Without any encouragement in recent weeks I’ve gotten some questions via email from some people who’ve become regular readers of this blog (Thanks!). The questions have ranged from how to start a solo practice, to how to structure a business plan.
With that in mind, and with the permission of the questioners, I thought I’d pick two of those questions and respond to them on this blog. Should you have a question you may want to see addressed in this space, just let me know. From time to time, I will feature them here.
Question #1: I’m presently working in the corporate department of a large firm. I have no agency experience. What steps should I take if I want to start my own solo practice?
– Nathan B.
Response: Nathan, this is one of the more common questions I get from people in the PR field, mostly due to the fact that my business has been established for 15 years and I have a monthly column in PRSA’s Tactics called State of Independence.
The main thing I’d tell you to do is to create a thorough and detailed business plan. There are many books on the subject, and many good articles to be found online. It’s not as important that you follow any one structure over another. What’s important is that you find one that suits you, and that it is exhaustive in its detail.
Chances are you will encounter several points in the process of creating a business plan where you don’t have the answers. Take that as a sign you need to do more homework, or in some cases, get more experience. If you have agency experience, the transition to starting your own solo practice will be a little easier because you should be already familiar with the business development and administrative processes that work behind the scenes to create a structure for effective client service.
But until you’ve actually started your business, it’s very difficult to imagine the difference between self-employment and working for someone else in an agency or another kind of organization. The process for creating a sound business plan is probably one of the most significant steps you can take to determine if starting an independent practice is right for you.
Question #2: There have been times when smaller crises have occurred within my organization and my supervisor was reluctant to communicate. His position was to wait to see how people would react before communicating. Is that the best approach?
– Jennifer K.
Response: No. Usually, when you wait for the worst, you increase the chances that the worst will happen because you’re surrendering control to others and circumstance. In any crisis, the first and most important thing to do is gain a clear and accurate assessment of the damage and potential damage to the organization’s reputation.
That means doing your own internal reporting and identifying potential vulnerabilities, not only to the organization’s reputation, but to the organization itself. Waiting to do this or to plan a crisis response can lead to operational problems that can hinder the organization’s ability to function at its best.
Once you have an idea of how big the crisis is or what could happen in a worst-case scenario, the next step is to prepare. Draft strategy documents, identify crisis team members, and begin to draft the full suite of documents and materials you may need should the crisis unfold. Make sure your channels are in place for communicating to all important stakeholders. This includes conventional means and digital.
This kind of preparation is invaluable even when organizational leadership is reluctant at the moment to communicate on the issue. No one will complain if you are prepared when the time comes to mobilize and communicate.
Strategically, the reason it’s best not to wait is that when you do, you give others a chance to shape the story for you, and the way they shape it may not be in your best interest. It may be inaccurate, irresponsible, or it may be agenda-driven, such as when a competitor spreads rumors or gossip.
If you have a question you’d like to see featured here, please let us know.