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Getting the right recipe of in-house and agency support

Gaining experience by utilising agency support on the tech side early on, Adam Twidell explains why this approach is now feeding down into PR and marketing.
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Last month we started working with a new communications agency in France. It’s working well so far, but increasing agency support and building new relationships with these parters isn’t something we take lightly at PrivateFly.

Like many SMEs, deciding when to reach for third party support is a big decision. And getting the right balance of in-house and outsourced agency support is something we’re continually working on.

Sometimes outsourcing has been an easy decision to make. For time-consuming and non-revenue activities such as payroll – essential as it is – it was obvious that we needed to avoid eating up management time.

And for others, such as legal support, we needed the specialist expertise that only a third party can bring.

But other requirements have been more of a difficult decision, and in some cases we continue to test both ways, and the exact balance of both, as our needs continue to evolve.

For our web and app development, we outsourced this completely when we started developing PrivateFly’s software, back in 2007. As a tech startup, that was the only way to go.

I decided to work with a small IT startup based in India – which has now grown into a much bigger company. The team of developers gave a wider technical insight, with a valuable pool of resource and learning from other projects. And it took away recruitment hassles at such an intense stage.

As we’ve grown, we’ve recruited an in-house tech team in the UK, but we’ve also continued the agency relationship alongside – at variable levels depending on our needs. This has given us the flexibility to scale up and down quickly accordingly, and continues to bring in the widest possible technical insights and expertise to keep innovation at our core.

Marketing is another area where we’ve tested our combination of in-house and agency support. In order to grow quickly in our early stages, we worked with agencies to support our digital and social campaigns. This worked to some extent – we learnt a lot and it gave us a framework which we’ve continued to build on.

But it also made us realise how protective we are about our brand. Content marketing is at the centre of PrivateFly’s marketing strategy and it was essential to build this in a credible and careful way that demonstrated our team’s aviation knowledge and passion. It felt like we were losing some of that by outsourcing, the balance wasn’t quite right. So we built a bigger in-house marketing team and pulled most (but not all) activity back in-house, which has proved to be the right decision.

For PR we’ve always seen the need for some agency support to benefit from a wider number of media relationships than we can maintain ourselves, and from best practice comms experience.

Our marketing team has worked with a number of PR agencies, and found that we need different types of support in different markets. Our recent agency change in France has seen us move from a larger international group, to a retained small travel specialist. With a few years in France now under our belt, we think this will be a good fit for us.

The perfect recipe of in-house talent and outsourced expertise is certainly a complex and variable feast. And what’s right for us now won’t necessarily be the same a year from now. But we’ll continue to test and learn.

This article is part of a wider campaign called Founders Diaries, a section of Real Business that brings together 20 inspiring business builders to share their stories. Bringing together companies from a wide variety of sectors and geographies, each columnist produces a diary entry each month. Visit the Founders Diaries section to find out more.

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About Author

Adam Twidell

Adam Twidell began his career as a pilot, firstly for the RAF and then with private jet operator NetJets and others. In 2008 he launched PrivateFly, recognising the opportunity for a disruptive, technology-led platform to simplify private jet charter, linking customers to available aircraft.

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