What I’ve Learned
The idea for Prosper for Purpose came from my desire to start a communications firm where I (and others) could do well by doing good. Fast forward four years and #TeamProsper has grown to include top notch employees supported by freelancers and strategic partners–all committed to doing business the Prosper way.
That’s not to say that it’s been easy. The saying that experience is a hard teacher is true. But every challenge is really just an opportunity. Here are my four top takeaways.
BUILD YOUR BRAND, BUT LET IT GROW
Branding is one of the key services we offer clients and it is the component that new businesses most often miss. You have to know your ‘why,’ be able to articulate what makes you special and have a visual presence (logo and website) to be taken seriously. I created Prosper’s voice and visual brand before I launched the company, hiring a graphic designer to create our logo (which I still think is perfect) and building our first website myself. Translation: you don’t need a lot of money to launch a small business, but you need to make some investment.
Over the past four years, our brand has become more clear and our current website (built by our friends at Go Media) and messaging reflect that. Of course I would be remiss not to say that no company owns their brand. You make a promise to your community, as evidenced through your messaging and visuals, but it’s how you deliver on that promise–from how you treat your employees and clients to how you engage in your community–that truly determines your brand. I am proud of how #TeamProsper delivers on our promise, through a culture based on servant leadership, stellar customer service and a Doing Good program that competes with the best philanthropic programs around.
WORK WITH THE RIGHT PEOPLE
Prosper’s very first value is People, because if you’re not working with the right people, nothing else matters. In a small agency, people can make or break you. As Jim Collins says in “Good to Great,” you have to get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus. Sometimes the wrong people show up looking like the right people and saying the right things. You welcome them on the bus and then discover they’re not the right people after all. I have learned that the best solution, regardless of how far down the road we’ve traveled together, is to let them off the bus. Today I have any potential candidate meet with every member of our team. Different people see different things.
I have had one exceptionally ‘right’ person with me from the very beginning (okay, month three). Kathryn Perkins and I became friends after previously working together and she was present with a group of friends when I first shared the idea for Prosper. She serves as Prosper’s director of public relations, working with clients and on behalf of our firm.
The other critical people component is clients. Sometimes great projects come with difficult clients. Sometimes small projects bring great clients, and the scope grows into a long-term relationship. We have been fortunate to have mostly great projects and great clients, but we’ve had a few of the others as well. Life’s too short to work with people who don’t respect you, your process or your people.
ESTABLISH SYSTEMS & PROCESSES
One of the first things we did as the agency grew was to subscribe to an online project management system. This allowed our team to create a process for each project, assigning roles, responsibilities and due dates to our initial team of four. Since we were a virtual agency for our first two years, this system allowed each of us to work on our own schedule, and enabled us to see who had done what. And then I met the process queen, Jenny Kelley.
Jenny was running her own business when we met, so to most people we were competitors. And yet, to us, we were potential collaborators, just waiting for the right time and opportunity to work together. That opportunity came in the spring of 2015 when, after collaborating on a client project for a few months, Jenny told me she wanted to merge her company with Prosper. Within a few months, Jenny had created systems and processes to enable our growth and I have often wondered how we ever managed without them. Jenny is a great example of the ‘right’ person in the right ‘seat.’
STAY TRUE TO YOUR PURPOSE (BUT BE ADAPTABLE)
Our mission is twofold: To grow a company dedicated to the development of our people; and to partner with clients to drive authentic engagement and purposeful action that supports a quadruple bottom line: people, prosperity, planet and purpose.
Remember when I said Prosper for Purpose came from my desire to do well by doing good? Well, that desire, as it turned out, is also my ‘why,’ my purpose. It’s enabled me, and the rest of #TeamProsper, to evaluate new ideas and opportunities through the lens of our mission (stated above) and our vision, communications for a better world. Technology changes, clients and employees come and go, projects end. We can adapt to these changes by staying true to our purpose, delivering on our brand promise, working with the right people, making process work for us and knowing when to pivot. Here’s to year five–we’re ready to rock.
