Kellye Crane is the founder of Solo PR Pro, which provides the tools, education, advocacy and community resources needed for communications consultants to succeed and grow.
@JOUZGE PR consultants often assemble teams of multiple independent contractors to work on a given client, so the team can definitely be more than 1. As @ginidietrich noted to me in her comment, often the experience to the client is the same as working with a boutique agency.
The difference is in the business structure. Each consultant is his/her own business owner, and we tend to pick and choose which new clients/projects to take on based on our workload, areas of expertise, interests, etc. So, most top consultants have a network of fellow indies they can tap for any given client need - if one of my frequent collaborators is unavailable, I have others I can call on.
I think for the purpose of this discussion, a firm has employees and (one would hope) an infrastructure for supporting those employees and their work. If the agency is large enough, they should be able to handle bigger accounts. It would be difficult for PR consultants to handle $1 million/year in business, but agencies are built for that. Having a larger client roster can provide some benefits (for example, account teams can pitch multiple clients at once for a trend story).
For a startup, I'd suggest looking at whether an agency has a track record of success with other startups with a similar budget. Many do - in fact, some of the best startup work I've seen has been done by boutique agencies. But there are some places where you do not want to be the small fish, or you risk being neglected.
Hope that helps, and would love to hear if anyone disagrees with my characterizations!
1 week, 1 day ago on Freelancer vs. Communications Firm: Which is Better?
@Les Gart Wow, many thanks for that endorsement, Les! Always great to meet another indie like yourself. You're right that some of the most well-known pros in PR work as Solo PR consultants who - as Gini notes - want to be "kick-butt communicators," rather than agency owners. The world needs both types of people, I think.
@Helena Brantley I think we had a similar experience! I, too, worked at agencies in the early-to-mid 90s (no small feat in those boom years, as you know!). I looked at the folks up the food chain and what they were spending their days doing, and realized that was not for me. Fortunately, we live in a time when there are other options - consultants can build a business doing the activities they find energizing and enjoyable.
An additional benefit of working with a PR consultant (like Arik, I don't use the "freelancer" word), is the ability to build a custom team for each individual client's needs. Most of us collaborate and use virtual teams regularly, and the ability to partner with someone who has deep experience in exactly what a given client requires (versus having to tap into the stable of salaried employees, which may or may not be a fit) is a big selling point.
I think the biggest advantage of agencies is the additional arms/legs/ears they bring to the table. There are some companies and programs that are huge and/or international, and having an established agency with infrastructure in place is beneficial. BTW, if needed, an organization can hire their desired consultant and an agency to work together - they don't have to be mutually exclusive.
Disclaimer: As the founder of Solo PR Pro, I'm a bit biased of course. :-) I assume you can figure out how I would vote, but - as with everything in life - there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
1 week, 2 days ago on Freelancer vs. Communications Firm: Which is Better?
Very true, Arik! I'd add that usually when managers say "let's get a freelancer to do X," it's usually not for critical tasks and the freelancer is a commodity. But when they say, "we need help with [an important function]" they look for a consultant. In addition, though consultants are often solo PR pros in their business structure, they can pull together teams of independent contractors, as needed. Providng the bigger solutions means getting the bigger contracts!
1 week, 4 days ago on Don’t call me a freelancer
I needed this! Recently, there's been news of people doing interviews on Snapchat - I still don't understand why this would be the best format for that (it disappears, right?). I chalked it up to folks trying to be cool. Would that be your assessment, too?
1 month, 2 weeks ago on Snapchat: As explained by a 42-year-old
Thanks for sharing the Solo PR gift ideas post, Shonali. This post is full of terrific resources - going to check them out now!
3 months, 3 weeks ago on Monday Roundup: Planning Mode
@ClayMorgan This tip from John doesn't have to be competitive - it also works to target the followers of partners or other collaborators. We've seen great success with this!
6 months, 1 week ago on Three Facebook Advertising Tactics to Reach Your Target Audience
How cool and funny are Solo PR Pros? This is such a fun read!
8 months, 3 weeks ago on Outfit of the Day – Solo PR edition
I love how you tie your business values into your broader views of the world and family, Mary. Congratulations to a shining Solo PR example and a leader in the public relations industry!
