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Put it all together: Running a successful agency


July 3, 2012

There isn’t any question that winning and keeping business, building profitability and even maintaining or growing your team has been challenging during the past few years.

Unfortunately, just because you may be a great PR professional does not necessarily mean that you know how to successfully run a PR firm.

Regardless of whether you are the agency owner or intern, business growth, profitability and sustainability are everyone’s responsibility. Everyone involved in your agency should understand that they are involved in business development.
Here are some more ways that you can improve your agency management skills:

1. Team assessments:

Take stock of your current team and assess each individual’s strengths and weaknesses, along with your own — and be honest.

One of the best tools available is Insights Discovery assessment (available at EmberCarriers.com for free). This can help build conversational understanding among your team.

Instead of yearly reviews, provide monthly assessments as you slate anticipated billable time, specific goals that you wish to achieve and the overall direction of the agency. During these assessments, try to understand how your team wants to improve, and share how you wish for them to improve — as well as how you will help them get there.

Professional development events and networking are all part of the growth opportunity. Don’t be disappointed when a junior PR person doesn’t succeed when doing something that they’ve never done before. It’s your job to assess, find areas of growth and work with your team to help them achieve their goals, thus avoiding animosity or frustration.

2. Team training:

Why does it seem like certain football teams are good, year after year, even though players and personnel may come and go? It’s because they have a consistent method of learning and training, and they’ve bought into the culture.
 
It’s critical that you have regular and ongoing training for your team, not only for their professional skills, but also regarding what you value and appreciate as a leader. What is your agency’s brand? What do you stand for? What do you do better than the others?

While most clients don’t know the differences in major PR firms, they know human interactions and they are buyers. What sells? Clarity and certainty that your brand aligns with the buyer’s beliefs. Your firm might not be the right fit for every client, so you must make sure that your team and your clients know what the firm’s style and personality are and what areas you excel in.

Share your culture and mission statement with your team, along with what you expect and value — success is a collective effort. Most professionals want to be engaged and involved in the solution and the growth. Your team wants to be part of that story.

3. Failure to invest in the right tools:

It’s true that tools like ProfNet, Vocus, CustomScoop and CS5 can be expensive. But you must invest in them if you want to be competitive and succeed.

Along with these basics tools that help you do your job, some critical non-industry specific tools will help streamline your firm and your ability to better serve and attract clients and employees. All we have to sell is our time, so the more efficient you are, the stronger your firm will be. Here are some recommendations of non-core tools that you should be using:

  • FunctionFox is a good option for cloud-based time tracking software.
  • Stamps.com will save you time and money if you regularly send out media kits, mailers and other promotional materials.
  • A Professional Employment Organization (PEO) should handle your payroll, compliance, benefits and other HR-related functions.
  • Salesforce.com or something similar to a professional customer relationship management tool can help you attract new business, reach out and share relevant information.

4. Social media opiate:

Try to spend a day without using Facebook or Twitter. Instead, pick up the telephone and call someone. Failing to proactively generate opportunities to meet, face-to-face, is a major mistake of current professionals. Why? Because it’s easier to tweet or post something on Facebook than call someone on the telephone who might reject you.

While it’s important to be active on Facebook and other social media platforms, don’t forget to write letters, attend networking events and talk to people in person. Spend less time tweeting.

You don’t have to be the largest agency in order to be profitable.  And you can certainly create opportunities that are fun, rewarding and interesting to you and your team.

Rodger Roeser Rodger Roeser is the owner and president of Greater Cincinnati’s largest PR firm, The Eisen Agency. Roeser is the founder of the Public Relations Agency Owners Association (PRAOA).



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