The notion of “physician, heal thyself” goes all the way back to the Bible, and the proverb about the shoemaker’s children having no shoes dates back to 1546.
But what could these old references possibly have to do with PR in 2018? Plenty, as it turns out.
As public relations professionals, we often neglect our own agency marketing efforts because we’re so focused on doing great client work.
At my firm, Bospar PR, we have been making a concerted effort to “make our own shoes” and market the agency using our own PR techniques, while at the same time doing award-winning work to service our clients.
During the course of this balancing act, I’ve discovered that relearning — and implementing — certain elements of PR are a big part of a successful agency marketing.
So, for the benefit of other PR agency owners who are encountering challenges while marketing their own firms, here is a sampling of what I’ve learned, some best practices to follow and some of the pitfalls to avoid.
1. Share your earned media
As an agency owner or principal, you need to share your successful story placements with your key new business targets, because you can’t expect them to stumble across a story on their own.
Plus, they may not have visibility into your entire client list.
It pays to be proactive!
2. The big agency roundup lists work
Your local business journal probably has an annual roundup list that covers the top local firms across multiple industries — not just advertising and PR agencies, but also law and accounting firms, financial planners and investment advisors, and other professional services companies.
Nearly everyone sees these lists, and, when your firm gets mentions, in the near term you can expect more website visits, some email inquiries and a slew of random LinkedIn requests from names you couldn’t possibly pronounce!
But the better news is that within three to six months, you’ll get a good number of inbound leads from potential clients.
3. Be selective about awards
Every agency wants to say that they’re “award-winning,” but not all awards are created equal. Some awards are highly coveted, and some are window dressings. Be sure you can tell the difference.
Know which awards are relevant to your client base, and determine how you want to effectively balance your strategy when it comes to competitions that your agency enters.
4. Approach newsjacking with caution
While it is great to see your firm included in stories about major news events, inserting yourself into big news conversations is something to be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Newsjacking isn’t a cure-all, and it only works well for certain industries.
For example, if an agency can insert itself into the news cycle around a major data breach (like Equifax or Yahoo) and the larger issue of responding to cybersecurity incidents, that could be a very good thing, because it is likely that the agency’s audience pays attention to security-focused news.
Further, it pays to have clients in “hot” industries that aren’t completely saturated with other PR firms. My agency works with some clients in the artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain industries, which are news magnets in 2018.
On the other hand, positioning yourself as a crisis management expert and going on TV to talk about the president’s latest antics probably won’t result in any new business opportunities.
5. Use surveys for data-driven news creation
Surveys and data can work as effectively as news hooks, and they should certainly be based on primary research (first-party data).
The media tends not to care about the nuances of a specific industry; the key is to focus less on the minutiae and instead look for broad, general trends that resonate widely.
For example, a survey campaign about how much people dislike long meetings and conference calls is broadly understood and could be easily packaged for media consumption.
And practically anything about AI that demonstrates a unique angle has a good chance at getting media attention.
6. Don’t gets your hopes up at conferences
In my years of attending PR and marketing industry conferences, I have been successful in accumulating large stacks of business cards, but NOT paying clients!
That’s why I don’t make attending or schmoozing a big focus of my agency’s marketing efforts, and I don’t promote appearances at them.
You can’t expect the broad-based media to care about your very specific industry.
In the tech industry, many companies call using their own products, services and technologies “eating your own dog food.”
And in tech PR, applying the same level of critical thinking, as well as thoughtful consideration of opportunities for self-promotion, is the same thing — Though I prefer the “shoemaker’s children having no shoes” metaphor over eating dog food!
Fortunately, the larger lesson is the same: Pay attention to the techniques that bring your clients success, and they will help bring your agency greater success.