Setting up your own PR company can be a daunting task and there are a number of key factors you should bear in mind.
Research and planning are vital when thinking about starting up your own PR company. Putting in some solid groundwork will establish your target market, what key services you will need to provide and what sets you apart in the industry. There are also several practical matters to bear in mind, the most important is your company structure and keeping track of your work.
What will your focus be? This will depend on your experience and interests. Will you specialise in B2B, tech or consumer projects? Public affairs? Luxury? You may also decide at this stage whether to focus on national or international press. If it’s to be the latter, which territories? Will you specialise in print, digital or broadcast media, or all three?
Perhaps you want to work across vertical sectors and countries. This can be difficult in terms of market positioning as it goes against the grain of the PR market, which prefers specialisation, but it can also be extremely rewarding. Ask yourself what services you want to supply. These include, but are not limited to, media relations, media training, strategy, events management and social media.
Unique selling point
What is unique about you that other agencies or consultants cannot deliver? Is it a service you provide or a certain process you have that yields unique results? Is it your expertise in strategy development? Define what you’re best at and then communicate it to potential clients.
Legal, accounting and insurance
Decide if you want to be a limited company, limited liability partnership or sole trader, then speak with your accountant. You will need to consider payroll, self-assessment, VAT and corporation tax (if applicable). Be prepared for the demanding admin that running a business creates and the penalties imposed for missed deadlines.
It’s useful to get a lawyer to draft client engagement letters and employment contracts. Contact an insurance broker to buy relevant insurance and open a bank account – some banks offer a period of a year or more of free banking.
Join a business organisation like the Institute of Directors to benefit from their specialist resources and free helpline for legal and accounting services – it’s cheaper than using lawyers for a quick phone call. Business Link has a good website for basic information.
HR and business partners
Think about what skills you have and what skills you need to bring into the business to offer the best value proposition. If you do decide to bring in partners, make an exit strategy and develop a what if? scenario. In advance of taking on employees, outline their areas of responsibility.
Create staff and office manuals to reduce the effects of any employee turnover and minimise the learning curve of new appointees. By doing this you’re locking in processes and knowledge and avoiding the prospect of it walking out of the door when a staff member or business partner leaves.
It’s important that you also do your own PR to promote yourself. Hone your branding and visual identity. Set up a website to communicate your key messages to your target audience and use social media such as Twitter and LinkedIn to spread the word.
Be organised – have business cards and a creds (credential sales) document to present to clients, along with pitch document templates and a spreadsheet of leads you follow up regularly. Be an avid networker to bring in potential business. Build working partnerships with non-competing marketing partners who can be a source of referrals – think branding agencies or event management companies.
Are you are listed on all business and PR directories? Do your contacts know that you have officially launched? Meet with them in person, especially those who may be a source of referrals or potential clients, and communicate your consultancy’s unique skill set.
Consider using project collaboration software such as Basecamp to help you track time sheets, upload documents and images, work with a team on a project and give your clients access to files. Similarly, CRM programmes, such as Highrise, allow you to manage relationships with business leads and clients, as well as tracking emails.
When it comes to media request services, Response Source and Gorkana are an excellent way of building relationships with journalists on their own terms and precipitating media coverage for clients. Consider media databases and press cuttings services.
With the proper preparation and groundwork, you should now be armed with the tools you need to confidently start your own PR business. Remember – we are often so client focused that we forget about our own position and key messages, and fail to apply the art of PR to our own businesses, but if you keep the above points in mind, you’re well on your way to starting your own successful PR company.
Originally featured in Guardian Small Business Network, October 2012.