9 months, 4 weeks ago on Reflections on Life’s Journeys
Well said! I'm a fan of the expression, "beauty is fleeting, but dumb is forever." If a woman in any profession builds her career on how she looks, it will be short-lived (you won't be the sweet young thang for long!). Anything that perpetuates the stereotype that PR pros all fall into this category does a disservice to the vast majority's high-level and strategic business acumen (certainly those who are successful long-term).
Oh, and some PR pros are men. Can you imagine anyone telling men in a "business" blog to draw whiskers on their face in concealer? My fellow females, stop the insanity!
11 months, 1 week ago on PR Women: Stop Trivializing Our Work
Great of you to share your experiences, Heather! When it comes to growth, I think it's a good idea for each entrepreneur to think about what that means to them. For PR pros, does growth mean you want to make more money as a consultant, or would you like to build a boutique firm, or are your goals to spearhead an even bigger agency?
You knew early on you wanted to build an agency and grew your business quickly - a testament to the fact that the steps above work!
12 months ago on 3 Tips for Business Growth
Oh shoot - I forgot to mention one more tip in my comment: the importance of finding a collaborator who is nicer than you are. I'm not kidding! Aside from the obvious benefits of being pleasant to work with, a super-kind and tactful sidekick can help squash squabbles and be the good cop on those rare occasions when you may have to play enforcer. Karen Swim was already a much-loved community member, so adding her to the team was an easy decision for me!
1 year ago on How to build and grow a private Facebook group
Wow, Arik- thank you so much for all the kind words, and I couldn't
have described the Solo PR Pro community better myself! We are a group that values the opportunity to learn from each other, and everyone is the better for it.
As a conference organizer, let me say that a huge part of the spirit of an event comes from the speakers. Selecting speakers who are not only wise and interesting, but also enjoy making new connections -- regardless of how well-known that new connection may be -- makes everyone attending feel comfortable and valued. I encourage anyone planning an event to invite speakers like Arik (there's a reason I made him present twice J) -- these quality people add value throughout your conference, not just while they're on stage.
Thanks again, Arik, for being part of it!
1 year, 1 month ago on The 7 commandments of the Solo PR Summit
My brain hurts. I still haven't figured out how the long-form results actually work, and now they've got us thinking in Q&As. But at least I understand it better than I did before I read this post. :-)
1 year, 5 months ago on Hummingbird Update: What it Means for PR Pros
@arikhanson Couldn't hit "like" on a comment that says the wife and kids will take a hit! But, I'm humbled that the Solo PR Summit is the one event you feel is worth it.
I think @CatParker 's comment about being a gypsy is a good one -- some people love the thrill of being somewhere new, while others prefer the comforts of home. Knowing which type you are can help you plan -- whether you want to embrace or avoid business travel.
1 year, 6 months ago on The downsides of PR travel no one wants to talk about
@Danny Brown I think those of us who continue to blog regularly believe there is still power in the fragmented discussion, but it's harder to track and participate in (and, as @davefleet indicates, it
tends to be less in-depth than the blog comments of old). So I definitely understand why many find blogging less appealing than in the past.
1 year, 6 months ago on Where did all the good (individual) PR blogs go?
Great points, Arik. There's an important aspect you didn't mention: most measures today (like the Inkybee list) reward frequency and volume. An individual blog by a mere mortal can't churn out enough content to make the top of a list like this (the agency behind Spin Sucks posts great content twice a day!), so there's pressure on individuals to add more guest bloggers, which can dilute the voice, as you say.
Not only does this emphasis on volume mean more formerly individual blogs have multiple authors now, but it also makes it harder for the public to unearth the new or unique voices of smaller blogs. So readership goes down, the author finds it less compelling to write as a result, and there's a chicken-and-egg effect.
The good news is, there's always room for fresh perspectives, and PR pros are a determined bunch! Lesser known bloggers are out there contributing to the conversation, and we can all help by making a concerted effort to shine a light on them.
@davefleet The comment issue is a big one -- as the conversation has fragmented, it becomes more difficult to foster a dialogue around a particular topic of interest and feel like you're actually making an impact. Very few PR blogs have comment sections with any meaningful dialogue anymore.
This is a great post! I missed it earlier because I was out sick.. because I worked too hard, didn't sleep enough and a germ took me down. While I was offline, in between nose blowings, I was stunned to realize the world didn't come crashing down because I was out!
