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How I started my own PR agency

Rachel Soothill is director of marketing and PR agency BrightWord based in Chichester, West Sussex.

Since I can remember I’ve always loved writing and used to create books and stories for my parents, so naturally English was always my favoured subject at school.

Start of my career

I quickly decided on a career as a journalist to fulfil my writing ambition and carried out various work experience roles at local newspapers before starting university to study English with communications.

Read more: How I became a newspaper editor in my twenties

Following university, my first job ended up being at a family-run marketing and PR agency, which set me on a new career path and led me to where I am today.

Being a PR small agency, I was able to really cut my teeth in the world of marketing and get involved in a great many activities for a range of clients in different sectors.

Going out on my own

After a stint of travelling – an experience I highly recommend to everyone – I was lucky enough to secure a job in the marketing department at Goodwood.

Over the years I was there, I learnt a great deal and got to work on some incredible PR and marketing campaigns. However, I missed working in an agency environment and getting satisfaction from helping small businesses. 

My brother and sister-in-law were both self-employed and with their encouragement, I was inspired to try out freelancing. I had work lined up before leaving Goodwood, and a lot of research and thought went into the decision – it is not one to make lightly! So, in 2011 BrightWord was born!

Read more: They said I’d never amount to anything – but now I run my own PR agency

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Making the right contacts

I started out doing small ad hoc jobs such as copywriting and press campaigns. I was very fortunate that I had good contacts and the timing was right due to the recession and cuts in marketing budgets, so I very quickly picked up regular work and clients.

My big win came when I heard about a new wedding venue that was due to open.  After contacting the owner through Twitter, now eight years on, they are still a very valued client. This kind of client retention and loyalty is what I believe sets us apart from other agencies. We genuinely care about the businesses we work with and want to help them be their very best while having some fun along the way.

Growing the PR agency

After less than a year I had a freelancer and graduate working with me and later took the plunge to take on my first full-time employee. I now have a team of five lovely ladies, all of whom bring their own skills and personality to the business and I wouldn’t be without them – especially as I also have a young family to look after. 

We now have a portfolio of long-standing clients across a variety of sectors from tourist attractions and jewellers to accountants and stately homes. As an agency, we deliver integrated and creative marketing and PR services, and no day is ever the same.

We could be working on a partnership marketing opportunity, writing content or pitching press releases one minute to organising events and managing digital campaigns another. Although we are a very busy office, we all enjoy the fast pace and variety of work while still having the opportunity to be creative. However, seeing the impact our work has on the businesses we represent has to be the best part of the job.

We are storytellers

The common thread that runs throughout everything we do is the ability to translate messages into engaging stories that compel and inspire audiences to engage with the brands we work with. In essence, we are storytellers – an idea that would definitely appeal to my younger self!

It’s not all easy wins and fun though, running a marketing business can be stressful and demanding.

As well as managing various clients and multiple campaigns at one time we are also working with many suppliers and partners such as designers, printers, developers and journalists as well as keeping on top of deadlines so being organised is absolutely crucial.

As a small business owner, I also need to manage aspects which I will admit do not always come naturally to me, such as HR, payroll and accounting. I highly recommend outsourcing anything that you really struggle with so you can focus on what you are best at.

My advice

I think the best advice I can give to anyone looking to get into marketing and PR is to use your initiative and get as much work experience as possible.

When we are recruiting for graduates or new members of staff, someone that has gone out and gained some experience really stands out. Also, please always proofread your CVs and cover letters.

Writing and attention to detail is a huge part of any marketing or PR role and you don’t want to fall at the first hurdle.  

Charlotte Harding
Charlotte Harding
Charlotte is a journalist and the co-founder of The Women's Work Collective.


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