PR Lessons I Learned While Starting My Own Firm in College
Having recently become the Community Manager for MBA@UNC, the new online MBA degree program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, it only makes sense that I reflect on my past endeavors. Yes, I’ve been very entrepreneurial over the past 20 months, but I can’t really say that my PR/Social Media consulting firm that I started in college, Kratz PR was a rousing success.
That said, I’m grateful that I tried and failed so early in my career because I’ve been able learn all of these valuable lessons along the way that hopefully others can learn from as well.
Lesson #1: Don’t Forget About the Business Side
Starting any sort of business requires much more than a boatload of passion and drive. I learned that the hard way. I had about $1,000 to start my firm and since I was just consulting on my own, I thought that was good enough to get me started. After spending much of that on travel for clients (without getting reimbursed) it was basically gone. I was so blinded by moving forward, that I forgot about the money side of things.
I started projects without contracts, failed to collect dues, and really didn’t know the first thing about tax returns. This is a specific case of youth and inexperience, but being in PR, it sometimes is easy to overlook the business side of things. If that is forgotten, it makes it awfully difficult to continue consulting and doing PR.
Lesson #2: Friends Don’t Make the Best Employees
Starting out in PR, I was very fortunate to be surrounded by incredible PR students I had met through PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America). After signing a few clients, I brought on several students from around the country.
While they were extremely talented and motivated in the beginning, each one’s commitment fell off for various reasons (some good, some bad) while others just didn’t perform at all. But that was on me; as I didn’t establish that working relationship that keeps a team on track.
In the current state of PR, a successful team has to be creative and somewhat entrepreneurial. Trying new ways to find exposure for clients or bringing in new business is essential for a small firm to survive. If you’re team doesn’t exhibit that type of creativity, your company will be stagnant.
These experiences certainly lead to this next lesson…
Lesson #3: Just Say No
This is easier said than done in PR. For a while there, I kept a great balance between work, school, and my personal life (okay, my girlfriend may not agree). However, eventually certain aspects of that mix started to slip. I was saying yes to too many projects or trying to reach too high, and frankly, that hurt everyone.
I have to attribute my over extension to a competitive fire that fuels me. I always believe that if I don’t take advantage, someone else will. That philosophy has served me incredibly well and killed me at the same time. Live by the sword, die by the sword. Moving forward, it’s imperative that you know that it is okay to just say no.
In PR, it’s easy to get caught up In projects, but great PR professionals don’t become great by just saying yes, its often saying no that makes all the difference.