When I started my public relations agency 15 years ago, I knew it wasn’t going to be successful overnight.
As a young account manager working for one of the nation’s largest PR companies I was motivated by mentors—and pushed by my own passion for PR—to start Live Wire Media Relations LLC.
Since starting in the sunroom of my home in 1998 to now owning a public relations firm ranked among Washington, D.C.’s top 25 agencies for revenue growth seven years in a row, I have been recognized for my attention to detail—sweating the small stuff, so the big stuff will turn out well. Top results require focus on every aspect of a campaign, a strategy that translates well to aspiring publicists looking to open their own business.
For those considering opening their own agency I offer the following advice:
Observe the Pros
Align yourself with the right people that can offer strategic guidance and admirable leadership qualities. Find mentors you respect in your current job and ask them questions as to how they achieve success. Mentors will become invested in your success and serve as future assets. At my first PR job, I went to happy hours with people in higher positions to introduce myself, network and learn more about them.
Set Realistic Goals
Identify idealistic goals but also understand that your business is not going to jump from an idea to an instant success, so set realistic goals. I started by freelancing and learning how to sell business. When I started my company, my first goal was to secure clients at a minimum of $5,000 a month. My next goal was to have enough business to hire an employee and move into an office space by the end of year one. I didn’t land my first million-dollar account until my third year. It takes patience, and it may feel like a slow pace, but you have to start small and set manageable goals in order to reach your ultimate goal.
Go above and beyond the call of duty. This lesson is equally as important when it comes to managing accounts once you have your own firm. The goal is to have long-term contracts and solid client retention. In order for that to happen, you have to show clients that you will surpass their expectations. Keep track of your campaigns and focus on your goals and successes. Strive for the next accomplishment, listen to your clients and gear your conversations towards how you can accomplish their goals.
Maintain Healthy Client Relationships
Clients will hire you the first time because of your credentials and capabilities. They will rehire you because they like you and trust that you will continue bringing results. Personalize your relationship with your clients. Don’t shy away from grabbing lunch and talking about more than business. Get to know the people you are working for; gain their trust and earn their high opinions. Always be genuine. When employees start to manage accounts, keep interacting with the clients. Make yourself available and assure them you are still involved and invested.
Work Hard and Fast
Respect the need to enjoy time outside of the office. In order to enjoy weeknights and weekends, you must work hard and fast. If you use all of your time in the office to the maximum, you can be successful and avoid the need to reach out to clients during their personal time. Maximize your efficiency during office hours in order to avoid emailing after hours or on the weekends. Stay organized and follow the previously mentioned tips: setting realistic goals, listening to clients’ needs and building genuine relationships. When those areas are addressed, there is less room for hiccups and more time to fulfill tasks.
When I was ready I took the appropriate steps to make my dream a reality. Some would describe their business beginnings as “taking the leap,” but I would describe my experience as taking calculated steps that I knew would lead me in the right direction.
Pay attention to detail early on in your career, and industry leaders will be sure to pay attention to you.
Chryssa I. Zizos is founder and president of Live Wire Media Relations LLC.