How to write a business plan for a public relations agency?
Writing a business plan for a public relations agency can be an intimidating task, especially for those just starting.
This in-depth guide is designed to help entrepreneurs like you understand how to create a comprehensive business plan so that you can approach the exercise with method and confidence.
We'll cover: why writing a public relations agency business plan is so important - both when starting up, and when running and growing the business - what information you need to include in your plan, how it should be structured, and what tools you can use to get the job done efficiently.
Let's get started!
Why write a business plan for a public relations agency?
Understanding the document's scope and goals will help you easily grasp its structure and content. Before diving into the specifics of the plan, let's take a moment to explore the key reasons why having a public relations agency business plan is so crucial.
To have a clear roadmap to grow the business
It's rarely business as usual for small businesses. The economy follows cycles where years of growth are followed by recessions, and the business environment is always changing with new technologies, new regulations, new competitors, and new consumer behaviours appearing all the time...
In this context, running a business without a clear roadmap is like driving blindfolded: it's dangerous at best. That's why writing a business plan for a public relations agency is essential to create successful and sustainable businesses.
To write an effective business plan, you will need to take stock of where you are (if you are already in business) and where you want the business to go in the next three to five years.
Once you know where you want your public relations agency to be, you'll have to identify:
- what resources (human, equipment, and capital) are needed to get there,
- at what pace the business needs to progress to get there in time,
- and what risks you'll face along the way.
Going through this process regularly is beneficial, both for startups and existing companies, as it helps make informed decisions about how best to allocate resources to ensure the long-term success of the business.
To maintain visibility on future cash flows
Businesses can go for years without making a profit, but they go bust as soon as they run out of cash. That's why "cash is king", and maintaining visibility on your public relations agency's future cash flows is critical.
How do I do that? That's simple: you need an up-to-date financial forecast.
The good news is that your public relations agency business plan already contains a financial forecast (more on that later in this guide), so all you have to do is to keep it up-to-date.
To do this, you need to regularly compare the actual financial performance of your business to what was planned in your financial forecast, and adjust the forecast based on the current trajectory of your business.
Monitoring your public relations agency's financial health will enable you to identify potential financial problems (such as an unexpected cash shortfall) early and to put in place corrective measures. It will also allow you to detect and capitalize on potential growth opportunities (higher demand from a given segment of customers for example).
To secure financing
Crafting a comprehensive business plan for your public relations agency, whether you're starting up or already established, is paramount when you're seeking financing from banks or investors.
Given how fragile small businesses are, financiers will want to ensure that you have a clear roadmap in place as well as command and control of your future cash flows before entertaining the idea of funding you.
For banks, the information in your business plan will be used to assess your borrowing capacity - which is defined as the maximum amount of debt your business can afford alongside your ability to repay the loan. This evaluation helps them decide whether to extend credit to your business and under what terms (interest rate, duration, repayment options, collateral, etc.).
Similarly, investors will thoroughly review your plan to determine if their investment can yield an attractive return. They'll be looking for evidence that your public relations agency has the potential for healthy growth, profitability, and consistent cash flow generation over time.
Now that you understand the importance of creating a business plan for your public relations agency, let's delve into the necessary information needed to craft an effective plan.
Information needed to create a business plan for a public relations agency
Drafting a public relations agency business plan requires research so that you can project sales, investments and cost accurately in your financial forecast, and convince the reader that there is a viable commercial opportunity to be seized.
Below, we'll focus on three critical pieces of information you should gather before starting to write your plan.
Carrying out market research for a public relations agency
As you consider writing your business plan for a public relations agency, conducting market research becomes a vital step to ensure accurate and realistic financial projections.
Market research provides valuable insights into your target customer base, competitors, pricing strategies, and other key factors that can significantly impact the commercial success of your business.
Through this research, you may uncover trends that could influence your public relations agency.
You could find that clients may be increasingly interested in investing in content marketing and social media management services. Additionally, market research may reveal that clients might be looking for more integrated solutions that combine traditional public relations with digital strategies.
