In a recent post, I discussed meeting several impressive student PR firm leaders at the PRSSA 2009 National Conference. Since that post, I’ve heard from many students and PR professors who want to start agencies on their own campuses. So I asked Michigan State University senior Nick Lucido to provide the following information since he serves on the PRSSA National Committee and is responsible for helping develop student-run firms.
Currently, there are more than 100 firms in the U.S. with varying sizes and structures. Nick notes that 15 student agencies are Nationally Affiliated firms, which represent the upper echelons of service and professionalism. Thanks to Nick for the following tips.
I’ve had experience launching and working for a firm at MSU, so my advice is based on the Student-Run Firm Handbook (available by download on the PRSSA website) as well as my own trials and tribulations. Here are some tips to remember for student-run firms:
- Start small and build. Because many firms don’t charge for their work, there is usually an abundance of potential clients. However, when your firm is just being launched, choose one client that will give your employees the most opportunity to learn and grow. Once your firm has the minutia figured out, successful growth and expansion can occur.
- Choose a structure and stick to it. Make sure that your firm has a solid structure.
- Hire the right people. One of the downsides of having “employees” at your firm who are not paid and have other jobs is a lack of commitment. Make sure to employ reliable students who are willing to take the time to create professional work. During the hiring process, don’t come in with a goal to hire a certain amount of people; hire the best of the best.
- Elect an advisor who is interested in the long term. While you might have a great group of students interested in working for the firm, client relationships are long term and an advisor will be able to help you manage those relationships over a longer period of time.
- Know what you are capable of. By setting goals and objectives, you can hold your staff, advisors and clients accountable. A successful relationship comes from work on all ends and everyone should take the relationship seriously.
- Be realistic in your promises. Even though you might have a lot of depth of experience, make sure to never promise too much. This leaves you with an unhappy client and unreachable goals.
- Professional development for your employees. By bringing in experts, you’ll give the firm’s employees access to enhancing their skills, thereby improving your work. Make sure to step back from client work and take some time for professional development.
- Measure results and write case studies. Measuring your effectiveness will demonstrate to the client how beneficial your work is, which might lead to future work and referrals. Also, be sure to keep track of your successes so you can show potential clients the work you’ve accomplished.