Just because you’re a solo PR pro doesn’t mean you’re in this alone. There’s a whole community of like minded people you can lean on.
In this monthly series, we ask five Solo PR Pro members to share their best tips, tricks and resources for managing their solo business.
5 solo PR pros share how to break into a different sector of business
This month, we asked our panel of solo PR pros to share best practices for entering a new niche in their business.
Read on for their helpful tips.
1. Lynn Harris Medcalf, MA, APR, Lynn Harris Medcalf PR Consulting
When I left the media relations agency I cofounded after 16 years, I realized I would need an expanded skillset to attract new clients.
That’s because the kind of work I wanted as a sole practitioner was no longer strictly found in pitching and placement. Focusing on building deeper client relationships with longer, more strategic engagements meant I needed to be a better broad-based practitioner and less a tactical media specialist.
I used the pause in business as I was ramping up my consultancy to do a skillset reboot. For me, that meant getting my accreditation in public relations, but it doesn’t have to be an intensive year of study. It can mean just doing more professional development programs, whether they be in-person events, webinars or specialized coursework through organizations PRSA, ICBA or AMA. For me, I knew B2B communication and creative agency work was something that interested me and I was already beginning to build up a client base, so I let what I didn’t know – like PR planning and internal communications – help guide me. Maintaining my APR keeps me sharp because it requires a certain amount of continual learning and professional development.
Now, I can genuinely say to new clients that I’m a holistic PR strategist who can also execute tactically.
2. Michael Ares, MDA Corporate Marketing, LLC
“All of you communications professionals seem to pretty much do the same thing, but I’m hiring you because you understand my business.”
I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times I’ve heard this from a soon-to-be new client. And for a long time, I didn’t quite understand what that oft-heard reasoning meant.
Even after working with a diverse portfolio of clients over the years ranging from semiconductor design and manufacturing start-ups, leading broadband technology developers and interoperability consortiums to national anti-bullying initiatives, local food delivery companies and leading global consumer brands, it was hard for me to find the commonality in those responses.
Recently, a colleague of mine here in Atlanta, Carol Cookerly of Cookerly Public Relations, explained it to me. “What they’re really saying, Michael, is that they trust you.”
Bottom line? I’ve long understood that there’s no technology, customer base or business paradigm I can’t gain at least a working knowledge of with a little old-fashioned research up front. The strategies and tactics I may propose to help a given client meet their promotional and reputational needs typically aren’t that different from a professional communications perspective. What I simply need to do is recognize and accommodate the dynamics of the potential client’s particular business sector.
So, don’t hesitate to take a shot at a piece of business in a new sector – but do the work up front. It doesn’t take that much time, really. And if my 40+ years of experience is any indication, you just might end up securing the most important, most enduring trait of any viable working relationship – trust.
3. Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, Fellow PRSA, Falcon Valley Group
Everyone is new to a niche once.
Solos are rich in professional experience and all your basic core skills are 100% transferable. If you did it once when you got started you can do it again.
Follow the classic strategic communication planning approach. Set your goals and objectives and determine how you'll measure your success. Conduct your research. This can include environmental scanning (otherwise known as reading!) and network with colleagues from this niche willing to help.
From what you learn, create your plan for landing new clients and move forward. Implement your plan and assess feedback against your metrics for success. Adjust when needed. Rinse and repeat.
4. Keri Tomsic, T Squared Communications
Solo PR professionals need to remember that we're strategic communications counselors first.
Part of what I value the most about our profession is the opportunity to spread my wings and explore new industries. I bring my strategic communications expertise to a client. They know their operation and industry better than I ever will. And that's ok because I know how to integrate their marketing and communications for real business value.
I remember that I bring to the table my knowledge, experience and expertise in the development and cultivation of key messages and strategic storylines. I can — and do — rely on Subject Matter Experts to provide content and analysis specific to new products, services and lines of business for both owned and earned media placement and coverage.
When working with new clients in various business sectors, I take time to understand where the client provides a unique selling proposition and how they respond with solutions to customers' challenges. It's through good old-fashioned research and engagement with key players — especially trade media editors and key industry influencers — to know the current and predicted pain points within the market to correctly and authentically communicate where my clients elevate the industry in which they serve — and where they are the expert.
5. Jessica Lawlor, Jessica Lawlor & Company
One of my favorite parts of working in the communications industry is the ability to dive deep and learn more about industries I'd never dreamed I'd have the chance to work in.
Since I've pivoted my business to content and editing, I had a conversation with a prospective client in the finance space looking for an editor for his company's blog posts. He said to me, “We're looking for someone with deep expertise in finance, is that you?” I explained to him that no, I certainly wasn't an expert in finance or banking, but that as a communicator with an expertise in communicating clearly (and as a person with a general knowledge of finance), I'd actually be the perfect fit for the job. I'd be able to bring my best to the work, but I also would be able to pinpoint areas where maybe the writer was too deep in the weeds or used jargon that a member of their general audience wouldn't understand.
Sometimes it might make sense to use your inexperience in an industry (and of course, willingness to learn through research, interviews, etc.) to your advantage to break into a new niche.
We want to hear from you! Share your advice for breaking into a new niche. Leave your response in the comments section below or tag us on social media using #solopr.