How Ad Agencies Can Use PR to Drive New Business

Don Beehler PR for Advertising Agencies

No other marketing tool replicates what PR can do when it comes to building trust with important audiences.

This is a guest post written by Don Beehler, PR Consultant and author. Don has been a colleague and personal friend for over a decade. He writes a helpful blog to advertising agencies entitled, The Art of Telling Your Agency’s Story.

After more than two decades in the public relations business, I’ve come to believe that the most important thing PR can do for an ad agency is enhance its credibility.

Strategic use of public relations can help small- and mid-sized agencies—even a one-person operation—level the playing field with larger competitors.

How is that possible? Because people quoted by the news media and influential bloggers are perceived to have expertise in the topic being discussed, regardless of the size of they firm represent. The impression the audience gets is that the person quoted is among the cream of the crop in his or her profession.

That may or may not be true, but perceptions don’t have to be true to be effective. 

Can you think of a better advantage over your competitors than being positioned by a credible third-party source as a leading expert in your field?

Here’s a real-life example from one of my clients who runs a successful hedge fund. After I made several introductions to financial publications on his behalf, he started getting contacted by finance reporters and quoted in their stories. As a result of this coverage, a business writer for Associated Press found him after doing an Internet search for a source and contacted him for an interview. That led to a good deal of national coverage and more spin-off interviews.

National news media discovered him through these stories, and because he is responsive, articulate and competent, reporters keep coming back to him for his insights and analysis. He now has regular appearances on a national TV business program, giving him instant credibility with prospective hedge-fund clients.

Here’s the kicker: His firm is a one-man show, and three years earlier he was still in college. Yet, he now enjoys a distinct name recognition and credibility advantage over scores of hedge-fund managers with larger client rosters and decades more experience.

It’s no different for ad agencies because targeted publicity allows an objective secondary source–the news media or bloggers–to position your agency or CEO as an expert in a particular niche.

John Sonnhalter, CEO of The Sonnhalter Agency near Cleveland, Ohio, is a shining example. His business-to-business agency used social media, especially a niche blog called “Tradesmen Insights,” to target a very narrow audience: Manufacturers that are trying to reach professional tradesmen.

His agency has gained expert status in its niche and routinely gets requests to do interviews, guest posts and take part in industry-related workshops and seminars. He’s also frequently asked to either contribute an article or be part of an industry story in key trade media outlets.

As is the case with my hedge-fund client, the news media and bloggers that reach his audiences now come to him.

PR helps make you “discoverable” through . . .

  • Local, regional, national or international consumer media coverage
  • Niche industry trade publications and websites
  • Blogs your clients/prospects read
  • Online buzz

While public relations is a great way to generate awareness, positive associations and credibility in the eyes of a skeptical world, in my experience few ad agencies use PR strategically to drive new business.

In fact, it’s not unusual to find agencies using PR to promote themselves without having a carefully thought through plan for what they really want to accomplish and how PR can help them meet their objectives.

If properly targeted, your PR activities will get the attention of decision makers. But if you use a shotgun approach or try to be all things to all people, your PR efforts will fall short of their potential.

The key is to have a PR plan that compliments new business development initiatives with a clear focus, target and purpose.

The flip side of all this is if your agency lacks PR capabilities altogether, you may be missing out on some wonderful new business opportunities. Put yourself in the client’s shoes: If two agencies are perceived as equal in capabilities and service but one has PR capabilities and the other doesn’t, and you have a product or service you believe is newsworthy, which agency would you choose?

Clients know that you can’t have a truly integrated marketing communications campaign without a PR component to take advantage of publicity opportunities.

One final word: A successful agency PR program is a consistent one. A start-and-stop publicity effort makes about as much sense as running a print ad once every six months—there just isn’t enough ongoing exposure to make it work, even if the ad itself is great.  Advertising and PR both require a certain amount of frequency to be effective.

Don Beehler Public Relations

Find additional helpful content at Don’s Blog, “The Art of Telling Your Agency’s Story” and be sure to follow Don on Twitter: @DonBeehler

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photo credit: Lisah & Jerry Silfwer via photo pin cc

About Michael Gass

Consultant | Trainer | Author | Speaker

Since 2007, he has been pioneering the use of social media, inbound and content marketing strategies specifically for agency new business.

He is the founder of Fuel Lines Business Development, LLC, a firm which provides business development training and consulting services to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies.

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