P.S. A heartfelt thanks to our team: Kathryn, Jenny, Megan, Ashley, Olivia, Paula and Maggie; our families and friends, clients and colleagues. We consider you all part of #TeamProsper and look forward to sharing year FIVE with you!
When you sit down to write, what is your first thought? Is it the topic you’re writing about? Your audience? How often do you think about your level of writing?
PR practitioners are writers. As with many other authors, much of our focus is writing for our audience. So what reading level is optimal when writing?
How to assess your writing level
A variety of components go into measuring readability, including syllables, sentence length, and other proxies for vocabulary and concept complexity.
The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level formula is one readability test that calculates a grade level based on sentence length and the amount of three-syllable words within a given text. Also, sites like Readability-Score.com are an easy tool you can use to measure the readability of your writing.
Readability or complexity?
Research says writing somewhere between a 4th to 8th grade level will allow you to reach the largest audience.
“Copy that’s 4th to 6th grade level is barrier-free and can be read quickly and comprehended well by all adult readers,” according to blogger Jeff Brooks.
For blogs, you can get away with writing at an 8th grade level.
Contently explains that by keeping your writing simple you have the opportunity for a larger reach. “The other lesson from this study is that we should aim to reduce complexity in our writing as much as possible. We won’t lose credibility by doing so. Our readers will comprehend and retain our ideas more reliably.”
Writing for your audience
In addition to making sure you simplify your writing, it’s also important to consider your audience. If your goal is to reach a large, diverse audience, you should aim for a lower level. If you’re developing a newsletter that will be distributed to a highly-educated audience, your writing can be more sophisticated.
To sum it up, write simply and keep your target audience in mind while writing in order to communicate most effectively.
Bill Gates is quoted with saying, “If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on PR.” While there is some debate about whether or not Gates actually uttered those words, there is no doubt it is sage advice.
The success of your business depends on how well you communicate with your customers. This is why we (and other PR agencies) exist. But agencies aren’t just competing against each other for your business. We are also contending against in-house PR teams. So why is an agency a better hire? Here are five ways hiring an agency benefits your organization.
More Bang for Your Buck
We hear it all the time: internal hires are less expensive. Are they though? When you hire an employee, you only get the experience of one individual person. When you hire a PR and communications agency, you get the knowledge and skill of an entire team. With Prosper for Purpose, that means more than 80 years of combined experience (wow, that’s a LOT of experience!). To match what we bring to the table you would need to hire a strategist, a writer, a designer, a social media guru, a publicist, a researcher, an event manager and more. Does an internal hire still sound like the less expensive option?
Handling PR internally requires finding, hiring and training the right employee. PR agencies, on the other hand, have the ability to quickly ramp up capabilities when necessary. On any given day you may work with everyone from the intern to the CEO. Our team is always up-to-speed on the latest and greatest trends not only in PR, but also in a variety of industries. As we like to say, we wear as many hats as experience permits and our closets can hold.
We’re Masters of Messaging…and More
Good PR practitioners are good writers. Prosper’s tagline, “communications for a better world,” is based on the belief that words have the power to transform relationships. We’re storytellers at heart. Creatively trying to find a buzzworthy story warms our hearts as much as the eighth cup of coffee we just consumed. But that’s not all. Our strengths range from brand development, strategic planning and crisis communications to media relations, fundraising management and organizational training. Simply put, we offer a large suite of services. Pretty sweet, huh?
Good communications start with good networks. Hiring a PR agency with a team of connected people can greatly increase your chance of connecting with the media and consumers. PR is what we do all day, every day. We’re pros at pitching. We know which reporters cover the nonprofit sector and which journalists prefer to write about consumer products. And we can make that knowledge work for you.
A PR agency can become an extension of your company, while also providing independent perspectives. We can help you build a brand, launch a new product or make your business stand out in a crowded market all while remaining impartial. It’s easy for business owners to become die-hard fans of their companies and believe everything about it is newsworthy. Sometimes an outsider’s outlook can help you see things in a different light.
These are just a few of the many reasons why a business should hire a PR agency. If you’re looking for a communications firm, give us a call. We’d be happy to talk to you about our capabilities and how we can help your organization prosper.