Success with Collaboration
By Megan Neher
I’ve had my own company for 14 years and it took me the first five years to figure out how to categorize it. I started by saying I was a freelancer or a subcontractor. But as I grew and got more clients and even my own subcontractors, things began to change.
My elevator speech morphed into: Hi, I own my own boutique PR agency. But we were a unique model. Today, I don’t believe we are. We are collaborators who work virtually rather than a traditional PR firm. Most of the people I work with have their own business cards and have successful marketing, writing, graphic design or social media freelance companies of their own.
I have longstanding relationships with: Ashley Cleveland, Erica Cohen, Laurie Morrissey, Kari D’Amato, Nancy Besa, Angela Presnell, Suze Parker, Robyn Caulfield, Jenny Kincaid, Melanie Deardorff, Elaine Symanski, Kerry O’Connor, Jenny Wheat and more. We exchange ideas, business leads and referrals and most importantly collaborate on client work!
I spoke to an agency owner in 2004 who had been doing marketing and PR this way in San Francisco for more than a decade. He described his business model and to this day I’ve patterned my company after his. Through Kansas City International Association of Business Communicators, I’ve met many other small/boutique PR firms and other communicators who have similar businesses set up very much the same. I knew this was the model I wanted to continue for my business.
I love working from home (at least most days I do, when the kids and pets aren’t driving me crazy), and I love having the flexibility of subcontractors.
But I think the best part of this model is being able to take advantage of the collaboration of experts in the industry. When my clients have a complex challenge, it makes sense for my business to capitalize on specific individuals who I’m confident will be successful for specific strategies.
How have we been successful? Communication is paramount. Facilitating information flow across clients and the team through weekly status meetings, daily emails and other tools is just one of the ways we support each other.
What does this look like for the future? Even more collaboration! As a boutique PR firm handling social media, grassroots marketing, media outreach, influencer relations and community events, we have already been working collaboratively with larger advertising agencies and digital firms as their “PR department.” I predict that trend will continue as the industry evolves.
When working with these larger agencies, it’s been so exciting to be a part of a team servicing a big client and a more comprehensive agency team. I’ve learned a few things as an “agency collaborator” and it’s been a rewarding challenge.
- We’re collaborators, not competitors.
- Egos are checked at the door.
- We must prove collaborative results and be willing to work cross-agency.
Like all industries, this one continues to evolve and I’m excited about the future of collaboration and continued industry networking.
Megan Neher is past president of KC IABC and owner of Megan Neher Public Relations.