Q & A With Michelle Lyng of Novitas Communications

Q: How Does Joining a Global Network Benefit an Agency?

As boutique agencies continue to chip away market share from behemoth agencies, it is inevitable there will be growing pains. Too often – still – small and mid-sized agencies are told they cannot compete for top tier accounts – even when that statement is wholly inaccurate. Small and mid-sized agencies can be just as well-resourced as large agencies and often are scrappier, more engaged, and more innovative out of necessity. But, as PR folks know, perception is reality. 

Smaller firms must have a stockpile of tools to compete for choice accounts and one of those tools is joining a global network. Prospects increasingly are seeking a local presence in far-flung locales. Strangely, Novitas has had several requests for Spain. We volunteered to work from there because…it’s Spain (do we need a reason for extended business travel to Spain?). Unfortunately, no takers so far.

Being part of a global network gives us the best of both worlds. Through our global network, we have boots-on-the-ground presence, but on a global scale. Because global networks are invitation-only, the firms go through a rigorous vetting process. Members use best-in-class operations and employ superstars in the public relations field – just like large firms.

While Novitas is industry agnostic and specializes in corporate reputation, crisis communications, and issue management, the wide range of specialties of partner firms gives us access to knowledge that we could never have brought on board as a small firm. For example, did you know there is a PR firm that specializes in the toy industry? While we haven’t leaned on their expertise yet, we hope to find a project partnership opportunity. Who doesn’t think working in the toy industry sounds fun?

Speaking of “fun”, as an alumna of several large firms, I understand the bureaucracy that can weigh down an account team. It’s not just the approvals process, but the pre-bills and accounting issues that can disrupt work. Generally, small and mid-sized firms can be nimbler and faster to respond. It may not be critical in every public relations discipline, but it makes a huge difference in public affairs and crisis communications. As part of a global network, member firms have the teams and expertise we need to best serve our clients, but we can remain flexible in our processes because, ultimately, each firm controls its own processes. 

Since we aren’t legally bound to contract with fellow member agencies, we have the freedom to select a firm that best meets the needs of our clients. We are not obligated – or even required – to use a partner agency, nor are we working to upsell in-house services that aren’t mission-critical to our clients’ success. That said, for our multinational clients, the ability to collaborate on projects with a firm of exceptional quality is crucial to our success.

Perhaps the best part of belonging to a global network is the brain trust and camaraderie that senior leadership enjoys. There’s something to be said for sitting in a room (or on a Zoom meeting, at this point) and talking through some of the challenges we’re all facing, especially now, and walking away with a handful of solutions that have worked for agencies similar to our own. 

And, finally, there’s the travel. If not for COVID-19, Public Relations Global Network members would be boarding flights to Singapore this October for its fall meeting. That’s a perk worth mentioning. 

Ultimately, as small agencies blossom into medium agencies, growing agencies need a competitive edge. More than anything small agencies want the opportunity to compete – and more than even that, small agencies want to win. Having the ability to pull out a global network at any time to in the client relationship from proposal to annual review is invaluable.

Michelle Lyng is the president of Novitas Communications, a boutique firm specializing in crisis communications, corporate communications, and issue management. Novitas is the Denver affiliate of the Public Relations Global Network, a connected network of 51 agencies on six continents.