The Future of Public Relations? Think Small

Posted by Dan Keeney

A big thanks to Brent Frei, co-founder and executive chairman of, for his illuminating piece, “Small BusinessesWill Inherit the Earth,” published online at Xconomy.

Frei notes that specialized sole proprietors, such as independent public relations counselors, are the big winners in the current economy, which is forcing all organizations to do more with less. He writes, “On one hand, they provide the “just in time” component services no longer staffed at the downsized firms, and on the other, they are adept at operating with lean resources and contracting for component services themselves.”

It just so happens that WSJ careers reporter Sarah Needleman also took on this subject in a segment on FOX this morning entitled, “How to Survive as a Freelancer.” Thanks Joe Cockrell (@joePRguy on Twitter) for giving me a heads up about the clip.


I do think that Needleman gets it wrong when she suggests that what is happening will be short lived. I believe that the splintering of work from larger integrated service providers to smaller, more efficient providers is permanent and is changing the way organizations that are in need of services behave. It wasn’t long ago that a large company would turn its nose up at the prospect of engaging a sole proprietor. But in this business climate, many are going forward with small providers because they (we) deliver extraordinary value.

Will these companies go back to the large integrated service providers when budget pressures ease — despite having positive experiences with their small but capable independent service providers? I do not believe they will. Here’s what Frei said:

“This atomization of business is…a function of the nature of work today, and of the growing availability of technologies that will soon transform this approach to business-as-usual.

“The ability to provide results electronically greatly benefits small businesses and individual contractors, as geographical location and infrastructure are no longer barriers. More and more opportunities will be available to productive workers to serve countless niches.

“The main barrier to this volume of atomization has traditionally been the “productivity tax” on the coordinator who manages all the players working outside the company. The information overload becomes intense with too many e-mails, spreadsheets, and overhead material with so many separate contributors. The logistics and technological challenges often outweighed the gains. But new online tools are changing all that.

“Collaborative work management tools will be tightly integrated with online work marketplaces (LivePerson, eLance, RentaCoder) as well as crowdsourcing technologies (Amazon Mechanical Turk, Smartsourcing). Think of these solutions as part of a global switchboard that connects real and virtual teams on an as-needed basis in order to accomplish specific work. They will be as universally accessible as Gmail, and available to all. And the important components—the tasks, milestones and deadlines, as well as the team members who own specific responsibilities—will always be clearly visible to whoever owns the end results.”

I not only believe in what Frei is saying, I have experienced it firsthand. I have successfully used Get A Freelancer to identify writers and designers for various projects. The writers I’ve worked with have done a great job and deliver their work at an extraordinary value. The service provides an e-Bay style rating system (a 10-star scale) that enables the customer to quickly see which service provider gets the most positive feedback from customers. People and firms from all over the world bid on projects. I had someone in the Phillipines create a logo for a client. I wouldn’t have been able to have a phone call with a local design firm for what it cost us. I use only U.S.-based writers, but they deliver similar value.

The bottom line in all this is that there is a global talent pool that is now just as easily accessible as the local talent pool. The fact that organizations are growing more comfortable with virtual relationships makes in unlikely that the Genie will ever go back in the bottle.

Be Sociable, Share!

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 6th, 2009 at 4:45 pm and is filed under Future of PR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “The Future of Public Relations? Think Small”

  1. Vince Stevenson Says:

    I have worked as a freelancer for 20 years + and it’s a great way to live. Interesting people, projects and generally well paid and well valued.

    Rgds Vince

  2. Brent Frei Says:

    Daniel, as you state, we clearly see eye to eye on this as will pretty much anyone else that gives this model a try out of curiosity or necessity. There are so many forces pressing this model into the permanent mainstream, I’m fairly surprised that anyone would suggest it will be short lived.

    Best, Brent Frei

Leave a Comment