Shonali, we - and everyone commenting on and mentioned in this post - have been around long enough to see many social media high fliers come and go. Often, I can remember wishing those people hadn't burned themselves out...that I would prefer infrequent posts from them than none at all. Now I realize, this is us. :-)
Not only do we want things perfect, as you and Gini note, but many of us put so much pressure on ourselves around *volume.* Yes, maybe we'll get more eyeballs the more we do, but that's quite the hamster wheel -- whether you have a team behind you or not. Since there's no limit to how much we can do on social media, we just have to set realistic boundaries for our sanity.
1 year, 7 months ago on Dear Business: Get Over the Social Media Hump
I made a similar point about sister agencies on Solo PR Pro today. If prospective clients buy into the bigger is better philosophy being sold as part of this merger, many will be sorely disappointed. Independent solo and boutique firms (cough, Arment Dietrich, cough) are often light years ahead of the big guys in terms of creativity and innovation. Hear us now, believe us later!
1 year, 8 months ago on Seven Reasons the Publicis Omnicom Merger is a Big Deal
This sounds like a racket! Why not let everyone and their brother speak, if you're going to get revenue from each of them?
Some small events can't afford to pay speakers a fee, and they should graciously understand if a desired speaker is too busy with paying gigs to accommodate them. But I have never heard of an event asking the speaker to pay to attend -- their unprofessional response is another example of the event's weirdness. Run awaaaay!
1 year, 8 months ago on Perspective: Public Speaking and Time as a Gift
"Tracking time – every minute of it that is spent – allows you to be
strategic and smart about the budgets you’re creating" - preach it, my
friend! For solo PR pros, I recommend using 1,000 billable hours as the baseline when considering hourly rates, since we wear a lot of hats (ahem, @3HatsComm) and this typically translates into unbillable time. Keeping close tabs on time, even when billing on retainer, is the key to profitability.
1 year, 9 months ago on The Importance of Tracking Time and Other PR Firm Essentials
@Marc_Meyer1 Hey friend, since your comment appears at the top as the most recent, I wanted to record what we discussed via Twitter: you absolutely can take a vacation! I unplug completely for a minimum of one week every year (and have for my 18 years as an indie), usually 2-3 weeks a year, all while working with Fortune 500 clients. You just need to build a network of supportive colleagues, which fortunately isn't difficult to do.
1 year, 11 months ago on 5 reasons why the solo consultant lifestyle isn’t all it’s cracked up to be
@arikhanson It's funny, when I worked in a traditional office, I was always trying to power through my work so I could get home. I'm a very social person, but I typically skipped water cooler chit chat and group lunches. For those reading this post, if this is you... you'd make a great indie! :-)
I'm not sure who made people think being an independent consultant is easy and glamorous -- maybe the same people who think PR is, too? J There's no such thing as a free lunch, and being an indie consultant is no exception. As the Solo PR blog/community founder, I'm admittedly a little more bullish on being indie than some, but there are some antidotes to a few of the downsides you describe...
For credibility (or cache, as Shonali notes), dropping the names of your clients goes a long way to help with that, but you're right that certain people will judge (says more about them than us, IMO). Vacations can be arranged if you have a trusted fellow indie to back you up (I usually unplug completely for at least one week each year), and it's possible to arrange your commitments so you can take that two week trip to Hawaii -- just not very often. And I personally love being a slob. J
I founded Solo PR specifically to help with the teamwork aspect, and many who aren't solo don't realize just how supportive we are of each other. However, there are some people who truly need lots of human contact and miss it greatly when it's not there. Those people are typically not cut out for this career path.
Overall, no disagreement -- you've nailed the primary pitfalls. But those of us who've been at it a long time (18 years for me!) have found ways to work around them, and the joys of working for clients you love on your own terms -- and usually for much more money than you'd make at a traditional job -- more than outweigh any downsides.
You had me until the end when you said "takes a shower." :-) Fun post!
2 years, 1 month ago on So, God made a PR pro
A lot of folks have always known PR is about more than media relations but, as you note in the comments below, a lot of folks does not equal everyone (and everyone in PR needs to get on board toute suite!). I don't think change is just scary- it also can be hard. Continually evolving and learning takes an investment of time, which some people don't want to give. Good for you for giving this well-worded prodding!
2 years, 2 months ago on The Future of PR: Beyond Media Relations
Thanks for sharing, Gini! One thing I find interesting is that you closed most of the business when you had a chance to slow down and focus on that aspect of the biz dev. It shows how both networking hustle and focused follow-up are both necessary (the latter is too easy to put off for many folks). The fullest pipeline in the world does nothing unless you can ink the deal - congrats to you for capitalizing on all your hard work!
