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The ruthless application of common sense or 'how to run a PR firm' #2

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The second version of my 'top tips' for managers and leaders of PR agencies.

More detail in the 'notes'

Published in: Leadership & Management
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  • The 'script' here:https://www.ipra.org/news/itle/itl-242-the-ruthless-application-of-common-sense-how-to-run-a-pr-company-part-one/
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The ruthless application of common sense or 'how to run a PR firm' #2

  1. 1. The ruthless application of common sense or how to run a PR firm #2 David Brain, August 2017
  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 or ownership of PR agencies by being good at PR not management. Then we find we have 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 tired brand some interest and competitive differentiation. I have run practices, offices and regions for three of the biggest global PR firms and two small independent companies in both EMEA and 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 PR firms have a complicated business 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 refreshed top tips for running one.
  3. 3. Save the clever strategising for your clients
  4. 4. Deciding what you are not going to do is as important as deciding what you are going to do
  5. 5. Ideas that work for an office of hundreds of people, will very often not work for an agency of 30 people – filter out the HQ crap because they won’t
  6. 6. When deciding what to do, focus on what your clients want and need and your people can do and like doing – please, no gap analysis
  7. 7. Don’t buy a dog and then bark yourself – hire the best people you can; train, mentor and support them, but never micromanage
  8. 8. Salary benchmarking is the work of the devil; hire promote and pay people on talent and value, if you adopt benchmarking and banding your best will leave and the dull, lazy and feckless will seek you out
  9. 9. Darwin was right; the fittest do survive, so over-hire at intake level and be honest that not all will make it. The survivors will be the best, they will be digital natives and they will raise the standards of those above and around them
  10. 10. Always know your future revenue; you must know how to value your pipeline
  11. 11. Keep total staff costs to 55% of net revenue or below
  12. 12. Watch your cash
  13. 13. Zero base your cost budget every year
  14. 14. If you have steady or increasing revenues, making appropriate margin is only a matter of will power
  15. 15. And making an appropriate margin is a matter of self respect
  16. 16. Be the best at at least one thing; excellence in one offer or specialism will rub off on the rest of the business
  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, whether paranoid or paranormal
  19. 19. Don’t bury your head in sand; it’s always best to make the right decision of course, but sometimes you just have to make a decision
  20. 20. Fail fast, learn, move on, front-up
  21. 21. 70% of women at intake being managed by 70% men at the top remains an industry disgrace and will hold your business back if it applies to you (you may also burn in hell)
  22. 22. Size matters; because an office of scale can specialise and clients and staff value more specialised knowledge, skills & careers
  23. 23. Growth is not an excuse
  24. 24. Not understanding Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and basic ‘paid’ is embarrassing
  25. 25. appro ve post amplif y meas ure optimi ze choos e a trend spot a trend devel op conce pt Being in PR and not having a view on how mainstream media, social, paid and search work together is weird. If you can’t come up with your own, steal one
  26. 26. …and on the sixth month of each year, thou shalt read, digest and amend thine ways in accordance with the annual findings of our lady Mary of Meeker
  27. 27. What is your product stack? PR is now also a software business
  28. 28. If your office does not have access at editorial level, you’re publicists (which might be fine too)
  29. 29. Just like the deadly sins, there are seven types of fake news…be very careful out there
  30. 30. Moore’s law applies to research tools
  31. 31. Let’s talk about the ‘C’ word
  32. 32. We’re paid to imagine
  33. 33. Sell products not just services
  34. 34. Client conflict is a given; how it’s handled is your choice
  35. 35. If you are responsible for 70 people or more, do only as much client work as keeps you current, relevant and credible. Any more is vanity or self-delusion or both
  36. 36. The result of every pitch is one winner and a lots of agencies that also claim they won, but for price or politics
  37. 37. It’s hard work trying to out-pitch a leaky-bucket
  38. 38. In every market there is an agency that will hire your staff on twice the pay and pitch your business at half the fee rate
  39. 39. If four or more PR people are in a room at once, there will be politics about P&Ls and salary. There is no right answer. Do your best to be fair, but whatever it takes, run a happy office
  40. 40. No assholes
  41. 41. No gunslingers
  42. 42. “I’ve got a brain the size of a planet and all I do is make the tea”.
  43. 43. Walk about more
  44. 44. Don’t be boring.
  45. 45. Good news on a Friday, bad news on a Monday; never the other way around

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