Tips for Starting a Public Relations Firm

A small boutique PR firm doesn’t require a lot of start-up capital, but can provide a measurable return

By Jenni Simcoe, Writer

 Publicists are a unique breed. They tend to be extroverted people who can talk to anyone about anything. If you have the gift of gab and a background in communications, a start-up PR firm can be an excellent small business to start. It requires low start-up costs and can grow rapidly from one client to ten. Although starting your own boutique PR firm can be a low-maintenance endeavor, staying in the public relations business takes tenacity and patience. But the results can be worth it. Before you embark on your business plan, make sure you:

1. Have an existing client base or choose your target base by size, geography or industry.
2. Make media contacts by inviting local editors and producers to coffee or lunch and asking how they choose their stories.
3. Join industry groups that provide continued education opportunities and resources.

Make friends, influence people

The key to being a successful publicist is the quality of your media contact list. Build up local as well as national media contacts that cover the industries that you plan to service.

Bacon’s Information provides access to information on hundreds of thousands of journalists and editorial opportunities that will help you get targeted results for your clients.

Join public relations industry associations

Joining the right public relations association can put you in contact with other agencies that outsource work to partner agencies. Associations also keep you up-to-date with industry tradeshows, awards competitions and trends.


Media service companies

Familiarize yourself with several news service organizations that allow you to reach large segments of your target media, from internet media organizations to television, radio, consumer magazines and newspapers.

PR Newswire allows you to post press releases that target thousands of journalists and trade media outlets. The Gift List provides targeted listings for media contacts including their editorial needs for each gift season. Find additional press release services at

Set up your office systems

Before you get started as a flack, you’ll need to set up your software systems and set prices and services.

Learn how to price your services, prepare new customer proposals and set up your office systems in the FabJob’s Guide to Become a Public Relations Consultant. To set up your software systems, check out the list of public relations software providers. PR Tools bundles PR templates, “how-to” guides and resources on one CD.  Tools are available in a variety of formats including Word, PDF, Excel, Visio, and PowerPoint.

Subscribe to trade magazines

Keep abreast of industry trends by subscribing to at least one PR trade magazine.

PRWeek is the primary trade magazine for the PR industry.

  • Join your local Chamber of Commerce to get instant access to small business owners who know the importance of good public relations.
  • While writing your business plan, decide how you will charge your clients—by monthly retainer, project-by-project or hourly.
  • When finishing an assignment, make sure to provide a results report of what media were contacted and the placements that were achieved. Often times public relations is the first item that is cut on a budget. By providing measurable results, you increase your chances of being retained or rehired for the client’s next project.
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