Ask the PR M&A expert: New breed of firm owners emergingBy Bulldog Reporter on September 13th, 2017 | Reading time: 3 minutes
Come on, admit it. Millennial communicators own the largest projection screen in the PR field. And much of what is projected on them is at best, stereotypical and, at worst, counterproductive. Sure, there are some millennials who suffer from an acute sense of entitlement and want to be promoted to the C-suite just a few weeks after they join the firm as an account executive.
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But there’s also a new breed of millennial that’s having much more of a positive influence on the PR profession: The millennial PR firm owner. Their numbers are slight right now, but they are coming on strong, and bringing with them a new and—dare we say—refreshing outlook to PR management, utilization and billing.
Rick Gould, CPA, J.D., managing partner of Gould+Partners, explains the growing phenomenon of millennial PR firm owners and what baby boomer and Gen X PR firm owners can learn from them.
Why is there a proliferating number of millennial firm PR owners in the marketplace?
Gould: Millennials came of age when more and more companies and organizations began to reduce benefits for their employees and, throughout business markets, much greater emphasis was placed on entrepreneurialism. That dynamic hasn’t changed in the last several years, so now millennials working for PR firms are starting to strike out on their own. Their calculus is: Why not? They think they can do better with a leaner, more efficient business model.
These are financially and digitally savvy executives who have been conditioned by the idea of being their own boss, and may think that the current firm they’re working for is too slow or bureaucratic to take full advantage of the transition to a digital world. Depending on the level of digital sophistication, millennials may think their career is stalling by staying at the same firm years on end.
Compared with older PR owners and/or C-level managers, millennials are much more likely to leave the firm—and maybe take a client or two with them—and hang out their own shingle. I am taking on more of these types of clients, and expect the field to grow. The trend, which is only going to accelerate, is a stark reminder that millennial communicators require a different kind of nurturing from PR firm owners than previous generations.
What impact do you think millennial firm owners are having on the PR profession at large, in terms of having a better antenna for management and generating new revenue streams?
Gould: The biggest and most consequential impact is that, when starting their own firm, millennial owners are in no way wedded to traditional PR business models. They don’t have the typical managerial attitude among PR owners of, land a new client and hire another account executive or two; lose a client, and then let two account executives go because of the reduction in fees.
Millennial firm owners take much more of a methodical approach to hiring, bringing in people according to the strategic and macro needs of their firm rather than the tactical needs of an individual client (who may not be in it for the long haul).
Another very strong and distinguishing characteristic among millennial PR firm owners is that they have a much better appreciation for what their various services are worth, and won’t put up with overservicing or failing to be adequately compensated (as many more established PR firms do to their detriment). Millennial firm owners also have a bigger penchant for integrated communications and won’t hesitate to partner with advertising/marketing or social media agencies, for example, in order to better serve clients looking for an integrated marketing approach.
Perhaps most important: Millennial owners’ grasp of social channels and digital PR. When creating client campaigns millennials deploy a digital-first approach. They are not intimidated by social channels but embrace them, and constantly try to develop new ways to monetize social platforms and cross-market them with other media channels. So much the better to find ways to make money from Facebook, Twitter, etc.
If older PR firm owners can get past some of the professional qualms they have about millennials, there’s plenty they can learn from them about how to push the industry forward and bolster its reputation among clients and prospects.
Register here for Gould+Partners free Webinar: “How Millennial Creative Service Firm Owners Boost Profitability, Spike Valuation and Position Themselves as Thought Leaders.” The webinar will take place Tuesday, September 19, from 1:30-2:30 ET.
Rick Gould is author of “Doing It The Right Way: 13 Crucial Steps For A Successful PR Agency Merger or Acquisition,” and “The Ultimate PR Agency Financial Management Handbook: How To Manage By The Numbers For Breakthrough Profitability Of 20% Or Greater” (4th Edition)