Public Relations Tactics

PRSA's IPA Recognizes Inaugural 'Indie Award' Recipients

November 1, 2017

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At the PRSA 2017 International Conference in Boston on Oct. 8–10, the Independent Practitioners Alliance (IPA) introduced a new award called the “Indie Award” to recognize contributions to the Section and the independent practitioner community.

There were two recipients: Wendy Kurtz, APR, president of Elizabeth Charles & Associates; and yours truly.

Wendy wasn’t a surprise: She’s done so much for the IPA section. But when I learned of the other recipient, I was a bit flustered. In fact, I mentioned this to J.W. Arnold, APR, Fellow PRSA, the current IPA chair, to which he asked (jokingly), “Well, do you want to return the award?”

“No,” I said (not jokingly).

J.W. has spearheaded the creation of this awards program, which, with all personal interest in this situation aside, is quite timely and appropriate.

The current operating climate is one where society, technology and culture have merged to form an atmosphere so conducive to independent consulting that some popular new terms have emerged to represent it, like the “solo gig economy.”

But the truth is, the PR profession has led the way in developing and honing best practices in independent consulting for decades. PR independents are much more than freelancers. They are point people who scale teams to client needs.

What sets independents apart is that they are structured to give clients only what they need, while providing access to a level of talent and resources that most agencies can provide. That is, if, as a client, you don’t mind sometimes meeting in your own office or at a nearby coffee shop. Or, if you don’t mind that your independent doesn’t shower you with tickets to Broadway shows or the Super Bowl.

Independents are the strategists, the planners and the doers. Nothing is beyond them. Nothing is beneath them. All that matters is the work and the client.

What do independents get in return? It’s the freedom to control their own destiny and do everything that they love. From big-picture analysis, global crisis and issues management, to boots-on-the-ground media relations and social media work. They do it all because they love all of it.

Growth ahead

In the coming years, we can expect the independent practitioner community to grow nationally and within PRSA. It only makes sense. It’s very possible now for someone to take a well-developed skill set and turn it into a competitive business.

The thing to remember is that whether you work in an agency or as an independent, it’s not about being a little fish in a big pond, or a big fish in a little pond. It’s about expanding the pond. Or more precisely: expanding the value we provide to clients and to the marketplace, regardless of size.

If you’re contemplating the independent life, then my recommendation is to do your homework professionally and personally. Be introspective. Independent consulting is not for everyone.

Once you’ve done that, and you’re still convinced that this is the life for you, then jump on in. The water’s fine.

And if you’re already an independent practitioner, then you should consider joining the IPA. The Section will help you grow your business by building your network, along with the sharing of best practices, not to mention having access to an online discussion forum and special programming just for you.

Tim O'Brien, APR

Tim O’Brien, APR, owns O’Brien Communications, an independent corporate communications practice in Pittsburgh. Email: timobrien@timobrienpr.com. Twitter: @OBrienPR.

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