The Ruthless Application of Common Sense - or How to Run a PR Firm


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David Brain, CEO of Edelman Asia Pacific, provides tips on running a PR firm.

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The Ruthless Application of Common Sense - or How to Run a PR Firm

  1. 1. The ruthless application of common sense or how to run a PR firm David Brain, CEO Edelman, Asia Pacific March 2011
  2. 2. No great books on business management have been written by PR people, We are traditionally crap at it. We rise to the top of the PR agencies by being good at PR not management. Then we get given an office, with people, clients and a budget. And that’s when the wheels come off. Which is a shame, because running a PR business is just about the ruthless application of common sense and is a far simpler thing (intellectually at least) than formulating advice for a client in a crisis or finding a creative way of giving a dull brand some interest and competitive differentiation.I have run practices, offices and regions for three of the globalPR brands and two small independent companies in both EMEAand Asia Pacific and the wheels have indeed come off once or twice. They probably will again, but if they do it will not be because I made the mistake of thinking this was a complexbusiness model. PR agencies are simple businesses. They have inside them often difficult people doing some (occasionally) clever things, but they are simple businesses. Here are my top tips.
  3. 3. save the clever strategisingfor your clients
  4. 4. ideas that work for a PR business of 2,500 people will often not for anagency of 30 people – filter out the crap from head office
  5. 5. deciding what you are not going to do is asimportant as deciding what you are going to do
  6. 6. when you are deciding what to do - focus on what your clients wantand need and your people can do and like doing – please no gapanalysis
  7. 7. don’t buy a dog and then bark yourself – hire the best people youcan; train, mentor and support them, but never micromanage
  8. 8. salary benchmarking is the work of the devil – hire, promoteand pay people on talent and value - if you stick tobenchmarking and salary banding your best will leave andthe dull, feckless and lazy will seek you out
  9. 9. Darwin was right…the fittest do survive, so over-hire at intakeand junior levels and be honest that not all will make it (thesurvivors will raise the standards of those above and aroundthem)
  10. 10. always know your future revenue (so you must knowhow to value your pipeline)
  11. 11. keep total staffcosts to 55% ofrevenueor below
  12. 12. no sandbagging – you can hide revenue and ‘surprise’ meonce……after that you are insulting me
  13. 13. zero base your cost budget each year
  14. 14. if you have steady or increasingrevenues, making appropriatemargin is only a matter of will power
  15. 15. and making an appropriatemargin is a matter of self respect
  16. 16. be the best at at least one thing – excellence in one offer or specialism will rub of on the rest of the firm
  17. 17. have a point of view – on media, society, community, business,politics, culture, whatever, but for god’s sake have a point of view
  18. 18. nurture your sixth sense – whetherparanoiac or paranormal
  19. 19. don’t bury your head in the sand – it’s always best to make the rightdecision of course, but sometimes you just have to make a decision
  20. 20. size matters – because an office of scale can specialise andclients value more highly specialist knowledge and skills
  21. 21. …client conflict is a given,how we handle it is our choice
  22. 22. get serious about digital
  23. 23. growth is not an excuse
  24. 24. never under estimate the motivating powers ofalcohol…whatever it takes run a happy office
  25. 25. no assholes
  26. 26. no gunslingers
  27. 27. walk about more
  28. 28. …always give me good news on a Friday, bad news ona Monday - never, ever the other way around