Setting up your own public relations, or PR, firm begins with a concise business plan to identify the services you’ll offer and the type of clients you’ll target with your marketing program. Depending on your background and previous position, you may already have contacts that could become clients. That can give you a head start in building a business from scratch. The challenge is to win those first clients and turn relationships into work that you can invoice.
Identify the range of services you can offer clients. Use any specialist experience, such as financial relations, employee relations, reputation management or crisis management, to differentiate your firm from consultancies that offer broadly based public relations services. Highlight your expertise in certain market sectors, such as information technology, government, health care or utilities, for example. A study by Hinge Marketing found that high-growth professional services firms were characterized by factors such specialization, focus on a specific target audience and continuous client research.Look for clients that are likely to need the specialist services you offer. You may find small businesses in your area that need PR services. These businesses can be useful for generating income quickly, but they’re unlikely to have the budgets to become important long-term clients. Research prospects’ websites and review press coverage to identify possible PR problems and challenges that you could help to solve.
Contact prospects via email, letter or telephone to introduce your firm. Use your research to develop suggestions for projects that would benefit individual prospects. Making a specific proposal demonstrates that you understand the prospect’s business and have the capability to provide relevant advice. Develop case studies to illustrate your approach to PR. Maintain contact with prospects and clients by issuing newsletters and other communications.
Build your reputation by speaking at local or industry events or publishing articles in media that reach your target audience. Start a blog that comments on PR issues, particularly those that are important to your clients and prospects. According to services marketing consultancy RAIN Group, the most popular methods of identifying potential professional service providers are referrals and information gathered from sources such as articles, blogs and case studies.
Establish a pricing structure that’s competitive but provides your firm with a profit that you can reinvest for growth. Base your pricing on an hourly rate. Structure hourly rates to reflect different types of work, such as consultation, developing PR strategy, writing and distributing press releases, or managing press conferences. Ask clients to pay your firm a retainer for providing specified PR services over a period of time such as six months or a year. A retainer gives you continuity of income and provides a basis for financial planning.
Plan for growth by acquiring new clients or offering existing clients a wider range of chargeable services. Operate a new-business development program to acquire additional clients in growth sectors or in areas where you can demonstrate experience and provide client referrals. Work with specialist suppliers to deliver services such as annual reports, corporate brochures or customer magazines.