10 things I’ve learned from 10 years of Rise PR
Posted by Paul Allen on 15th January 2020 / 0 comments
2020 marks not only the start of a new decade, but it is also pretty much 10 years since Karen and I started Rise PR.
It’s been a (mostly) wonderful decade – I may have decayed a little over those 10 years but we have done some great work with some great clients and really established Rise PR as a freelance PR firm to be reckoned with.
There’s only one way to celebrate such an anniversary and that’s with a ’10 things’ listicle. In no particular order, here are 10 things I have learned over my 10 years at Rise PR.
Everyone is winging it – the main reason I was nervous about starting Rise PR was not knowing ‘business’. Sure, I was decent enough at PR and had a topline understanding of business, but what did I know about accounting, recruitment, trading internationally and all the rest of it?
Turns out, I knew enough. For everything that I didn’t know, it was straight forward to fill in the blanks, whether by asking peers or working with an accountant. But actually, it didn’t even matter that much.
It’s easy to think that in business – as in life – other people know what they are doing. The truth is that most of us are bluffing, blagging or winging it for much of the time and that’s OK.
Location is irrelevant – when we founded Rise PR we still lived in London. We had wanted to move for a while but feared that being out of the London media / PR bubble would negatively impact the business.
How little we knew! We moved to Southsea about six months after launching the business and quickly realised that people don’t care where you are based, as long as you do good work. We are still close enough to London to get there if needed, but we have had many international clients over the years and not once has location come up as an issue.
People matter – perhaps the most telling advice I was given about starting a new business, is that people buy from people. New business is of course crucial to any agency but only once or twice has a cold approach worked for me – every other client win has come from word of mouth, referrals or former clients moving elsewhere.
Broadening your network – both offline and online – is a key part of that but it’s also important to remain true to yourself. For better or worse, I am pretty much the same at work as I am in the rest of my life and I think/hope people recognise that authenticity
Freedom, flexibility and work/life balance are a massive deal – we started Rise PR to have a better life and that’s been the biggest takeaway for me. Much of my career before Rise PR was spent in some amazing tech specialist and global multi-practice London PR agencies.
I loved doing so but love working for myself even more. The idea of being in the office at a fixed time feels genuinely alien to me now and Rise PR has made it so much easier to be involved with my children’s lives. Sports days, nativities, birthdays, assemblies, parent’s evenings, football training – you name it, I’ve been able to be there, and I am incredibly grateful for that.
The freelance model makes so much sense for so many clients – having worked in agencies where the smallest clients were paying around £10K per month, and seen the lack of love and attention they get for that, I find it surprising that more clients don’t drop down a size or two when it comes to their PR agency.
If you have £10K a month to spend on PR, then it would be better spent at a smaller specialist agency than a massive global PR firm. You would get better service, more senior consultant and would be a prestigious account. At a lower budget level, the same can be said for freelancers. For a certain size of client, the freelance model makes perfect sense – long may that continue!
Media relations has got tougher – throughout the decade at Rise PR it has become clearer than media relations has got harder. There are many factors at play here – the rise of social, time-pressured journalists and too many PRs to name just a few - but I feel that earned media has never been more earned that it is now.
Training and networking are essential to keep fresh – one downside to working for yourself is that you don’t get exposure to other teams, ideas and approaches that you get in a bigger agency. A good PR agency will also prioritise training for its staff, and that’s something that can fall by the wayside when you are self-employed.
It’s so important therefore, to collaborate where possible and to allocate time and resource for training. That doesn’t need to be expensive two-day courses, there are many cheaper (or even free) options available, that keep you current and in-touch with the latest techniques and tactics.
Make the tech work for you – the emergence of smartphones over the previous decade really should have made work/life balance easier. But for many, it means that you are always on and it can feel hard to ignore the blinking red light on your phone when you should be relaxing.
This is especially true as a freelancer, I think. You get horrible, irrational thoughts about what might happen if you don’t respond to a client's email in time, but few clients really expect that immediate response. The modern PR landscape is very different in terms of how we are plugged in, but tech needs to work for you, not you be a slave to it. There isn’t a silver bullet for this, but it’s important to figure out a way to not be always on and available.
Dressing gown working is (mostly) a myth – most freelancers will have been accused at one time or another of sitting around at home in their dressing gown. I have had an office now for many years, so that’s not an option, but even when I worked mostly at home it didn’t really happen.
Not that there is anything wrong with working in your dressing gown, but for me it never felt conducive to working, so I generally at least made the effort to get washed and clothed.
The written word is more valuable than ever – writing has always been an integral part of PR but has become much more so over the past decade. Call it copywriting, content creation or whatever you like, but writing comprises around 75% of what I do now.
The reason I started in PR many moons ago was partly circumstantial but also because I loved writing. And I still do, so the fact that so many clients come to Rise PR for our writing skills makes me very happy.
The past decade has been a real ride. Thanks to all our clients, former clients, partners, collaborators, office buddies, and anyone else that has supported us in any way this past 10 years. Here’s to the next decade!