2 years, 4 months ago on How to Get Big Things Done
Hi Arik- you know what? Over the past 24 hours, I'm on my way to changing my position on this issue. Yesterday, I felt that as long as people were expressing their opinions respectfully and with reasoned arguments, it's not a bad thing (and perhaps even a healthy part of democracy).
But today, not only am I shocked by some of the discourse on Facebook in particular, but I have a very personal example of how our political comments can be offensive in ways we don't intend. Allow me to share:
In response to my FB post this morning about the vitriol, a former work colleague messaged to tell me that I've offended her in the past (so she felt I was being hypocritical). This is because after North Carolina voted in favor of the anti-gay marriage amendment earlier this year, my FB stream was full of people expressing "everyone in NC is an idiot"- type sentiment, so I posted something in support of the "good people" of NC who voted against it.
It was more political than I usually am, and in my mind I was expressing a more moderate view (to not paint everyone in the state with the same broad brush). However, my friend read this to mean that those who voted for it were "bad people" (and in her memory, that's what I said: "you proclaimed that those of us who prevailed were the bad people of NC"). I understand that what I said was snarky, and now I can see how this was the implication.
So, here I've shared in a more public way a bit about my politics, but I think it's a good example of what you're talking about. What I've decided is this: social media makes it necessary to boil the complexities of our positions down to a sentence or two, which makes things more divisive than they need to be.
2 years, 4 months ago on Should PR folks be sharing their political viewpoints on Facebook?
@commammo @ScottSchablow You're both right, of course. Good reminder that common sense and legal ramifications are not one and the same!
2 years, 4 months ago on AT&T Loses Case; News Release Held Under Paid Advertising Laws
I'm going to be the devil's advocate here, and say that - while I get where everyone is coming from re: the historical event - I also understand Mr. Yeager's point. They could have referenced the breaking of the sound barrier without using his name. I believe the company was, in fact, trying to affiliate their new technology with the impressive reputation of Chuck Yeager (without compensating him for doing so).
As a silly example, I could say "X years ago, Gini Dietrich founded the Spin Sucks blog (sorry, I don't know exactly how long it's been!). Today, Kellye Crane is [insert something relatively unrelated]." I don't think anyone would find that kosher.
Regardless of where we stand on this particular issue, it's an important update/reminder - thanks for keeping us in the know, Gini.
@AmandaOleson This is the second strong recommendation for Woobox I've seen this week. Good to know - thanks!
2 years, 5 months ago on What’s the best app for linking your Pinterest page to your Facebook page?
Great roundup, Arik! I've been poking around the recommendations feature, trying to figure out if it impacts search results (i.e., will a person with more recs for a particular skill rank higher when that skill is searched for?). I don't see that it's necessarily the case now, but I'd assume that's where it's going. Did you come across anything on this in your research?
2 years, 5 months ago on How do LinkedIn’s new enhancements grade out for brands/users?
Wow- what a cool thing this is! I don't know Allen as well as I'd like, but she's one of those people who's always freely sharing her smartness online, making you want to know her more. Congrats to Gini on an exciting hire, and look forward to hearing more from Allen on the AD team!
2 years, 6 months ago on #FollowFriday: Allen Mireles
@ginidietrich We weren't talking about Chick-fil-A on the #solopr chat, but since @cloudspark mentioned it, I thought I'd share that I've learned a couple things (which relate to this post) over the past week, too: 1. You can't have a completely non-partisan discussion online about anything related to politics (even if the issue seems PR-only to you); 2. Even if 90-95% of the discussion is non-partisan, people will focus on the parts that are; and 3. If you raise an issue, *everyone* who is offended - on both sides - will blame you. Lessons learned!
2 years, 7 months ago on Blogging Mistakes Equal Lessons Learned
Love that you always share with us the bumps along the way -- congrats on this new chapter!
2 years, 10 months ago on Arment Dietrich Creates Partnership with Thornley Fallis
Fun post. Best part is, as I read it, you're moving to Atlanta - smart move! You forgot to mention all the fabulous people here. :-)
(Disclaimer: for anyone reading this comment who didn't carefully read the post above, he didn't actually say that.)
