The early days when I first started my lifestyle PR agency were the worst. I had to promote at 3 different clubs for 3 years as that brought in approximately £100,000 per year to my business and I needed it since everything I earned, I spent. I had 9 interns, a huge office in Mayfair (that I got free in exchange for doing PR consulting for Lamborghini drinks), and I had very little sleep.
It’s not like I slept during my three years at University either, partying every night and then having the 4am wake up call for crew practice (I was a coxswain for the number 1 team in America before going to University). But, as a 30-year-old adult (the adult definition is questionable at times) and starting a business I have never been in, the stress levels were high and the amount of work hours was higher.
Three days a week I had to be at a London nightclub from 11pm till 2:30am. That meant by 3:30am I would be in bed for those glorious 3.5 hours sleep before I had to wake up and go to the office before anyone else arrived.
I didn’t have Mail Chimp (a CRM system), which meant that I had to individually email thousands of contacts information about new clients, usually until 10pm. When I got a new client, I would have to research all the media contacts I needed in that sector without a subscription to a media database. This took months.
We collated a contact database which has now over 50,000 contacts – mostly through simply picking up the phone and calling the fashion brand, jewellery brand, hotel, restaurant, magazine and getting the right contacts.
At the beginning of running my own PR Agency company, I knew pretty much nothing (I still don’t know loads). My accountant, my accountant’s recommended lawyers and credit controllers taught me the most. I remember even the first year of business, I had to get back all the VAT tax I didn’t charge to my clients because I didn’t really understand the concept of creating an invoice with VAT added on.
The main 5 lessons I learned are:
- If someone, whether a client/employee/contractor, wants to break a contract or screw you over, they will.
- Don’t get too angry about things as mistakes, screw-ups, betrayals happen. (My temper level used to be at an all-time high)
- Always ask – Is there an easier, more cost-effective and time-saving way to do something?
- Set boundaries and learn when to say no whilst keeping in mind your financial needs as a business. I have a new rule that unless something is imperative, a client is paying me or I am meeting a potential future client that understands our agency costs beforehand, our team rarely accepts 9am-5pm meetings.
- Is the client asking too much for what they are spending? Time + manpower = money.
- Can I set boundaries for what work is to be done and hours to accept calls?
- Is the employee worth a pay rise even though there is no control whether they will leave in the future? Is this employee bringing any business or simply awesome at admin?
- Is the contract break worth pursuing legally?
- Someone once told me that a meeting is about the meeting and not about the food. As I have grown older and have worked for 22 years now, I can strongly say that that is nonsense – ENJOY THE FOOD. If you have the rare experience of having a meeting that isn’t a waste of time, you might as well enjoy the food anyways as life is short and positive sensory experiences are valuable. Chances are you will remember those incredible hot homemade pancakes with maple syrup over the hundreds of meetings you will take.
Day in the life of a PR Agency Boss
So, I will share a “Day in the Life” of what it’s like being a top London PR Agency boss…
It’s 7am. My phone alarm is going off and I have trained myself to not turn it on yet or else I will be lost in a muddle of work emails, personal emails, texts, WhatsApp’s, Facebook messages, Instagram DM’s and LinkedIn messages whilst in bed.
I clean, take a shower, open all the windows for fresh air (even in the Winter), and make some hot Monmouth coffee. When I actually turn my phone on, there is an onslaught of messages on every single social media platform and already I will have received a load of questions from my two full-time personal assistants at my PR Agency.
This morning, our team is organising 12 London Fashion Week events across 5 days which we all have to manage. I usually go to the gym at least 3 days a week and read but this has to be put on hold.
By 9am, I have replied to a bunch of questions and emails whilst giving instructions on how to handle certain niggly situations below:
- Like the fact that an editor has decided to TROLL US ON TWITTER because we invited him to a top restaurant for free and told him that our client expects an article… How dare we invite him to a free Michelin star meal, what a bunch of bullies we are….
- The fact that 130 hotel concierges RSVP-d to an event at a 60-person capacity venue
- An entire model agency cancelled their party last minute when the venue has prepared for the evening so we need to find a replacement
- A dress that was supposed to be given as a gift to one of our guests is now being marketed as a competition prize on the designers’ Instagram account
- Our client complained asking where the press bookings were from the target media list that we discussed from the meeting just 2 days ago…
- After weeks of promising a female celebrity a red carpet dress from our client, our client could not deliver it. We are now seeing all the press she received for wearing a different designer’s dress in our targeted media list!
- Half the attendees at one of our press dinners CANCELLED ON THE DAY leaving us scrambling to find replacements
- Our Annabel’s dinner now has space for 1 more editor to attend and we have a couple of hours to find someone
- Our fashion show at the Royal Opera House is happening in 1 day and we still do not have the seat allocations for the 150 guests we invited plus the 150 guests the designer has invited (we receive them on the morning of)
From someone who has received violent threats and been called profane names within spitting distance of my face by clients, social media attacks filled with profanity on a tribute picture on my father’s death by a former intern, and a fake “I Hate Jessica” Instagram account created by someone I interviewed just the day before, I’m relatively patient under the scathing onslaught of hate. People aren’t all terrible, they’re just angry sometimes.
The rest of the day is simply nonstop fire fighting against flaky cancellations, last-minute changes, unrealistic demands, and the mountains of added on client requests. This particular evening is the managing of constant event updates whilst hosting a 36-person press dinner at one of our restaurant clients, attending to hotel concierges at the same venue, then hosting one of our London Fashion Week parties with Select Model Management at another one of our client venues until 3am.
Our day’s work is never done and, despite the late hours and stress, the constant changes and challenges keep me striving to figure out better ways to handle things in my PR Agency and in life.
Do you work at or own a PR agency? Is your day very similar too? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments section below.