Such market trends play a significant role in forecasting revenue, as they offer valuable data about potential customers' spending habits and preferences.
By incorporating these findings into your financial projections, you can present investors with more accurate information, helping them make informed decisions about investing in your public relations agency.
Developing the sales and marketing plan for a public relations agency
As you embark on creating your public relations agency business plan, it is crucial to budget sales and marketing expenses beforehand.
A well-defined sales and marketing plan should include precise projections of the actions required to acquire and retain customers. It will also outline the necessary workforce to execute these initiatives and the budget required for promotions, advertising, and other marketing efforts.
This approach ensures that the appropriate amount of resources is allocated to these activities, aligning with the sales and growth objectives outlined in your business plan.
The staffing and equipment needs of a public relations agency
As you embark on starting or expanding your public relations agency, having a clear plan for recruitment and capital expenditures (investment in equipment and real estate) is essential for ensuring your business's success.
Both the recruitment and investment plans must align with the timing and level of growth projected in your forecast, and they require appropriate funding.
The staffing costs of a public relations agency might include salaries for a public relations director, a public relations coordinator, and additional staff such as writers, graphic designers, and accountants. The equipment costs might include computers, printers, and other office equipment, as well as software and other tools necessary to manage the agency's public relations campaigns.
To create a realistic financial forecast, you also need to consider other operating expenses associated with the day-to-day running of your business, such as insurance and bookkeeping.
With all the necessary information at hand, you are ready to begin crafting your business plan and developing your financial forecast.
What goes into your public relations agency's financial forecast?
The objective of the financial forecast of your public relations agency's business plan is to show the growth, profitability, funding requirements, and cash generation potential of your business over the next 3 to 5 years.
The four key outputs of a financial forecast for a public relations agency are:
- The profit and loss (P&L) statement,
- The projected balance sheet,
- The cash flow forecast,
- And the sources and uses table.
Let's look at each of these in a bit more detail.
The projected P&L statement
Your public relations agency forecasted P&L statement enables the reader of your business plan to get an idea of how much revenue and profits your business is expected to make in the near future.
Ideally, your reader will want to see:
- Growth above the inflation level
- Expanding profit margins
- Positive net profit throughout the plan
Expectations for an established public relations agency will of course be different than for a startup. Existing businesses which have reached their cruising altitude might have slower growth and higher margins than ventures just being started.
The projected balance sheet of your public relations agency
Your public relations agency's forecasted balance sheet enables the reader of your plan to assess your financial structure, working capital, and investment policy.
It is composed of three types of elements: assets, liabilities and equity:
- Assets: represent what the business owns and uses to produce cash flows. It includes resources such as cash, equipment, and accounts receivable (money owed by clients).
- Liabilities: represent funds advanced to the business by lenders and other creditors. It includes items such as accounts payable (money owed to suppliers), taxes due and loans.
- Equity: is the combination of what has been invested by the business owners and the cumulative profits and losses generated by the business to date (which are called retained earnings). Equity is a proxy for the value of the owner's stake in the business.
Your public relations agency's balance sheet will usually be analyzed in conjunction with the other financial statements included in your forecast.
Two key points of focus will be:
- Your public relations agency's liquidity: does your business have sufficient cash and short-term assets to pay what it owes over the next 12 months?
- And its solvency: does your business have the capacity to repay its debt over the medium-term?
The cash flow forecast
As we've seen earlier in this guide, monitoring future cash flows is the key to success and the only way of ensuring that your public relations agency has enough cash to operate.
As you can expect showing future cash flows is the main role of the cash flow forecast in your public relations agency business plan.
It is best practice to organise the cash flow statement by nature in order to show the cash impact of the following areas:
- Cash flow generated from operations: the operating cash flow shows how much cash is generated or consumed by the business's commercial activities
- Cash flow from investing activities: the investing cash flow shows how much cash is being invested in capital expenditure (equipment, real estate, etc.) either to maintain the business's equipment or to expand its capabilities
- Cash flow from financing activities: the financing cash flow shows how much cash is raised or distributed to financiers
Looking at the cash flow forecast helps you to make sure that your business has enough cash to keep running, and can help you anticipate potential cash shortfalls.
