Every Friday since the pandemic shut things down in March (here in the U.S.), we’ve highlighted communicators and marketers who at first were trying to figure out which part of the sky just fell on them in My Hot Mess. Then we shifted to those who are crushing the pandemic with Survive & ThriveNow it’s time to get back to business, even if it’s not totally normal. We’re going to do that with an Ask Me Anything series—an elevation of our previous Spin Sucks Question series.

Today, a Spin Sucks Community member asks how to build a PR team from scratch. 

Welcome back to another Ask Me Anything, which is a new series where we talk to our friends, our viewers, and our community. about what they would like to know. The whole point is to stump me. If I don’t know the answer, I will ask one of my smart friends to join me.

Let’s take a look at the mailbag.

Today’s question comes from a Spin Sucks Community member. She asks:

I am building a PR team inside an agency and I need some help! What are the crucial roles I should hire first? Which tools are necessary for the most success? What are realistic goals to start?

Though I am not stumped with this question—I did build a PR department for an ad agency, after all—I thought it’d be fun to ask Paul Sutton this question…mostly to watch his head explode a little bit. You’ll get to see it, too!

Building a PR Team from Scratch

Although the question relates to specifically a PR job, start by thinking a lot broader than PR. There is still a tendency for PR to be narrowed down to media relations and it is so, so much bigger than that. If you are building a department, start thinking about what specific skills you might need.

That might be a media relations expert, a copywriter, a technical SEO person, and/or someone who knows their way around the social networks. You might need a digital expert to employ paid campaigns.

There are lots of ways you can take this, but think about in terms of the skills you need and then go that route.

Paul said:

When I set up as a consultant six years ago, I had a debate at that time: am I going to be a consultant or am I going to start an agency? Now, if I’d gone down the agency route, I would have gone exactly the way I’ve just advised: to figure out what skills I need and build the agency that way. 

It’s less about a certain level person or a certain number of years of experience—but more about the things you need that person to do, and who has an expertise that will allow you scale quickly.

Of course, experience and backgrounds are great, but if you’re just starting out, your goal is to scale quickly and show prospects you have the team to do the work right now. The best way to do that is to find the person (or people) who is most applicable to the role you need to fill now.

Then, your job as department head is not to do the work but to blend the talent together, put structure into place, and create process.

Ask Me Anything

If you have a question that you’d like to stump me on or get one of my very smart friends to answer, drop a comment in the (free) Spin Sucks Community.

I will be back next week. Hopefully, my intern will be, too.

Photo by Natalie Pedigo on Unsplash

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich