When it comes to finding the right option for carrying out strategic PR initiatives, public sector organizations have multiple options. Many choose to hire a public information officer (PIO) to work in-house, others retain the services of an individual outside consultant, and some will opt to work with a fully staffed public relations firm. Here are some pros and cons of each.

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Public information officer: Public sector organizations that choose to hire a PIO often make the decision based on a single pro: the fact that the employee will work on the premises. While the desire to bring someone in-house is understandable, one con of hiring a PIO is that these employees typically only have two roles: information dissemination and crisis response. Most of the time, a PIO has little to no training in marketing, new media and other functions that are crucial to a modern public sector group.

Individual consultant: Another idea that some public sector employers embrace is hiring an individual consultant on an as-needed basis. The main pro of this choice is the possibly lower cost of paying a flat fee for a monthly retainer. The main con? The same thing! If the organization pays a retainer for services that are limited to crisis response and the occasional press release, then there is not a great deal of value involved. Much like PIOs, individual consultants often lack the skills necessary to execute a full communications program.

Public relations firm: In order to get the most value for their investment, public sector employers may wish to hire a fully staffed PR firm. With a PR firm, the #1 pro is that a variety of staff are at the client’s disposal. A government employer needs people who are proficient in 1.) written communication for press releases and other materials, 2.) oral communication for spokesperson/crisis management functions, 3.) traditional media relations for print publication placement, and 4.) new media relations for social media management. With a fully staffed PR firm, each of those critical services can be fulfilled by one or more team members who possess the respective skills needed. The con? As long as the firm is available to the client 24/7, there typically isn’t one.

For public sector organizations in need of PR, a public relations firm may be the most effective option. Next time, we will list the criteria that public sector groups should look for in a PR firm.