Entrepreneurship in public relations

https://rachel-bell.co.uk/Entrepreneurship isn’t just about founders who are captaining a new start up, it’s something that should be cultivated in all good business regardless of size.

In my experience an entrepreneurship blossoms best in a culture where people are encouraged to offer up their opinions; to take initiative and to feel rewarded for going over and above their day job.  

At its heart it’s a mindset – a way of thinking and acting. It’s about imagining new ways to solve problems and create value, it’s the life blood of all good agencies, and indeed all good businesses.  

Over the years I’ve made it my business to cultivate entrepreneurial talent, it’s one of the key qualities I look for when I hire . It’s a quality that adds incredible value to any team over and above the ability to deliver outstanding comms work.

It feeds the skill set that enables individuals to pave their way in the industry. At its heart it’s the mindset to spot and capitalise on all opportunities. Building a culture where everyone feels empowered to offer up their ideas goes way beyond a vibrant, innovative office environment. An entrepreneurial environment is all about energy, when you walk into an entrepreneurial environment you can feel it, you can feel the energy in the business.   

There are five qualities that, I believe, are synonymous with the entrepreneurial mindset.

  1. Passion – you need to be passionate about doing great work, and restless in making opportunities the best they can be. Passion leads to energy and to everyone feeling it.
  2. Confidence – There is a great quote from Henry Ford “whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re probably right! Entrepreneurs think they can. They push aside self-doubt and put themselves in the frame.  
  3. Attitude – Entrepreneurs have attitude. In my experience, some leaders can be a little shy of these slightly more challenging to manage types. But it’s my view it’s these enquiring minds that challenge, question and seek to raise the bar that will drive their company’s performance. 
  4. Salesmanship – Understand the potential of opportunities for yourself, for your clients and for your company. Marry what’s needed with what you can deliver. Ask for the opportunity. Put yourself forward.  
  5. Commercial nouse – Understand the commercial model of comms, what the key metrics are, what drives your agency and your clients business. Understand the value of what you’re delivering, how to measure it; how to price it and what the margin is. Talk about financial performance and business metrics.

Energy, passion and confidence drive the entrepreneurial mindset, they are delivered in nuance and are hopefully being encouraged by those at the top of the business. All three of these values need to be alive and well in the leadership team – getting delivered in every breath and every word. If you can demonstrate these qualities for yourself, you will get yourself noticed and your work admired.  

Attitude, salesmanship and commercial nouse – these attributes are more built in the DNA of what drives you and are best unleashed where there is a clear incentive within the business as to how these attributes are acknowledged and rewarded. 

I started my own business aged 29, after leaving my account director role in an international PR Agency. One of my big achievements before I went out on my own was driving a pitch  which led to my first client win. It was unusual to pitch without a director but happily she was away handling a client crisis, so I was told I could give it a shot. However, without director buy-in to the account the path was a bit bumpy, the agency became frustrated with client servicing levels and resigned the client.   

My client was also frustrated and approached me to work for them in house, but it became the start of my entrepreneurial journey. I decided it would work better to handle the business as an agency and ‘Shine Communications’ was born.

Shine was named after the famous quote from Nelson Mandela "As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”  It was created with a vision of building an agency where everyone was encouraged to do just that – Shine. The agency went on to win over 100 business and industry awards including the Sunday Times Best Small Companies to Work For. But unusually, it harnessed the talents of many of its entrepreneurial team members, which enabled us to co-found a further 6 award winning PR agencies including John Doe Group, Mischief and Aduro. Shine is now The Academy Media Group, being led by Mischief co-founders Mitch Kaye and Dan Glover. 

The common thread is the entrepreneurial spirit. As account execs, decisions were flying way over our heads, but we all shared the hunger, and the nerve to step forward for a challenge. A clear mantra at Shine is ‘never miss an opportunity to learn’. This attitude coupled with a little fire in the belly and a sharp eye to spot and act on opportunities.

Moving forward to the now, I still own a number of companies, including businesses in other sectors such as recycled car parts "I Need Spares" and engineering "CIS". But most of my time is working with companies that want to transform their leadership and unleash the potential of their people.    

The Entrepreneurial Mindset:

  • Bring positive energy into your work
  • Have conversations and debates – not meetings
  • Continuously focus on moving things forward – create momentum
  • Demand solutions that raise the bar on how things are done
  • Be emotionally invested in every facet of your work 
  • Don’t tolerate politics and cliques - unite people behind working as one team with a shared goal

Simply put, entrepreneurs bring energy, inspire energy and create momentum.   

What was Rachel’s ‘one bit of advice’? 
“Back talent, hire for attitude and make sure your people feel listened to and, importantly, heard!” 

Rachel has a book available on Amazon called ‘Start-Ups, Pivots and Pop-Ups: How to Succeed By Creating Your Own Business” co-written with Richard Hall.  

Thanks to Rachel Bell, entrepreneur, mentor and momentum creator Chairman John Doe Group and The Academy Media Group & co-author Start-Ups, Pivots and Pop-Ups for writing this article for us.

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This is part of our Beginner's Guide to public relations