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During the last year or so, an increasing number of articles have cited ominous facts and figures about the recession and its undeniable effect on the public relations industry. Reports of personnel cutbacks at firms and declining client budgets have been featured in articles appearing in general news and trade publications; industry association meetings have devoted entire panel discussions to the topic; even cocktail party conversations have been strained as peers whisper about coworkers who have been laid off. In fact, employment at the top 25 firms' New York City offices dropped 11% in 1991, according to an article in a March 1992 issue of Crain's New York Business.
But despite this harsh reality there has been a developing trend that could very well shake up the entire industry: public relations professionals are increasingly choosing to leave their jobs at big public relations firms or corporations and venturing out on their own. Most of these entrepreneurs have started their own firms in search of greater financial and emotional stability. Whatever the reason, the number of public relations professionals starting their own businesses has skyrocketed, and companies of all sizes are responding favorably to these smaller, service-oriented shops.
"The business environment is changing," said William Lawrence, Ph.D., director of the Small Business Development Center in New York City. "My clients have indicated that major corporations are shifting their thinking and are embracing the wide range of creative, cost-efficient services provided by smaller firms. Companies are becoming increasingly budget-conscious and are realizing that they can turn to smaller service shops for many of the same creative services provided by larger firms, at a considerably lower cost."
Many of the public relations professionals who've started their own businesses are "going solo"--setting up as independent practitioners or consultants. Others have set their sights on building a public relations firm. While this distinction is important, all too often both categories are looked at as one group. Each choice presents a unique set of challenges and rewards. In addition, the individual's choice is indicative of his or her personality and long-term goals.
Rhodes & Weinberg Inc., …