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How PR firms get noticed by potential clients

Everyone in comms knows about creating content, which means it is much harder to create something that stands out from the crowd. But it is important to find a way to get noticed if you want to get onto the radar of potential clients. We ask agency heads for their top tips for creating noise that could lead to new business. One popular way PR firms show their capabilities is to be shortlisted for relevant awards. For example, Mandy Sharp, founder of Tinman Communications, says "85 percent of our new business leads come through our success at winning awards. Clients find us online through the (award winning) work that we've done."

Here are three ways to create content that builds business 

From Victoria Ruffy, co-owner of agency Little Red Rooster PR:

Get press coverage and then show it off. “We receive an overwhelming amount of enquiries that come from word-of-mouth recommendations from media and existing clients. We do a great job, clients are happy and they tell more people about us. It’s not a dark art. We have never been shy about sharing our work and results across social media – I think that’s quite different to other agencies. Many baffle with meaningless numbers, long words and showreels that don’t allow you to actually see the words the journalist has written – it’s all smoke and mirrors. Very rarely do agencies share the actual physical coverage achieved.

“This has always been something I’ve found interesting – a certain paranoia that other people might garner info and steal a contact or two. We don’t think that way as it’s about relationships. Anyone can call a journalist and pitch a story, but only truly exceptional PROs can work with journalists together to create brand-defining media coverage. We are proud of our work and in the words of Prefab Sprout ‘…you’re only good as the last great thing you did’ so you need to tell everyone about it.”

From Ian McCawley, managing director of agency Acuity PR:

Start with the reader. “For new business prospects, this means focusing on a specific problem they and their rivals, face in their daily jobs. Once that central theme is defined, consider all the different aspects affecting the reader, their business and their customers, and offer solutions (with case studies, if possible). If people clap eyes on a relevant headline or subject line they are far more likely to open an email, read a published article or download a report.

“Creating a connection with the reader by showing you understand and can help soothe their headaches also makes people more receptive to hear about your services. That's when content tears down barriers for the lead-gen team.”

From Sadie Groom, managing director of marketing agency Bubble & Squeak:  

Prove that you are an expert. "People look to work with experts, especially when it’s to help their business grow or gain more exposure. They want to work with a team that can consult and advise them on the things they’re not familiar doing, and that is why the best content to offer is advisory pieces. It gives potential new clients knowledge that can help them in situations they’re not confident in.

“Whether on a regular blog or mailers, offering tips will help to share the experience you have as an agency and may convince them to work with you.

“Having an opinion on industry issues can make you stand out from the crowd. Sticking your head above the parapet and standing up for what you believe in will get you noticed. Being involved in discussions that people feel passionate about will help you identify prospects that have similar industry beliefs. This can be a great conversation starter when networking and can provoke a discussion that could lead to a new business opportunity. 

“You always need to think about what you can offer others, whether that is advice or supporting what drives their business. Think about what they will get out of the content, if it is beneficial or stirs them to take action then you’ve got it right.”   

So there you go, you are only three steps away from fighting off clients. The case studies below show how two agencies put these steps into practice.

Case studies

Emma Grace, joint managing director at marketing agency Pretty Green, describes why the agency chooses to focus on events:

 “When clients are looking for someone new to work with there are almost always the same two drivers: a broken agency/client relationship; or dissatisfaction with the work. It is therefore critical than any efforts within new business seek to sell your agency on both levels. Giving away intellectual property will undoubtedly showcase an agency’s skills, and we have done our share of white papers, but with the abundance of free, quality content out there, intellectual property alone is no guarantee of success. Most clients (in fact most agencies) have a repertoire of go-to sources for marketing intelligence, and cutting through is an immense challenge.

“We have developed an event series called ‘The Clearing’ which, unlike many marketing events, isn’t all about us and our clever thinking. ‘Clearing’ events aim to be personally, as well as professionally, inspiring. This means that, for example, at our summer event, alongside the speakers we hosted sessions (from Comedy Workshops to Sound Therapy and VR) which were purely intended to give our guests headspace. Whilst we all know the value of impressing prospective clients intellectually and creatively, we believe that emotional foundations are what build lasting professional relationships.”

Keren Haynes, owner of agency Shout! Communications, discusses how the agency draws attention to itself:

“Many of us were broadcast journalists before we moved into PR, and this knowledge is the basis of many of the blogs and ebooks we write. We put a blog up on our company website at least once a week – more often if something topical has cropped up unexpectedly.

“We also promote our blogs on social media; for example, we’ll put links out on Twitter, the LinkedIn accounts of senior staff and the company’s own LinkedIn page.

“The blogs often have links to examples of whatever it is we are talking about, be it videos or audio from a radio day. Some of the examples will be from our own archives, but occasionally, if it’s more relevant, we include other companies’ work too. In addition to this we link to our own ebooks which are longer than a blog and go into a subject in more depth. Our ebooks are available on our website to download, so a bit like a library specialising in everything you need to know about broadcast PR.

“As you’d expect from a specialist broadcast PR agency we also produce video content in an effort to generate new business. Research suggests people are often more receptive to watching a video than they are to reading a brochure – it’s easier, more visual, more emotive and often more engaging. Check out an example of one of our videos here:”

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