What Do PR Firms Do?
Public relations companies work to create and maintain a favorable public image for the organization(s) they represent. Their goal is to shape public perception of the organization and to increase awareness of its work and goals. If this type of work is your forte, or are in the PR world know you may want to look into how to start a PR firm of your own.
PR firms typically write press releases; help clients communicate with the public, draft speeches and arrange interviews for their clients, and evaluate promotion programs. Public relations companies typically develop their client’s corporate image and identity, devise advertising and promotion programs, and assign, supervise, and review the activities of their staff.
How to Start a PR Firm
Starting your own PR firm could be an exciting opportunity. You may get to map out your vision for your business, hire your own employees, and start to help other companies with your services. The first step most businesses take when starting off is to create their business plan.[iv]
Creating a PR Firm Business Plan
To start a PR firm off on the right foot, you need to put together a business plan that will help map out how you will start and run your business. [iii] This living document typically presents 3 to 5 years ahead and outlines the route your company intends to take to grow its revenue. For a PR firm business plan specifically, you may want to include information such as:[iv]
- Your mission
- Your typical clients (will you only accept niche clients, such as the beauty industry?)
- Requirements and expenses (what PR software will you need?)
- Services you will offer (examples include crisis management, events, and publicity)
- Market segmentation (who may be your typical customers?)
You can find sample PR business plans here:
PRfect Greens Public Relations Business Plan
SHP & Associates Business Communications Business Plan
Selecting a Business Structure to Start a PR Firm *
The most common forms of businesses are the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and S corporation. A limited liability company (LLC) is a business structure allowed by state statute. Legal and tax considerations enter into selecting a business structure. Below is a brief description of each.
- Sole Proprietorship: You alone own the company and are responsible for its assets and liabilities.
- Limited Liability Company: Designed to provide the limited liability features of a corporation and the tax efficiencies and operational flexibility of a partnership.
- Corporation: More complex and generally suggested for larger, established companies with multiple employees.
- Partnership: A single business where two or more people share ownership.
- S Corporation: Similar to a C corporation but you are taxed only on the personal level.
Best Locations for PR Companies
It’s hard to say that there are definitive “best locations” for PR companies to operate in, but there may be areas where there is a greater need or more employment. States with the highest concentration of employment in public relations companies include the District of Columbia, New York, Vermont, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Massachusetts, Oregon, Maine, and Washington.[vi] [vii]
In addition to doing your due diligence on the potentially best areas to start a PR company, you should also conduct some other types of research. You’ll want to ensure that you can afford the area (look at costs such as taxes, minimum wage, government economic incentives, and rent). Demographic data is often available from government or educational sources and could be helpful to get an idea of an area’s population, labor demographics, and other social indicators.[viii]
Hiring People for Your PR Company
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 23,679 small businesses that identify as a PR company have just between 1 and 4 employees.[i]* Depending on the amount of clients you have and your available budget, you may need to hire just a handful or many more employees for your PR company.
TIP: hiring college interns who are majoring in public relations, marketing, or communications could be a possible solution to stretch your hiring budget, as internships are usually unpaid.
Potential Costs of Starting a PR Company
Starting your own PR firm comes with a lot of financial responsibility. Instead of only focusing on your own work, you now have to worry about all of your employees as well. During the research phase of your business plan, be sure to estimate your company’s startup costs, learn how your personal finances can affect your business finances, and write a plan if you’re planning on borrowing money for your business. Some typical costs you’ll need to consider when starting a PR firm may include:[xi]
- Rent and security deposits
- Corporate or LLC filing fees
- Technology and equipment, such as computers and PR software
- Office furniture and supplies
- Advertising and marketing costs
- Travel fees
Finding Clients for Your PR Company
If you’ve built up a wide network of contacts from your PR career, you may be able to convince some of your past clients to follow you over to your new business. Even with these existing contents, you’ll likely need to find potential new clients to exponentially grow the client base for your firm. Here are a few ways you could work to find new clients for your PR company:
- Get referrals from an existing client or colleague.
- Attend networking events and industry conferences.
- Cold call businesses and pitch them on the services you offer.
- Create a searchable website for your business.
PR Company Resources
PRSA (Public Relations Society of America): The nation’s largest community of public relations and communications professionals. They provide training, set standards of excellence, and uphold principles of ethics for the global public relations profession. As a leading voice in the PR industry, they also advocate for greater understanding and adoption of public relations services.
IPR (Institute for Public Relations): A nonprofit foundation dedicated to research in, on, and for public relations. They investigate the science behind the art of public relations. They focus on research that matters to the practice, providing timely insights and applied intelligence that professionals can put to immediate use.
PR Council: A trade association designed to connect the present and next generation of PR professionals, industry innovators, and business leaders through education, events, and industry resources.
PR Accreditation and Certification
Certification and accreditation is not required for public relations professionals but instead is a voluntary program of quality assurance endorsement. If you’re interested in getting certified yourself, or to have your employees certified, here are some resources:
Universal Accreditation Board (UAB): The UAB offers accreditation in participation with PRSA (Public Relations Society of America). This is referred to as APR: Accredited in Public Relations. The APR asserts professional competence, communicates professional expertise, and reflects progressive public relations industry practices and high standards.
**This information is for informational purposes only and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, or accounting advisors before you act, or fail to act, upon this information.
**To access this information, visit the website cited and click on US, all industries to download the PDF, which is searchable by industry (Advertising, Public Relations, and Related Industries).
[i]census.gov/econ/susb/ [iii]sba.gov/starting-business/write-your-business-plan [iv]irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/business-structures [v]sba.gov/starting-business/choose-your-business-structure [vi]bls.gov/oes/current/oes273031.htm# [vii]bls.gov/oes/current/oes112031.htm#st [viii]sba.gov/starting-business/how-start-business/business-data-statistics/demographics [ixonetonline.org/link/summary/27-3031.00 [x]onetonline.org/link/summary/11-2031.00 [xi]cyberalert.com/blog/index.php/14-truths-about-starting-your-own-pr-business/ [xii]prssa.prsa.org/about/certification/cepr2014.pdf [xiii]praccreditation.org/apply/apr/