Your public relations agency business plan will normally include both yearly and monthly cash flow forecasts so that the readers can view the impact of seasonality on your business cash position and generation.
The initial financing plan
The initial financing plan, also known as a sources and uses table, is a valuable resource to have in your business plan when starting your public relations agency as it reveals the origins of the money needed to establish the business (sources) and how it will be allocated (uses).
Having this table helps show what costs are involved in setting up your public relations agency, how risks are shared between founders, investors and lenders, and what the starting cash position will be. This cash position needs to be sufficient to sustain operations until the business reaches a break-even point.
Now that you have a clear understanding of what goes into the financial forecast of your public relations agency business plan, let's shift our focus to the written part of the plan.
Need inspiration for your business plan?
The Business Plan Shop has dozens of business plan templates that you can use to get a clear idea of what a complete business plan looks like.
The written part of a public relations agency business plan
The written part of the business plan is where you will explain what your business does and how it operates, what your target market is, whom you compete against, and what strategy you will put in place to seize the commercial opportunity you've identified.
Having this context is key for the reader to form a view on whether or not they believe that your plan is achievable and the numbers in your forecast realistic.
The written part of a public relations agency business plan is composed of 7 main sections:
- The executive summary
- The presentation of the company
- The products and services
- The market analysis
- The strategy
- The operations
- The financial plan
Let's go through the content of each section in more detail!
1. The executive summary
The first section of your public relations agency's business plan is the executive summary which provides, as its name suggests, an enticing summary of your plan which should hook the reader and make them want to know more about your business.
When writing the executive summary, it is important to provide an overview of the business, the market, the key financials, and what you are asking from the reader.
Start with a brief introduction of the business, its name, concept, location, how long it has been in operation, and what makes it unique. Mention any services or products you plan to offer and who you sell to.
Then you should follow with an overview of the addressable market for your public relations agency, current trends, and potential growth opportunities.
You should then include a summary of your key financial figures such as projected revenues, profits, and cash flows.
Finally, you should detail any funding requirements in the ask section.
2. The presentation of the company
In your public relations agency business plan, the second section should focus on the structure and ownership, location, and management team of your company.
In the structure and ownership part, you'll provide an overview of the business's legal structure, details about the owners, and their respective investments and ownership shares. This clarity is crucial, especially if you're seeking financing, as it helps the reader understand which legal entity will receive the funds and who controls the business.
Moving on to the location part, you'll offer an overview of the company's premises and their surroundings. Explain why this particular location is of interest, highlighting factors like catchment area, accessibility, and nearby amenities.
When describing the location of your public relations agency, you could talk about the area being a desirable and growing market, with an educated population and access to an international clientele. You could highlight the strong transportation links and infrastructure in the area, as well as the potential for your agency to expand and grow. You may also want to mention the excellent quality of life, with plenty of leisure and entertainment options, and a wide variety of cultural attractions. Finally, you could emphasise the potential for a high return on investment, as the area is likely to experience ongoing economic growth.
Finally, you should introduce your management team. Describe each member's role, background, and experience.
Don't forget to emphasize any past successes achieved by the management team and how long they've been working together. Demonstrating their track record and teamwork will help potential lenders or investors gain confidence in their leadership and ability to execute the business plan.
3. The products and services section
The products and services section of your business plan should include a detailed description of what your company offers, who are the target customers, and what distribution channels are part of your go-to-market.
For example, your public relations agency could offer media relations services to increase brand awareness, such as media outreach, press releases, and interviews. It could also offer content creation and management for social media platforms, including developing content calendars, responding to comments, and tracking engagement. Additionally, it could provide strategic counsel to help clients understand the best practices for marketing and public relations and how to leverage the most effective tactics.
