When is it appropriate to take risks as a PR agency owner?

by | Jul 2, 2020 | Analysis, Public Relations

Risks taken in business involve decision making and good old-fashioned hard work. Running a consistently growing and thriving business for the past six years, I’ve realized the importance of taking risks in order to achieve success. However, I understand it’s not easy for everyone to be an optimistic risk-taker. We can’t ignore the elephant in the room when it comes to taking business risks: fear. Fear of failure. Fear of loss. Fear of embarrassment. The list can go on.

That said, I’d like to share a few areas where taking risks can and will benefit you tremendously, especially as an agency owner. Most people tend to avoid risks to save themselves from a loss, temporary defeat or a setback that could stunt further growth. In this article, I offer some tips on how you can act confidently to move past your comfort zone and reach the other side of risk successfully:

Taking chances during a crisis

Crisis communication is a big part of being a PR professional. Crises can range from a product recall and misbehavior by a key executive to computer hacking and natural disasters. Knowing how to react, when to respond and how to approach a crisis situation takes practice and skill. My advice to you? Fall on the sword and take ownership. Resist the urge to avoid the situation at all costs, not respond to comments and hope the problem goes away on its own. Instead, you should believe in your company and use this opportunity as a chance to grow.

With COVID-19 at the forefront of everyone’s minds, we are seeing crisis communications at a new high. It is a constant learning curve in finding new ways to communicate with clients and employees. For some organizations, having a remote workforce during stay-at-home order may feel like a risk or crisis. Take a chance on your employees and know you hired them for a reason. They can do the work, whether in the office or at home. This kind of mindset may be daunting but will pay off in the long run.

Taking chances on your own marketing

As PR pros and marketers, marketing risks need to be some of the first risks we take on ourselves. After all, how can we give advice to clients that we wouldn’t take ourselves if we were in their shoes? Marketing risks establish opportunities for tactile experience that, if successful, can raise our confidence tremendously when it comes to developing strategic plans for our clients. These plans are especially helpful during times of uncertainty like we are seeing now with COVID-19.

When I first started my business, like many of you, I knew it would be important to promote my company—as we recommend our clients do. So, I launched myself using strategic messaging, online marketing, and PR right away. Even with years of PR experience behind me and recognition from past companies I worked at, I knew to start my company I was starting at ground zero, which meant no one knew about the company—no matter what my personal background was. PR and smart marketing were essential and an investment I needed to make up front.

Taking chances on clients

At the beginning of your business life cycle, you’ll need to take risks on clients you believe in and that you personally know for a fact, you can get results for, whether they have the right budget or not. Why? Because any great client outcome becomes a great case study and a way to lure more business. So, if there is a client you absolutely believe in who has some type of budget, even if it’s not huge, and if you can afford to take on that project and give them more than what they’re paying for, take that risk because that case study can turn into future business.

Take our current economic climate. It’s not great, and companies are struggling. A year from now, companies that were thriving before the pandemic may have lost a lot of money due to COVID-19 and will be in rebuilding mode. It’s important to keep in mind that there may be reasons a company doesn’t have the typical budget for you at the moment. Work and talk with them to help provide you with some clarity and see where they’re coming from. At the end of the day, their success can also equal your success, especially if you’ve done a really great job. Through my experience, taking risks on clients has been a great opportunity to work alongside industry disruptors that I believed in greatly. Their great outcomes have led to me being able to charge what I’m worth to clients now.

Taking chances in a financial crunch

In your business, you want to take financial risks that make the most sense. Especially, if you’re dealing with a client that just won’t pay you and expects you to continue working without any guarantees as to when you’re going to get paid. You’re taking an even bigger risk because they may never pay you.

My advice is to take the risk of letting them go and focus your attention on the companies that are expanding, making money and that can bring income to your business. If they can’t or won’t pay you, what else are they not paying for? It’s a red flag. If they miss two months or more, cut them loose, walk away and try to get as much of that money as possible before they take any more of your valuable time. It might hurt upfront, but promises don’t pay the bills. Believe in yourself and your ability to bring in new work. As long as you continue to promote yourself and let people know of your good work, you will replace that budget with clients that will respect you enough to pay you on time.

Taking chances on talent

Another good area to take risks on is on people. There might be someone who doesn’t have 100% of the background or experience you’re looking for, but does have incredible emotional intelligence, great problem-solving skills, and great critical thinking skills that lead you to believe they can learn and be a valuable asset. Sometimes, knowing that someone’s good at getting trained, is high in emotional intelligence and who is worth your time and the risk.

The reason that I say this is because, until one of my new hires, I didn’t trust anyone who didn’t have a bachelor’s degree. She was eager, incredibly attentive in the hiring process, had a solid admin background and was a great writer. She was entry-level so I figured what the heck. She was the first person I decided to take a chance on, because of her strong work ethic. I’m so glad I did. She’s been with us almost a year and is continuing to amaze me and the team day after day. If you come across any new talent who demonstrates a willingness to work hard toward learning the skills needed to grow your company, give ‘em a shot.

Taking chances on implementing structure and policy

We live in a world where individuals express their dislike toward being micromanaged, but at the same time will tell you they can’t get their work completed because they’re confused or don’t know what to do. That’s why it’s essential you take risks on creating structure and policies. Despite the groans and moans when implementing, you’ll have less confusion, lost time, and less of a risk in losing money by having structure that people can follow that gives them a clear path to win.

This clear path is especially helpful when your company is thrown curveballs, like having to work from home for an unknown amount of time due to a global pandemic. When you have good policies in place, when it comes to job duties, people can understand what the endgame is. You have a team that’s working towards a purpose. As leaders, taking a risk by creating structure (both for your clients and your employees) is eventually going to be a win-win. When you can see the benefits of your newly created structures and policies actually working across the board, making people feel comfortable in their given tasks, you have just succeeded.

In my recently released book, Beverly Hills Boss, I share many personal stories and practical tips for how to get past the obstacles that could hold you back from a flourishing career in PR. My 20-year journey is chronicled from intern to business owner. The one theme you’ll find in all of it—take risks. Lots of them! Good luck and journey on.

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Nicole Rodrigues
Nicole Rodrigues is founder of NRPR Group and the Young Dreamers Foundation.

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