ComPRehension

Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
November 9, 2009

On Your Own Doesn’t Mean Going It Alone


The featured speakers weren’t the only ones who offered great tips during “Let’s Talk Business: Independent Practitioners Share Advice for New and Established PR Practices,” Sunday afternoon at the PRSA International Conference.

The title of the session became even more appropriate when the Q&A period started. Attendees would ask the speakers a question, and the result would go beyond a short answer and develop into a full-blown discussion with feedback and tips from other participants.

The dialogue reinforced to me the spirit of fellowship that I’ve found since I became a public relations consultant six years ago and joined the PRSA’s Independent Practitioners Alliance Section. I may be a solo public relations pro, but that doesn’t mean I have to go it alone. I may not have co-workers, but I do have colleagues.

Gayle Falkenthal, APR, and Joan Gladstone, APR, Fellow PRSA, were co-presenters during the master class on starting your consulting business and growing it into a profitable endeavor. Myths and misperceptions were corrected, and practical advice distilled about how to avoid common mistakes.

One of my favorite points was when Falkenthal noted that consultants need to choose clients carefully since the organizations we work with represent us as much as we represent them.

Heads were nodding when Gladstone said happy solo practitioners become unemployable. Many of us know the grass is lush on our side of the fence. When you are doing what you love for clients you enjoy working with — it’s difficult to think of your business as a J-O-B. 

The freedom to work how I want, when I want, and live where I wish — that means more to me than the false sense of security and steady paycheck provided by former employers. And I don’t miss suffering through staff meetings full of politics and posturing.

Successful independent practitioners develop their own definition of success, and create a business that fits them as individual professionals. I no longer feel the need to climb someone else’s ladder.

Falkenthal’s and Gladstone’s tips were spot-on, but the true magic happened after the presentation concluded. 

The Conference session was put together by the IPA as a way to meet the needs of the growing population of consultants and freelancers who are both experienced public relations pros and business owners. 

In recent months, IPA has held member conference calls, teleseminars and our second virtual conference. Our e-group consistently has ongoing discussions full of great advice, but today’s session confirmed that there is nothing like getting a bunch of public relations pros — self-employed or not — in a room talking about how much they love what they do.

Kristie Aylett, APR, principal, The KARD Group, has 20 years of experience helping organizations communicate more effectively. She has developed strategic plans, garnered extensive media coverage, produced marketing materials, coordinated special events, and a host of other communications activities. Her background in agency, higher education, health care and municipal environments brings a well-rounded perspective to her work with KARD Group clients. Kristie is actively involved in community organizations and advancing the public relations profession. A member of the New Orleans PRSA chapter, she has been elected as the 2010 chair of the six-state Southwest District. Earlier this year, the Southern Public Relations Federation honored Kristie with its highest award, the Professional Achievement Award, in recognition of her experience and dedication to the profession. Connect with Kristie on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

For coverage of the PRSA 2009 International Conference: Delivering Value, visit our Conference blog or follow the conversation on Twitter at hashtag #prsa09.

  • http://www.jandjconsulting.net Jennifer Heinly

    Kristie: Thanks so much for your post. I was the moderator for this session, and it was a pleasure working with our two wonderful speakers.

    The next day the IPA networking continued at our section luncheon at Buster’s. I continued to see the “sense of community” you mention in your post.

    We are all willing to help others just getting started or growing their independent practitioner businesses. Like many other independents, I believe strongly that there is “plenty of business” for everyone.

    Best of luck to IPAs in 2010!

  • Debbie Long

    I am sorry that I couldn’t be at the conference! Thanks for the update. I would be interested in “take aways” from other IPs that were able to participate in the Q&A.

    Repeatedly, IPA members have helped me find resources or provided advise that I use for my business or clients. It really is great to know that there is a group of senior practitioners from which you can learn, even if you are working on your own.

  • http://messagepointblog.blogspot.com/ wthiniker

    I’m sure it was just a coincidence that the conference was held during San Diego Beer Week. But I can assure you I did my share (and perhaps part of yours) to celebrate both events. This was my first world conference, so thanks for your gentleness.

    While most of the sessions I attended were of value, I found the opportunity to meet and network with so many of my fellow independent practitioners to be the highlight of the conference.

    I return to my lonely garret a bit less lonely, thanks to many new friends and contacts, and reenergized by the validation of so many independents that this is a great time to start and grow a communications practice.

    Bill Hiniker
    MessagePoint Communications
    messagepoint@cox.net

  • http://www.senterline.net Julie Senter

    As someone who went out on my own just 6 months ago, I was most interested in this session, and thankfully these pros didn’t disappoint! I appreciated all the wonderful advice, and it is comforting to know that I really don’t have to do it all, that I can find colleagues with different skills that compliment my own in order to provide my clients with the best service possible. Thanks to all involved with this great program!

  • http://kardconsulting.com kaylett

    Jennifer,
    Thanks for making the point about there being “enough business for everyone.” I agree whole-heartedly. Feeling competitive with one another is a waste of time. If a fellow IP gets a client that I was also pursuing, it allows me to move on and pursue business that is a better fit for my skills.

    You were a great moderator for both the Sunday session and the Monday networking lunch. I do believe the group would have spent the rest of the afternoon together, if not for the other information-packed PRSA conference sessions.

    Talk to you soon.
    Kristie

  • http://kardconsulting.com kaylett

    Debbie,
    We wish you could have made it to the conference too. As the 2009 chair of the Independent Practitioners Alliance, you were definitely missed. Witnessing the free flow of information and ideas would have rejuvenated you, just as it did me and so many others.
    Talk to you soon.
    Kristie

  • http://kardconsulting.com kaylett

    Bill,
    Thank you so much for the comment. The “lonely garret” is a great visual for the sense of isolation that can pervade my home office. It is refreshing to escape every so often and network with other independents. Next time, you need to “let down your hair,” be sure to reach out. The IPA’s virtual networks through the PRSA e-group, LinkedIn and Facebook are a great way to keep in touch.
    Kristie

  • http://kardconsulting.com kaylett

    Julie,
    Thank you for your comment. I remember well those first six months, when excitement was salted with doubt. I’m glad you enjoyed the conference and the networking with other independents. Be sure to hook up with the IPA on the PRSA e-group, where we can have secure discussions about business issues and share lessons learned. Our LinkedIn and Facebook groups are also becoming quite active.
    Good luck as your business grows. Please keep in touch.
    Kristie