What Every Ad Agency New Business Director Should Know about PR


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While there are many things that go into a successful ad agency new business program, one that is often overlooked or underutilized is the strategic use of public relations.

Whether your agency emphasizes outbound or inbound marketing – or a combination of the two – PR is an important tool that can help you attract attention and generate new business opportunities.

Here are six things that every ad agency new businesses director should know about PR and how it can give them a competitive edge:

First, as I have noted in previous posts, articles and interviews, PR gives your agency credibility in a way no other medium can because it allows an objective secondary source – a reporter or blogger – to tell your story for you.

Of course agencies provide background information, messaging and insights to help shape such stories, but people tend to give more weight to a news article or a post from a credible blog than from advertising or personal sales.

Second, PR is effective in building widespread awareness, which is particularly useful in getting in front of decision makers who may be difficult to reach through other means.

  • In the past PR shined brightest in generating coverage with TV, radio and print media, but today the Internet can spread the word exponentially.

Third, for inbound marketing initiatives, PR makes you easier to be discovered by prospective clients doing research to identify agencies with your area of expertise.

Fourth, PR can play a vital role in new business development through content creation and management. Many people in public relations have backgrounds with print or broadcast media. Former reporters tend to be good story tellers, which is essential for good content marketing.

  • They know how to consistently provide useful, well-targeted information that is enjoyable to read, builds trust, engages customers and enhances the brand – without coming across as disguised advertisements.

Fifth, with a creative PR writer driving your agency’s content marketing, agencies of any size can compete. To be effective, the content must be relevant, credible and enjoyable to read. It also must be search engine optimized and updated regularly to maximize its potential for attracting new business.

  • It’s easy to talk about producing high-quality, engaging content, but it’s another thing to actually do so on a consistent basis. Agencies that have the discipline to be consistent will reap rewards for their diligence.

Sixth, PR pros are generally the best suited to handle social media engagement. Public relations by definition involves dealing with the public, and PR specialists know the importance of responding to inquiries or complaints accurately, efficiently and tactfully.

  •  Because good public relations focuses on two-way communication with audiences, they understand how to converse with diverse groups or individuals, talking with them rather than at them. And because they often work with reporters who are on deadline, PR people have a keen appreciation for the value of responding in a timely manner.

Social media allows us to start or participate in conversations with individuals we might otherwise not reach. We can answer questions, solve problems, have constructive debates and gain a better understanding of issues and concerns from the other person’s perspective.

To sum it up, PR can give your ad agency’s new business initiatives unparalleled ways of gaining awareness and credibility; enable your agency to communicate directly and indirectly with prospects and influencers; and assist in building your brand and reputation in the marketplace.

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Showing vs. Telling: How Content Marketing Sets You Apart

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One of the hottest topics in marketing circles these days is content marketing—the creation and sharing of information so that it attracts and retains customers. Content marketing includes blogs, website, case studies, white papers, videos, infographics, etc., but regardless of the form it takes, the material is compelling, relevant and useful.

The emphasis is on using high quality, engaging content to market a brand, acquire customers and develop their trust rather than using aggressive sales and advertising tactics that can annoy or disrupt them.

As Robert Rose, chief strategist of the Content Marketing Institute, put it, “Traditional marketing and advertising is telling the world you’re a rock star. Content marketing is showing the world that you are one.”

Showing or telling – which are you doing? Probably some of both. The future, though, is clearly brighter for organizations that are moving away from telling and are consistently providing helpful information that showcases their expertise in a particular area.

One of the great things about content marketing is that companies and agencies of virtually any size can compete effectively – if they have something worthwhile to say.

According to The Inbound Writer Blog, “90% of consumers find custom content useful, and 78% believe that organizations providing custom content are interested in building good relationships with them.” Another stat worth noting: “Interesting content is a top 3 reason people follow brands on social media.”

As more and more companies engage in content marketing – striving to show the world their brand’s rock-star status – the challenges to being heard above the noise are increasing as well.