4. The market analysis
When presenting your market analysis in your public relations agency business plan, you should detail the customers' demographics and segmentation, target market, competition, barriers to entry, and any regulations that may apply.
The goal of this section is to help the reader understand how big and attractive your market is, and demonstrate that you have a solid understanding of the industry.
You should start with the demographics and segmentation subsection, which gives an overview of the addressable market for your public relations agency, the main trends in the marketplace, and introduces the different customer segments and their preferences in terms of purchasing habits and budgets.
The target market section should follow and zoom on the customer segments your public relations agency is targeting, and explain how your products and services meet the specific needs of these customers.
For example, your target market might include small businesses. These businesses may not have the resources or the need to have a full-time PR team, but they still need help with their public relations efforts. Your target customers would likely benefit from your services, such as crafting press releases, creating media lists, and other PR activities.
Then comes the competition subsection, where you should introduce your main competitors and explain what differentiates you from them.
Finally, you should finish your market analysis by giving an overview of the main regulations applicable to your public relations agency.
5. The strategy section
When crafting the strategy section of your business plan for your public relations agency, it's important to cover several key aspects, including your competitive edge, pricing strategy, sales & marketing plan, milestones, and risks and mitigants.
In the competitive edge subsection, clearly explain what sets your company apart from competitors. This is particularly critical if you're a startup, as you'll be trying to establish your presence in the marketplace among entrenched players.
The pricing strategy subsection should demonstrate how you aim to maintain profitability while offering competitive prices to your customers.
For the sales & marketing plan, outline how you plan to reach and acquire new customers, as well as retain existing ones through loyalty programs or special offers.
In the milestones subsection, detail what your company has achieved thus far and outline your primary objectives for the coming years by including specific dates for expected progress. This ensures everyone involved has clear expectations.
Lastly, in the risks and mitigants subsection, list the main risks that could potentially impact the execution of your plan. Explain the measures you've taken to minimize these risks. This is vital for investors or lenders to feel confident in supporting your venture - try to proactively address any objection they might have.
Your public relations agency faces a range of risks, both internal and external. For example, your agency could suffer from a lack of resources or personnel if key staff members unexpectedly leave. Your agency may also face reputational risk if there is a crisis situation that puts its reputation at stake. This could occur if the agency is linked to a scandal or if a client's message misfires in some way.
6. The operations section
The operations of your public relations agency must be presented in detail in your business plan.
The first thing you should cover in this section is your staffing team, the main roles, and the overall recruitment plan to support the growth expected in your business plan. You should also outline the qualifications and experience necessary to fulfil each role, and how you intend to recruit (using job boards, referrals, or headhunters).
You should then state the operating hours of your public relations agency - so that the reader can check the adequacy of your staffing levels - and any plans for varying opening times during peak season. Additionally, the plan should include details on how you will handle customer queries outside of normal operating hours.
The next part of this section should focus on the key assets and IP required to operate your business. If you depend on any licenses or trademarks, physical structures (equipment or property) or lease agreements, these should all go in there.
You could possess a library of media contacts, which could be invaluable in reaching out to various outlets and pitching stories. Additionally, you might have a number of creative strategies and approaches to communications that could help you to get the most out of a public relations campaign.
Finally, you should include a list of suppliers that you plan to work with and a breakdown of their services and main commercial terms (price, payment terms, contract duration, etc.). Investors are always keen to know if there is a particular reason why you have chosen to work with a specific supplier (higher-quality products or past relationships for example).
7. The presentation of the financial plan
The financial plan section is where we will include the financial forecast we talked about earlier in this guide.
Now that you have a clear idea of the content of a public relations agency business plan, let's look at some of the tools you can use to create yours.
What tool should I use to write my public relations agency's business plan?
There are two main ways of creating your public relations agency business plan:
- Using specialized business planning software,
- Hiring a business plan writer.
Using an online business plan software for your public relations agency's business plan
Using online business planning software is the most efficient and modern way to create a public relations agency business plan.
