Business Overview

According to Forbes Magazine, "PR is the Persuasion Business. You are trying to convince an audience, inside your building or town, and outside your usual sphere of influence, to promote your idea, purchase your product, support your position, or recognize your accomplishments."

Public relations professionals are responsible for enhancing the image and promoting the viewpoint of their clients. They do this through what is called "earned media." Unlike paid advertisements, this type of media, such as news or journal articles, carry much more weight among consumers.

As a public relations professional it’s your job to interest the media in subscribing to your clients’ viewpoint, interviewing them and writing stories that will positively impact your client organizations or individuals in the eyes of their target audiences.

Public relations agencies also act as advisors in establishing or improving the relationships between clients and their clients' various audiences and influencers. In this regard, they might suggest changing practices or embracing new policies that will enhance reputations. If that effort fails or comes too late, some PR firms specialize in crisis communications, which involves salvaging client reputations when events take place that put them in a negative light.

Who is this business right for?

Public relations professionals are typically adept at communicating verbally and through various media. You should be a good writer and have a background in journalism or business. An instinct for sales is also important since you’ll need that tool to establish client relationships, bring your message to the attention of the media and create messaging that advances the viewpoint of your clients. Related to your sales skills, you should have a thorough understanding of how company practices, policies and culture impact customer relationships and be able to help your clients make positive change in this area.

Working in a public relations firm before starting your own business can help you gain better insight into the process, enhance your credibility and maybe put you in touch with future clients.

What happens during a typical day at a public relations agency?

Your day will likely be filled with some or all of the following activities:

  • Generating client business through phone calls, written communication and attendance at events
  • Networking with industry peers to explore partnership opportunities and stay abreast of industry trends and gossip
  • Nurturing working relationships with members of the media that affect your clients, pitching story ideas and serving as spokesperson on behalf of your clients
  • Creating communications materials
  • Conducting the everyday activities of business owners, including billing clients and paying bills, overseeing employees and interviewing prospective new hires
  • Advising your clients on how they interact with their audiences

What is the target market?

Try to develop a clientele that matches your background, skills, specializations or preferences. For instance, if your background is in the film industry it would make sense to make this your specialty. Contact industry peers and make sure they know how long you worked in the business and how thoroughly you understand it. If you wish to specialize in businesses in your hometown, promote your familiarity with local media and the competitive landscape confronting your clients.

Your prospective clients should be established enough to be able to afford your services or have the need to improve their image. Companies about to introduce new products or services, or who have bought other companies or are undergoing changes to leadership or business model are also good candidates.

How does a public relations agency make money?

You’ll be paid by your clients on either an hourly, project or monthly retainer basis for the effort you put into achieving their goals.

What is the growth potential for a public relations agency?

Public relations firms range in size from sole proprietors working from home offices or kitchen tables to global public enterprises. Focus on delivering exceptional service and results and growth will come organically.