2 years, 11 months ago on 8 realizations while unplugging for a week
Love that you pulled back the covers here, Jay! I find it especially interesting that you've defined what you want from the blog first, and then you look at the audience. Having a laser focus on one's audience is critical, but taking a step back to ensure you're doing it in a way that gets you where you want to go is what determines success. I can do a better job of the latter, so thanks for the guidance!
2 years, 11 months ago on Redesigning Your Blog to Drive Reader Behavior
Once a solo PR pro, always part of our community! You're a shining example of how we're all the architects of our own careers -- each person's path will be different. Can't wait to see what comes next in your next chapter!
2 years, 11 months ago on Change: It’s A-Comin’
Thanks for sharing some of the tools available to accomplish each of your points, @kamichat (a couple are new to me)! I got on the data bandwagon a couple years ago when Katie Paine told me the top PR university programs are requiring statistics. As @allenmireles notes, it's part of our required skillset now, and it's time the veterans (ahem) in our field hop on the bandwagon -- it's actually a great opportunity!
3 years ago on Big Data: Five Essential Skills for Public Relations to Master
Great points about how entrepreneurs can be scrappy and forego what larger companies feel are necessities. I'd add one more item to the optional list: employees. Especially initially, using a network of highly qualified subcontractors can give a lot of flexibility to a growing business (and it makes adding team members a little less scary!). From solo PR pros to virtual assistants, independent contractors are available for almost any need -- I've run my virtual PR agency for 16 years this way.
3 years ago on Making the Leap from Executive to Entrepreneur
@Shonali "Selective sharing" - so true. BTW- shared this post with my husband -- even non-PR pros can learn from the information you've laid out here so well. Thanks!
3 years, 1 month ago on 7 PR Lessons Komen for the Cure Didn’t Know It Was Giving You
Really appreciate the close look you've given this situation here, Shonali. Another lesson I've learned is that people on both sides of a highly emotional debate will skew facts/figures to suit their point of view. I find this funny (not funny ha-ha), because I believe most people would continue to feel just as strongly (on both sides) with the *truth.*
PR pros (and the media) have an ethical obligation to put the facts in plain view, and then you can explain them in ways that support your cause. As you wisely note, Komen should have been more transparent about what it was doing -- the perception that they were saying one thing and doing another is a credibility problem they may not be able to reverse.
Jay, you've been in my thoughts many times in recent weeks -- this post, and your shifting focus, is an amazing tribute to your brother. Thank you so much for sharing these lessons learned with all of us (I needed this reminder too, and I'm sure I'm not alone). Always remember: you have a very large cheering section! :-)
3 years, 1 month ago on Why I’m Not Writing a Book This Year
I like what you find "fascinating," Arik -- most on this list are stretching themselves beyond their comfort zone, and I'm honored to be included. This post has introduced me to a few new folks, and let's hope the "we'll see what happens next" questions you pose for each end up with a positive outcome! :-)
3 years, 2 months ago on The 13 most fascinating people (in digital PR/marketing) in 2012
Excellent insights here, Jay. I had no idea you were an entrepreneur from the word go. It took me a few years of working for the Man before I realized being a solo PR pro was the only way to go for me (I started consulting at 26, which sounded young to me until I read this post!). I think the fact that you've always been outside the mainstream gives you a unique perspective -- thanks for sharing!
3 years, 7 months ago on 6 Takeaways From 23 Years as a Consultant
Any day @ginidietrich calls you an extraordinaire at anything is a good day! :-) Thanks for the shout, and for sharing your recommendations. I'm enjoying reading the comments and learning about a few new blogs to checkout. Thank you SpinSucks smarties!
3 years, 7 months ago on Three Blogs You Must Read
This post makes many great points, but the thing I love best is that you call us all out. Even those of us who don't obsess about numbers have to admit to looking at them from time to time. The "culture of comparison" can cause us to focus on a phantom reality, and that's something to be very wary of. Thanks for the mention, BTW!
3 years, 7 months ago on 5 Reasons Social Media Measurement is Making You Lie to Yourself
@TrafficColeman You are funny! Here's the thing: I've been to a lot of events, and I find that too many are dominated by vendor presentations. Consultants who blog, agencies, and in-house social media practitioners tend to have experience with a breadth of tools and approaches -- that's who I personally prefer to hear from.
3 years, 7 months ago on Two great Content Marketing and Social Media events to check out in September