by Susan Shelby
Public relations should take the chill out of business development. Successful PR can create an environment in which no new business meeting is truly “cold” by raising the visibility of a company and its offerings. Moreover, PR can bring measurable results to a company’s bottom line and help achieve its business development goals.
Targeted, strategic public relations can produce tangible results that: 1) promote a company’s reputation; 2) enhance brand identity; 3) raise awareness of a company’s competitive differentiators; 4) increase name recognition in the marketplace; 5) promote a niche expertise; 6) target specific markets; and 7) recruit talented staff.
The Value of PR
PR is validated by the media, a distinction that sets it apart from most other communication vehicles. Using local, national, and industry trade publications, both print and digital, to educate and inform potential clients is a proven step towards building a successful brand and driving continued sales growth. The first step of every successful PR or marketing program is to understand a client’s core business by knowing what sets them apart from their competition.
Margulies Perruzzi Architects (MPA) has used its PR and social media exposure to differentiate itself in a competitive marketplace. Regularly pitched as a media source, MPA was interviewed and quoted in a February 2013 Buildings Magazine article on collaborative offices and work engagement. A prospective client saw the article and invited MPA to interview for a project, a meeting that was facilitated by the media placement.
In 2014, MPA’s workplace strategist wrote a white paper on the expanding multigenerational workforce in the U.S. and its growing impact on workplace design. MPA published the white paper to its web site and issued a press release that included a link to the piece. With a social media blitz by Rhino PR, MPA, and the author, the link exploded on Twitter, with many retweets, favorites, and traffic coming from well-established and well-respected Twitter followers. Additionally, the author received an email from a reader whose company was developing its own workplace strategy, and MPA followed up to provide more information. The robust social media push provided another opportunity to augment MPA’s business development efforts.
The Press Release . . . and Beyond
While some company needs are addressed by the PR basics — media relations, press releases, and articles — others require a more expansive program of strategic counsel and tactical implementation. While your PR professional should excel in these basics, every tool in the marketing arsenal should be considered for maximum impact.
Award programs, speaking opportunities, and byline articles provide specific and high-profile outlets for touting your work and selling yourself as a seasoned expert in your field. Just as a well-written, quality proposal can win you work, so too can a well-executed award submission or well-placed byline article offer prestige and credibility.
The consultants at Acentech, an acoustics, audiovisual, IT, and security system, and noise and vibration consulting firm, have written many byline articles in the seven market sectors in which the firm works. Acentech enjoyed great business development success by placing these articles in strategic publications. Each year, Acentech receives several leads and secures new work from its byline article placements in publications such as Healthcare Facilities Management, Medical Construction & Design, Appliance Design, High-Profile Monthly, and The Construction Specifier. It’s not uncommon for prospective clients to contact the firm directly after reading an article written by one of Acentech’s industry experts.
Case in point: An architecture firm in Buffalo, New York, did a Google search of “academic research laboratories” and found Acentech’s byline article on the topic in College Planning & Management. After making introductions, the architecture firm invited Acentech to join its submitting team for a project at a medical university. Acentech has completed many projects in the past for this university and has a plethora of similar higher education experience. The CP+M article put the firm in front of a new architecture client, and the design team — including Acentech — won the job.
PR and marketing can assist with direct business development outreach. Zampell FM sent marketing letters and a targeted e-blast to prospective clients after the launch of the company’s new web site. The firm enjoyed many positive emails and calls about the quality of the website and strong reactions to service areas of interest from existing and prospective clients. Customized and personal emails to nearly 75 people resulted in 10 to 15 interest calls and several in-person meetings from the marketing letters that were distributed.
PR is a critical piece of any firm’s business development efforts. With media savvy and an unyielding focus on your company’s goals, PR is a bridge best crossed for business development success.
Susan Shelby, FSMPS, CPSM, is president and CEO of Rhino PR in Hamilton, Mass.