The Five Reasons a PR Firm Won’t Scale

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g-dietrichBy Gini Dietrich, Founder & CEO, Arment Dietrich

Or I could call this the five reasons service businesses don’t scale.

For the past 11 years, I’ve run a PR firm.

Before that, I ran the PR department at an advertising agency.

It was really easy to scale there because all we did was go to the ad agency clients and offer PR. And they all bought.

We also had access to—what felt like—endless cash.

So to say I was a bit naive when I started my own business is putting it mildly.

It’s incredibly difficult to scale a PR firm because you are scaling people’s time. And, try as I might to duplicate it, we all only have 24 hours in our days (which is a total bummer so if someone can fix that, I will pay big bucks for it!).

But there are things that prohibit growth of nearly every service business—and it includes things you can control.

You Don’t Have a Business Plan

You wouldn’t just hop in your car and start driving to somewhere you’ve never been before. You’d use a map (well, okay, GPS).

But so many PR pros don’t have a business map. They don’t even know where their money is going!

No matter what they try—networking, reading business books, applying the lessons from this here blog—they just can’t scale.

Bottom line: You need a plan to get where you’re trying to go. And it doesn’t have to be a 500-point plan that you spent three months creating, only to stick in a drawer and never review again.

You just need to include a few key points and metrics. The ones that will really grow your PR firm.

You Can’t Break Free from Client Work

Clients only want to work with you, and no one else on your team will do. They want one-on-one service from the person with their name on the door. If you’re in this situation right now, you know it’s a huge problem for growth.

You can’t grow the firm if your entire day is eaten up by client work.

Unless you can get full control over your time, you’ll continually be sucked into work you shouldn’t be doing (how many of you are still writing news releases, pitching media, writing blog posts, and updating a client’s Twitter account?).

As a result, your PR firm stays stuck.

(Ignoring this problem is why so many talented PR firm owners get burned out.)

Operating In Chaos

Do you ever feel like it’s just easier and faster to do something yourself, versus trying to delegate it to someone else?

Hey, we’ve all been there!

Problem is, it’s killing your growth in the long run. The way out of this situation is through systems. Systems help you delegate tasks you shouldn’t be doing. Systems also help you hire when it’s time to expand your team.

In fact, the more systems you can implement, the happier you (and your team) will be and the happier your clients will be because there won’t be a significant gap between the work you do and the work your team does.

When work life is chaotic and expectations aren’t clear, morale drops. And low morale means high turnover, which kills your growth (not to mention your spirit!).

Freakin’ Technology! Who Can Keep Up?

Ah, remember the days of floppy disks, fax machines, and dial-up internet?

Life was simple then. Kids went outside to play. People had face-to-face conversations around the dinner table. Seinfeld was the only TV show “about nothing.”

Those days are over!

In all seriousness, though, we’re in a time of rapid change, especially when it comes to technology.

Something new is always replacing what came before, and it’s hard to keep up. We have Google Analytics, Watson from IBM, SaneBox, Slack, Zoom, holoportation, artificially intelligent Twitter users, and every piece of software made for the PR industry…not to mention the shiniest new social network (Snapchat anyone?)!

And not only do you have to understand what the heck all of that stuff is for, you have to figure out how to incorporate it into your communications programs.

Otherwise, your competition will leave you in the dust.

Quick hint: You don’t want to incorporate everything just because it’s shiny and new. Technology should help you grow, so you have to be strategic about what you implement and what you ignore.

Not Understanding the Whole “Measurement” Thing

Okay, so you’ve heard about “measurement.” And “metrics.” And you know you’re supposed to track these things, and then somehow, magically, you can prove to clients they’re getting a return on their investment when they hire you.

What’s worse, once you start showing metrics that result in sales, clients or executives want to know how many Facebook fans they have.

It can be frustrating and confusing, but it’s so important if you want to grow your PR firm. Nothing will convince clients of your worth like showing them a concrete return on their investment.

When you can do that, they no longer see your fee as an expense. Instead, they’re ready to throw their money at you because they see you as an investment.

Do any of these five challenges strike a nerve?

About The Author: Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

1 Comment

  1. Tim O'Brien on at 12:59 PM

    Great article, Gini. Every one of your examples resonates. Thanks.

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