely toward impressing award juries. Award submissions can divert energy and resources away from delivering value to their clients, and position brands favourably beyond the level they deserve. The practice of submitting awards stems from new business pitches—crafting an impeccable award submission that might not accurately depict reality arises from an agency's adeptness in handling exaggerated client pitches.


Flashy vs foundational

The allure of flashy campaigns often overshadows the importance of long-term brand building. While eye-catching campaigns have their place, and can win awards, a brand's lasting success is built on a solid foundation of consistent brand development underpinned by meaningful execution.


Billing hours vs performance-based billing

The emphasis on billable hours may compromise the primary goal of providing value. Brands seek agencies that prioritize delivering impactful results rather than merely counting hours on a timesheet.


Turbulent turnover

High employee turnover within PR agencies has a negative effect on client relationships. Brands want a stable and dedicated teams that understand their brand's journey, provide consistent support and most importantly, take ownership of their client work over the long term.


Bureaucratic hurdles

Some major PR agencies grapple with complex decision-making processes that slow down response times. Bureaucracy hinders timely action, preventing brands from capitalizing on fleeting opportunities.