Whether you’re starting a public relations business or are a PR entrepreneur already, you likely already know this type of work is not for the faint of heart — both PR industry work and being an entrepreneur!
When success feels like it’s riding on your shoulders alone, getting advice from someone who’s been there, done that can be invaluable. Here are three mistakes to take extra care to avoid:
1. Not thinking of media as a client.
PR without the media is like advertising without a headline. It won’t work.
The media is essential to your success as a PR entrepreneur, but often we think of them more as a means to an end when we should be thinking of them as another type of client. With your PR clients, the relationship is everything, right? The same is true for the media, as it’s those relationships that determine whether your pitches are taken into consideration or tossed.
Or worse, if you get off on the wrong foot, your press might not be as positive as it could be.
2. Leaving leadership to chance.
You may start out as a one-person shop, but as you build your business there will come a point where you have to hire. As a PR entrepreneur, you know you’ve got leadership in you, but in this business, it’s not just about delegating. It’s about finding the right people with the right skills and passion — and then teaching them the art of our profession.
Yes, you can learn PR skills in school, but the art comes from experience. To start, be clear about your expectations and your vision, not just to potential candidates, but to yourself as well. You can’t lead effectively if you don’t truly know what you want and/or don’t believe what you’re selling so to speak with your whole heart.
Then focus on the goal, not the process. Too many entrepreneurs, generally, are so used to being “in the weeds” every day because they had to be when they started that they don’t know how to let go when they have support. Hire people you can trust to do their job and then stay out of their way so they can do it. You’ll have more time to be strategic and creative, to mentor them in the art of PR. Ultimately, you’ll both be better off with a good working relationship, whether or not they format their media list the same as you would.
3. Not honing your contract skills.
Can we all just collectively say “Ugh” here? Contracts are the least fun part of the business, but they can cost your business the most if they aren’t given the attention they deserve.
Never do business without a contract; it will burn you at some point. They are an essential safeguard for your business. But even having one won’t help if you leave out important details, such as your legal recourse if a client doesn’t pay.
You’ll also want to clearly outline your scope of work. Otherwise, you’ll eventually have a client who will add on work until the cows come home and you won’t be paid accordingly. It’s worth it to invest in a contract lawyer to advise you on verbiage and make sure you’re covered.
As what I call an “accidental” entrepreneur, I have definitely made my fair share of mistakes. I probably could spill some tea about mistakes that I have witnessed, too (we can save that for next time). But at the end of the day, those pesky mistakes have helped me learn and given me some humility along the way, in addition to giving me the strength to stand up again and keep going.
If you are reading this and making some business owning mistakes of your own, know that you can do the same. Keep the momentum going, learn, laugh a little and move your ego aside so you can get real about the fact that we all make mistakes. We have to in order to really succeed.
Emily Reynolds Bergh is a marketing and public relations pro, with 14+ years of experience through R Public Relations Firm, launched in Texas in 2011, and through previous positions at Jason Dady Restaurant Group in San Antonio, Bread & Butter in Austin, and Bay Bird in San Diego.