So you want to start your own firm?

Breaking away to found your own PR firm is a difficult journey. Sally Maier-Yip has taken that trip twice. And though she's made mistakes, she's learned from them. You can too. These are her top-10 powers necessary for building your own PR startup.

Sally Maier-Yip, founder and managing director of 11K Consulting
Sally Maier-Yip, founder and managing director of 11K Consulting

1. Power of why

Before you venture into setting up your own PR business, have clarity. Ask yourself why you are doing it. Why not get a well-paid job at a big agency? Why not freelance, with lots of flexibility? What exactly do you want from building your own business? Be clear about your objectives. Is it about making lots of money? Is it about a better work-life balance, being famous or making a positive impact on the world? The answer will become your signpost when you are lost, confused, or frustrated.

2. Power of product

You are your biggest client. You need to be able to convince yourself why your products or services are the best. You are playing to win, not playing not to lose. Ask yourself why your potential clients would buy the products from you, but not from your competitors. Is it because of the price, the expertise, the whole offering or the people? It is vital to know your product’s proposition in the market. You may not have all the answers right from the beginning, but here is the rule: simplicity is clarity.

3. Power of social networks

When venturing into a new business, especially for PR, your social network is your net worth. Your friends, ex-colleagues, suppliers and classmates are your ambassadors. They trust you and are happy to recommend you to their network. In my case, my first two clients both came via friends who trust my abilities and recommended me to their own network. Whether you are now an employee, a boss or a business owner, always allocate time to build your network outside of work. You will never know who can become your brand ambassador or even a clients one day. Be nice to people.

4. Power of suppliers

Hire a lawyer, an accountant, a website developer, etc. If you can foster good relationships with them, you will open many unknown opportunities. For example, a good accountant saves lots of time and frees up headspace to focus on winning new businesses. What’s more, your accountant might even refer businesses to you.

5. Power of mentoring

Get a mentor who has gone through a similar journey. Look to people around you, on LinkedIn and at events. You may or may not need to pay them, depending on your existing relationship. Even if you don't have a mentor, don't be afraid to seek advice from people you trust, or just share your thoughts to help you gain clarity when you are stuck in a decision-making situation.

6. Power of LinkedIn

Online branding is key when you want to promote your business to peers, partners or prospects. Of all digital and social channels, I find LinkedIn incredibly useful for connecting with potential partners and prospects. Besides writing a fabulous LinkedIn summary and having a professional photo (which are both very important), maximize LinkedIn’s other functions such as:

  • Post blogs to show expertise and build an online reputation
  • Join relevant discussion groups and engage in dialogue with members
  • Comment on your network’s posts to show interest and knowledge
  • Expand your LinkedIn network to show you are well connected and resourceful
  • Post news and insights to be a source of information and inspiration

7. Power of networking

Networking can be extremely exhausting and sometimes a big time waster. So choose wisely where you want to go and be clear about who you want to make connections with. For example, my business is to help European businesses influence Asian markets and vice versa, so I go to educational workshops to keep myself abreast of the latest news and developments. I also go to trade events to meet potential partners and hires. And other PR companies are not always your competition. They can give referrals when they can’t do what you do.

8. Power of blogging

Be a blogger. Blogging is one of the most powerful ways to increase your brand reputation and visibility in the digital era—at no cost. But be yourself, be authentic about who you are; be human. With time, online publicity can get you invitations to speak at live events or features in publications.

9. Power of a business plan

It might sound cliché and a little dull but a business plan is a must. I always thought because I am highly organized, I could keep all the details in my head. But only when I actually took the time to write down all of my thoughts and plans on paper, did I become crystal clear about why, what and how to accomplish my goals. A typical PR business plan should have at least the following:

Executive Summary:

  • A mission for your own aspiration as a founder and inspiration for your clients and prospects. For example, 11K’s mission is to transform borders into bridges, especially between East and West.   
  • Keys to success: what are your unique selling points that will lead to success?
  • Objectives for the first and third years: what are your short-term and long-term goals?
  • Company summary: what your company does in 60 seconds.
  • Company ownership: are you doing it solo or with a business partner? If it is later, make sure that you have a formal shareholders agreement in place before you start.

 Services:

  • Target sectors: if your firm will not be sector specific, then what is the core offering that differentiates it from competitors?
  • Competitive analysis: who are your competitors?

Marketing Strategy: How are you going to PR your own PR company?

Sales Forecast: Clients, prospects and targets in the next 12 months.

10. Power of passion

Without passion, your business will die.  Setting up your business is like riding on a roller coaster. Unlike being an employee, running your own business means you are your own boss, your own employee, your own advisor, and your own cheerleader. You need to be totally passionate about what you do and that will keep you going despite challenges along the way.

My last thought is, it’s not going to be easy to build your own PR startup, but it is going to be worth it!

Sally Maier-Yip is founder and managing director of the newly minted 11K Consulting, a London-based PR firm that focuses on Asia-Pacific. She was also a founder of communications firm Comm8.

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