As specialist tech and telecoms agencies continue to shatter the status quo of B2B marketing and communications, traditional agencies that serve every kind of company are fighting to keep up. As such we have witnessed a growing trend in recent years for these big one-stop-shops to recruit journalists to bolster their teams. Preferred are the names from global titles such as the BBC, although the trade press are also frequently tempted.
But can expertise be bought? The simple answer is no. If you look beyond a journalist’s ability to succinctly present the facts and craft a story (neither insignificant skills in their own right), can someone impart years of deep dive industry knowledge to a wider team? And if they join a general practice, how long will their expertise in such fast-moving industries as tech and telecoms remain specialist before they become mere generalists?
The reality is that expertise is grown steadily over time. Just as a student learns that no amount of cramming can replace paying attention in class the entire year, nor can a deep industry knowledge be acquired from a few hours of desk research. In order to develop a deeper, broader knowledge base, consistent learning over time is what is needed.
In a specialist agency even entry level staff get to live and breathe the sector. They aren’t flitting from B2C clients to B2B clients, chopping and changing areas. They will be focused solely on the areas of their hyper-specialised agencies. You don’t need to be a network engineer, or even a journalist, to create content for the network engineering market for example. But it does need to be your daily bread and butter to acquire the knowledge to fully understand the space.
The challenge this poses is staff retention and development. Once your team are trained in your hyper specialised areas after years of graft, you want to keep them learning, and keep them with you. That is of course the challenge of any business, but even more so when dealing with specialists that are grown over time, rather than simply acquired.
The traditional agencies that try to buy in specialists by recruiting journalists miss this trick as well. A winning team cannot be based on a couple of star players, as any football fan knows. While there should be a way for senior staff to impart their expertise to the wider staff base, what clients ultimately need is a team of specialists who understand both their industry and business needs. This understanding needs to come from years of experience within tech and telecoms. A client should only need to share their business objectives to enable their agency to work together to achieve them. It is not the clients place to educate the agency on the broader industry or even the company itself.
While, particularly those with big budgets might be soothed with the safety net of traditional big name agencies with a couple of star names thrown in, the reality is that a hyper-specialised agency within tech and telecoms is best placed to deliver value for money and generate effective results for clients.