Five reasons not to own a PR agency

Lately I've been reflecting on the experience of having founded and managed a PR firm. I've thought about the early decision to go in this direction, but also the challenges along the way. I thought, too, about reasons why owning a PR agency may not make the most sense for others.

Having recently celebrated our agency's tenth anniversary, lately I've been reflecting on the experience of having founded and managed such a venture. I've thought about the early decision to go in this direction, but also the challenges along the way. I thought, too, about reasons why owning a PR agency may not make the most sense for others.

Here are five reasons not to own a PR Agency:

  1. In general, you don't dig people. People are fascinating to me – fascinating to watch, be around, and interact with. You encounter a lot of people when you own a PR agency. You have employees, clients, partners, and the seemingly endless stream of people who think they need to interact with you because you are “in PR” and for some reason they think that applies to whatever it is they do. You need to, in general, be in the presence of these folks, and interact with them, with some regularity. To that end, you really need to dig people to own a PR firm. At the minimum, you need to tolerate interacting with a large number of people who have different styles, agendas, care-abouts, and considerations.
  2. You want a routine-based lifestyle. Other than the regular arrival of a Starbucks coffee delivered by a good friend once or twice a week, there's nothing routine about this gig. Every day is different, as is every week and month. (And, I'm seeing as time passes, every year is different, too!) I'm constantly encountering new clients with new programs, and new people with backgrounds, experience and working styles that are new to me. I embrace it, but all of it is far from routine. If you crave structure and order, owning a PR agency probably isn't a smart move for you.
  3. You don't like numbers – or you get a pain in your stomach when you have to deal with financial details. While there's always time to bring a financial wizard into the picture, an unfortunate reality is that this gig – having your own shop – requires some financial chops. It's best for those who sign on to know that the decision making related to financials is sound, and a client's confidence in selecting an agency that makes good financial decisions is extraordinarily helpful, too.
  4. You don't like pressure. A stable business doesn't happen without a lot of hard work. And, every new client and new hire comes with a certain amount of responsibility. It's a responsibility that we take very seriously. If you remember how PR firms struggled five years ago it should be obvious just how seriously we take the decision to create new business and hire staff. Beyond the responsibilities of providing our people with careers that are meaningful and paths that help them achieve their goals, you have the critical responsibility of being certain that your strategy is on target and your client programs are executed well. It's a lot of pressure. Don't like pressure? You won't like owning an agency.
  5. You don't like ad hoc meetings, such as calls with colleagues, clients, or prospects. Essentially, and sometimes unfortunately, these people dictate your schedule. You need to be available to help each audience make decisions and get done whatever it is they do. You need to be able to respond and react – and sometimes it's as basic as being able to read something that needs to be read. (An issues response, a blog headline, or a competitor's press release, etc.) Showing-up is necessary, but being accessible is essential. If that doesn't gel with your lifestyle, then owning a PR agency isn't for you.

Do you own a public relations or social media shop? And, if so, can you think of a reason why you shouldn't?

Scott Signore is principal and CEO of Matter Communications.

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