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How to start a PR company with Google and a credit card

In 1977, Mark Perry ran a punk fanzine called Sniffin Glue – a defining image from the mag was a hand drawn diagram of finger positions on a guitar for E, A and B7, with the caption: “Here’s three chords. Now form a band.” (Perry himself denies it ever appeared in the publication – but for better or worse, the myth has taken precedence over the reality).

In a similar vein, there is nothing much to stop anyone starting a PR company today – with little more than Internet access and a credit card.

Here’s the FAQ:
1. Do I need an office?

No. If you need to meet people, go to them. If you really feel the need for a business address, then there are plenty of virtual office solutions that won’t break the bank in the early days. Or simply hire meeting rooms as and when you need them.

2. What about a phone?

Use Skype and a mobile (pay as you go if you are on a tight budget)

3. Do I need to own my own computer?

This will probably be your single biggest investment – even so, for PR needs, you could pick up a perfectly serviceable laptop for a few hundred pounds. If you were feeling really bootstrapped, you could get away with simply finding a comfortable internet cafe and paying for your internet access as you go.

4. Do I need my own software?

No. In short, Google is your friend. Using Google Docs gives you free access to a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software.

5. What about a database?

Again, who needs to pay for stuff these days? Try Blist.

6. How do I go about promoting myself?

Build a website. There are plenty of free tools around to do that. Again, you could try Google. Or why not just have a blog as your primary website? And don’t forget LinkedIn.

7. Aren’t there specific services such as PR Newswire, Vocus, etc that no self respecting PR firm should be without?

Not anymore. Name any service that costs a lot of money and you can usually find a lower cost or free alternative. Use Sourcewire for press release distribution. Use Getting Ink Requests to find out about editorial opportunities. Use Google Alerts via RSS to Google Reader and Google Blog Search for monitoring.

8. Don’t I need some kind of fancy intranet?

No. Google Sites will do the trick (some people don’t think it’s much cop, but the point is, it’s free – and at that price, it’s good enough.

9. What about setting up a limited company, VAT, banking, accounting?

Setting up a limited company is quick and straightforward these days – do it yourself, or use a third party. You can apply for the flat rate VAT scheme which removes a lot of the headache. Banking, again, do it online – a number of the banks are offering 2 years free banking now. Accounting – for returns purposes, if you feel confident, do it yourself – or at worst you can get accounting done for a small business at relatively cheap rates these days.

10. I don’t actually know that much about PR – how do I learn?

Well, if journalists are to be believed, the professionals aren’t that good themselves – so you haven’t got much to lose. Even so, there is plenty of good free advice to be found on best practice – try following it and you might even surprise yourself at the results.

Of course, I exaggerate for effect. There are clearly many other factors to consider, However, I believe the general principle is true – namely, that the barriers to entry and potential ongoing running costs of a PR business these days have never been lower. The main constraints are time, energy and imagination. As well as delivering true value added services that clients are prepared to pay for.

Will the spirit of “three chords, now form a band” be reborn in today’s PR environment? Let’s see.

7 replies on “How to start a PR company with Google and a credit card”

Two more utilities: – contacts are key, even though this social utility is not designed for business, it is amazing how many clients I have on facebook. This is a great way to keep accessable… – handy accounting tool, better value for money once your business has picked up. Almost fun to use (as if accounting could ever be fun)

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