Trends for 2020: The Future of Mid-Sized Agencies Use of Outsourced Digital Solutions to Unlock New Revenue and Keep Overheads In Check


Tom Becktold, CMO, Insight Media Labs/NewsDriver 

Surveying the wreckage of a big account loss in 2016, then-CEO for Zapp360 Peter Brand identified key issues that went wrong and set out to fix them for existing and future clients. His approach ultimately led to an entirely new business designed to cater to medium-sized agencies that face challenges in effectively expanding their suite of services and meeting new client requirements without going broke in the process.

“We did quite a bit of soul-searching after losing this client,” Brand said. “Our desire to grow the breadth of our offerings and boost billings came at a much bigger price. We sacrificed service, spread ourselves too thin and frustrated some of our key staff and clients along the way.” 

As influencer targeting continues to intermingle what used to be distinct communications disciplines, the opportunities presented come with significant headwinds. Case and point: paid digital. Once the domain of advertising and marketing firms, paid digital is now often a key component of public relations and influencer campaigns.

Scaling the expertise and resources to effectively execute, keep clients happy and grow the bottom line, has proven to be a challenge for more than a few medium- to small-sized public relations agencies.  These agencies know they have to evolve to offer full-powered digital solutions and stay competitive, but the financial demons of staffing new hires with new skills is daunting.

“While we were offering and executing paid digital campaigns as a component to our public relations offerings, we found the effort pulled our teams away from their primary areas of value,” noted Mark Riggs, founder of The Pemberton Collective. “Bringing in enough staff expertise to effectively execute is far too time consuming and costly. Controlling fixed cost is mission-critical to all agencies, but especially small to medium players. More importantly, it allows us to customize our teams based on clients’ needs.”

That’s where white-label vertical firms like Insight Media Labs (IML) enter the picture. In the case of IML, the focus is on making paid digital work more effectively for agencies. Dedicated teams are able to quickly build creatives – ads and micro-landing pages – that scoop up analytics to improve audience targeting and reach. 

Hot Paper Lantern CEO Ed Moed (formerly with Peppercomm) quickly built a powerhouse new agency with expanded capabilities. How did he do it? By adding outsourced/white label solutions where it made sense. “My teams are terrific at mission-critical integrated areas like brand strategy and creation, communications and digital marketing campaign development and execution, influencer engagement and analyzing and adjusting all of the moving parts,” Moed said. “We always need to stay focused on what HPL does well, so outsourcing my paid digital makes a ton of sense.” 

Moed’s and Riggs’ teams have been able to scale digital offerings up or down based on business needs, without the painful challenge of staff hirings and layoffs. In addition, they’ve seen improvement in campaign performance and costs, which have ultimately improved the firms billings and bottom line. 

For medium and small public relations agencies looking to broaden their paid digital offerings and considering going the outsourcing route, IML’s Brand suggests evaluating if the firm will achieve the following:

  • Save time – campaign adjustments, staff management
  • Save money – salaries, overhead, cost of media
  • Increase expertise and provide a competitive advantage in servicing clients
  • Scale up or down based on fluctuating client demand
  • Improve efficiencies: targeting & cost of media
  • Provide real-time optimization and on-the-fly adjustments
  • Create and manage creatives based on your campaign guidance
  • Campaign management that provides in-campaign feedback, analytics and recommendations
  • Offer a white label, run as in-house option
  • Run campaigns on client accounts or third-party programmatic platforms


To learn more about third-party digital services for medium and small public relations firms, Insight Media Labs CEO Peter Brand can be reached at

Tom Becktold - 2020 TrendsAbout the Author: With more than three decades of experience in the marketing, public relations, social media and content delivery, Tom Becktold has unique insight into the challenges and opportunities facing today’s communications professionals.  

Partners Peter Brand, Dan Remstein and Tom Becktold co-founded Insight Media Labs in 2018 to deliver more cost-effective and precise audience discovery and reach with better story and ad platforms. IML provides white-label AdTech services for corporate, agency and sales teams serving public relations, marketing and advertising engagement. Becktold serves as CMO and on the company’s board. 

IML is a successful outgrowth of public relations tech platform NewsDriver, founded by Becktold and Brand in 2016. NewsDriver is a purpose-built mobile storytelling platform that empowers communications professionals to quickly convert press releases and other content into visual stories that thrive with mobile-social audiences via data-driven paid and organic targeting. 

As the long-time chief marketer for Business Wire, Tom was a force in transforming the company from a regional teletype wire service to an international web-based communications platform, with more than 30,000 clients. Business Wire was later acquired by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

Tom is based in Los Angeles — follow him on Twitter @becktold or contact him at