Last night I had the opportunity to present at Ohio State’s PRSSA meeting on starting a PR firm and what virtual agency life is like. I always love the opportunity to speak and in particular sharing lessons learned with aspiring PR professionals is really enjoyable.
This group in particular is super smart — so much so that we’ve added two past members to our Belle Communications team (I’m looking at you Megan Hoying and Taylor Redick!)
The idea of starting something from nothing and making it your own is very enticing for many. Seeing your dream become reality and your hard work and creativity bloom into a thriving venture — what a thrill!
I know first hand how exciting this can be. I also know that it takes resilience, skill, constant learning and flexibility and courage. Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart.
Learn Before You Leap
In my presentation last night, I shared several ‘Learn before you leap.’ lessons that are ideal if you’re interested in starting a PR firm or becoming a consultant. These are lessons you can learn within internships and the years following graduation. They also may be lessons you’re already learning and should strive to master if you are currently part of an agency or a PR professional within an organization.
- Learn how to manage client expectations, gain client trust as a preferred account contact and answer questions.
Stretch Goal: Communicate bad news to a client and present the solution to the problem.
- Learn how prospecting and new business work.
Stretch goal: Cultivate a lead and bring in a piece of new business.
- Learn how to manage a team and motivate team members to do their best.
Stretch goal: Get involved in the interviewing process and on boarding process for new team members.
- Understand how to create a comprehensive PR strategy with measurement and marketing tactic integration.
Stretch Goal: Construct all or part of a PR strategy that includes social media and content.
- Experience a PR crisis and observe how it’s handled by your leadership team, including how each audience is advised (stakeholders, media, customers, community leaders, etc.)
Stretch goal: Construct a crisis communication plan.
- Understand how fees are charged and hours are allocated for clients within an agency.
Stretch goal: Communicate retainer recommendations and changes
Learning for Free
Gini Dietrich addressed the idea of learning “on someone else’s dime” in her blog post about starting a PR agency earlier this week. I think she has a strong point here and I agree that aspiring PR professionals shouldn’t plan on starting an agency or consultancy fresh out of college. Take time and learn the above lessons before taking the plunge into entrepreneurship.
Note: If you’re serious about starting out on your own, grab a mentor (here’s a video with suggestions) and learn everything you can from them. Spend time online and read the plethora of blogs about this topic too while you’re at it.