It’s easy to talk about producing high-quality, engaging content, but it’s another thing to actually do so on a consistent basis.

Pinched for time or lacking creative writing skills, many places are hiring journalists to put their writing skills to work in crafting messages that engage customers and promote a brand through a variety of social media channels, without coming across as disguised advertisements. Ad agencies in particular can find it difficult to balance meeting client needs and regularly creating content that attracts new business.

It’s not surprising, then that 62% of companies outsource their content marketing (Inbound Writer, citing the news source Mashable). Expect that outsourcing percentage to grow, and traditional advertising to decline, in the coming years.

Finding a niche; having interesting, useful things to say about it; and providing regularly updated, substantive and entertaining content can gain your agency and its clients a loyal following. Creative PR writers and journalists are well positioned to provide valuable assistance to organizations that lack in-house capabilities for content marketing, helping them attract new customers and enhance the loyalty of existing ones.

If you’re just getting started with blogging, firstsiteguide.com has some very helpful advice titled, “How to Write and Create Great Blog Content.” 

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Ad Agency PR Advice for Journalists Turned Content Marketers

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I’ve reached the place in life where neither my daughters nor my parents pay much attention to my advice (though they always listen politely), so I’ve learned to be careful about offering unsolicited opinions. More appropriate for these situations, I’ve discovered, is to use the Socratic approach of asking questions in hopes of sparking critical thinking and enlightenment.

However, after reading a PR Daily article about how many journalists are migrating to PR, especially content marketing, I just couldn’t resist offering what I hope will be some helpful suggestions to those who pursue PR on the ad agency side. On second thought, let me rephrase that: These are humbly submitted thoughts you might possibly want to consideration if you are about to make, or have already made, this transition.

I should first mention that while the majority of my career has been on the public relations side, early in my career I got a taste of the journalism world by working as a correspondent for a daily newspaper and on the editorial side of a health care magazine.

My journalism experience taught me valuable lessons and exposed me to what it’s like to get pitches – good and bad, well targeted and wildly unfocused – from people hoping to get publicity for their company or client. That experience has helped me to be more thoughtful when approaching a reporter to discuss a story idea or respond to an inquiry.

I also need to acknowledge the  Software Advice tips cited in the PR Daily article, which by and large are quite good except for the advice to “Uphold traditional journalistic principles, no matter where you work.” Um, I don’t think that’s very realistic given that journalists who go over to the PR side have a much different role, which I’ll cover in a minute.  Now, on to my thoughts:

First, don’t underestimate the magnitude of the transition from working for a news media organization to working for an ad agency. Both are fast paced but the environments are very different, and instead of going from news event to event, you may be moving from industry to industry with the clients you serve.

Second, remember who you represent. One of my best hires when I was an ad agency VP heading up the PR department was a long-time investigative reporter who was looking to make a change. He was a great reporter and an even better person, but for the first few months I had to work at getting him to quit investigating our clients and focus on representing them.

Third, be prepared to adjust your writing style. While great writing is vital to effective content marketing, it requires a different approach than traditional news reporting. Facts and figures alone don’t make compelling content that excites and motivates readers. Feature writing is much closer to what’ll you’ll be doing in content marketing. If you’re a good story teller, chances are you’ll be a good content marketer.

Fourth, face it – you’re no longer writing to be objective and balanced. While it’s true that there is a lot of bias in the news media today – with an increasing focus on advocacy vs. reporting the facts – content marketing is all about providing useful, well-targeted information, not representing all sides of an issue. Your mission is to be an enthusiastic advocate who builds trust, engages customers and enhances the brand – not some detached, impartial third-party onlooker.

Fifth, recognize that your competition is no longer other reporters – it’s everyone; everyone, that is, who can has a computer and can write a blog post. The competition is fierce, critics are bountiful and the work is demanding, but aren’t those challenges that drew you to journalism in the first place?

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