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Women: The New Superheroes of PR? Increase in Women Owners Signals Leadership Shift

By Merrily Orsini, Managing Director, Corecubed

It appears there is a mini—revolution going on in the PR industry based on the changing role of women. As a whole, females have traditionally filled the PR work horse role. However, a recent shift in the industry has signaled a change in the ownership and leadership of agencies. Women account managers have been utilized for a long time, but rarely did one see too many women filling the senior management positions. This most likely follows the historical business trend, creative or otherwise, to promote and use mostly male executives.

Today’s workplace, however, is made up of a widely diverse group of people including mompreneurs, working mothers and telecommuters, to name just a few. Women have finally stepped into a work position that demands a new way to do things that better fit with the female lifestyle and unique family demands. As the owner of an integrated communications agency, I was recently notified that we were awarded Working Mother Magazine’s accolades as one of the top 25 Women—Owned Businesses in the nation. Our unique approach to running an agency is the primary reason we were awarded this honor. More on that in a bit.

Lifestyle Shifts Cause Workplace Shifts

Women are inherently great communicators. This is why we are drawn to PR and other communication careers in the first place. With the advent of the Internet, a whole new world opened up for us and our clients. As working women, many of us have very busy lives, juggling family, career and life’s responsibilities. We now demand ways to do business that fit in with this juggling act. Instead of trying to fit our careers into our lifestyle, women are now fitting our lifestyles into our careers. This is the main reason why I think you see many women leaving the traditional shops and opening up their own agencies.

Corecubed, for example, works collaboratively, but remotely. We are not bound by hiring talented PR, marketing and design people within certain geographic areas. Additionally, the business model is conducive to those looking for a more flexible schedule. We want our employees to put in solid, focused, productive time rather than just “punching in” to do a specific amount of scheduled work time every day. Plus, working at the employee’s location of choice is a dream for many when children or elder care responsibilities are involved. Overall, it makes for a happy, more creative team, focused on their strengths, which ultimately translates into stellar work and better results for clients.

For those of you thinking about making the jump from being in PR to owning an agency in PR, there are some definite things to consider.

The Rewards of Having Your Own Shop

Obviously, the money is one. If you are successful and you own a business, you are going to be more successful than if you work for someone else. However, what most non—owners do not grasp is the amount of time and energy it takes to obtain and retain clients. Perhaps the other side of business ownership, the softer rewards, are the better reasons to work for yourself: the personal satisfaction, sense of accomplishment and enhanced creativity. Most successful people in PR tend to be type As, so owning an agency works for us; we get to have it our way. Additionally, women owning their own shops will get the variety of the best of all job functions. However, the buck stops here when you are an owner, and that has its upside and downside.
The Downside, Because There Always Is One

Most business owners, even in the creative industries, are global thinkers and visionaries. That is, details aren’t always our strong suit, but we clearly get the “big picture.” As the proverb correctly reminds us, the devil lies in the details. Clients will not stay on board if details slip through the cracks, so other prospective agency owners should not believe that they can do it all. While today’s woman is much like a superhero, she needs to know her weaknesses and address them.

As mentioned earlier, one of the great benefits can also be a downside: The buck stops here. As an employee, you have someone watching your back, and someone meeting payroll. As an owner, you have nobody to turn to when times get rough, and digging into your own pocket to pay employees sometimes makes the commitment more than you bargained for. As women, I find we have to be even tougher than our male counterparts at times, and we have to pull on strengths that are not necessarily taught to us.

What It Takes To Be A Successful Woman Agency Owner

Perseverance is number one—along with a belief in yourself, because there will be those who are naysayers. There is a quote from Calvin Coolidge posted within constant visibility on my computer. It reads: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with great talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence, determination alone are omnipotent.”

There are two pieces of advice that I always give potential entrepreneurs. From an ownership standpoint, the best advice was when my mother said, “Hire people who know more about something than you do.” The other was to be passionate about what it is you are doing.

The Future of Women in PR

Since I had two brothers growing up, and have raised two sons, being female never seemed to be much different than being male. With a professional working mother, I also was not saddled with a prejudice that there were any barriers to my professional goals. While my background and experiences may differ from others, I think there are real lessons to take away for women in PR looking to take over a leadership role.

Having been an entrepreneur since 1981, and regularly matching my male counterparts in successes, I find that it is still up to the individual to raise that success bar. Being successful has to be a result of personal goal setting and achievement, and one has to believe in oneself despite all odds. Then, take a toast to success when it happens, and set those goals higher for the next round. Always look forward, always take lessons from the past and always enjoy the present.

Merrily Orsini is managing director for corecubed, an integrated marketing communications company that provides marketing, design, PR and new media services. Orsini has received the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur—of—the—Year award, was the first female president of the downtown Louisville Rotary Club and recently was a part of the corecubed team winning a Public Relations Society of America Bronze Anvil Award in 2007.

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