There are several advantages to using specialized software:
- You can easily create your financial forecast by letting the software take care of the financial calculations for you without errors
- You are guided through the writing process by detailed instructions and examples for each part of the plan
- You can access a library of dozens of complete business plan samples and templates for inspiration
- You get a professional business plan, formatted and ready to be sent to your bank or investors
- You can easily track your actual financial performance against your financial forecast
- You can create scenarios to stress test your forecast's main assumptions
- You can easily update your forecast as time goes by to maintain visibility on future cash flows
- You have a friendly support team on standby to assist you when you are stuck
If you're interested in using this type of solution, you can try The Business Plan Shop for free by signing up here.
Hiring a business plan writer to write your public relations agency's business plan
Outsourcing your public relations agency business plan to a business plan writer can also be a viable option.
These writers possess valuable experience in crafting business plans and creating accurate financial forecasts. Additionally, enlisting their services can save you precious time, enabling you to concentrate on the day-to-day operations of your business.
It's important to be mindful, though, that hiring business plan writers comes with a cost. You'll be paying not just for their time but also for the software they use, and their profit margin.
Based on experience, a complete business plan usually requires a budget of at least £1.5k ($2.0k) excluding tax, and more if revisions are needed after initial meetings with lenders or investors - changes often arise following these discussions.
When seeking investment, be cautious about spending too much on consulting fees. Investors prefer their funds to contribute directly to business growth. Thus, the amount you spend on business plan writing services and other consulting services should be negligible compared to the amount you raise.
Another aspect to consider is that while you'll receive the output of the business plan, you usually won't own the actual document. It will be saved in the consultant's business plan software, which will make updating the plan challenging without retaining the consultant on a retainer.
Given these factors, it's essential to carefully weigh the pros and cons of outsourcing your public relations agency business plan to a business plan writer and decide what best suits your business's unique needs.
Why not create your public relations agency's business plan using Word or Excel?
Using Microsoft Excel and Word (or their Google, Apple, or open-source equivalents) to write a public relations agency business plan is a terrible idea.
For starters, creating an accurate and error-free financial forecast on Excel (or any spreadsheet) is very technical and requires both a strong grasp of accounting principles and solid skills in financial modelling.
As a result, it is unlikely anyone will trust your numbers unless - like us at The Business Plan Shop - you hold a degree in finance and accounting and have significant financial modelling experience in your past.
The second reason is that it is inefficient. Building forecasts on spreadsheets was the only option in the 1990s and early 2000s, nowadays technology has advanced and software can do it much faster and much more accurately.
And with the rise of AI, software is also becoming smarter at helping us detect mistakes in our forecasts and helping us analyse the numbers to make better decisions.
Also, using software makes it easy to compare actuals vs. forecasts and maintain our forecasts up to date to maintain visibility on future cash flows - as we discussed earlier in this guide - whereas this is a pain to do with a spreadsheet.
That's for the forecast, but what about the written part of my public relations agency business plan?
This part is less error-prone, but here also software brings tremendous gains in productivity:
- Word processors don't include instructions and examples for each part of your business plan
- Word processors don't update your numbers automatically when they change in your forecast
- Word processors don't handle the formatting for you
Overall, while Word or Excel may be viable options for creating a public relations agency business plan for some entrepreneurs, it is by far not the best or most efficient solution.
- Using business plan software is a modern and cost-effective way of writing and maintaining business plans.
- A business plan is not a one-shot exercise as maintaining it current is the only way to keep visibility on your future cash flows.
- A business plan has 2 main parts: a financial forecast outlining the funding requirements of your public relations agency and the expected growth, profits and cash flows for the next 3 to 5 years; and a written part which gives the reader the information needed to decide if they believe the forecast is achievable.
We hope that this in-depth guide met your expectations and that you now have a clear understanding of how to write your public relations agency business plan. Do not hesitate to contact our friendly team if you have questions additional questions we haven't addressed here.
Also on The Business Plan Shop
- How to write a business plan to secure a bank loan?
- Key steps to write a business plan?
- Top mistakes to avoid in your business plan
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