My LinkedIn profile lists the modest stops I made as a PR professional.
For the past 20 years, I worked corporate-side gigs and carried the business card of a number of public relations agencies. I worked in shops large and small—some international and some local—and in shops that had a hand in almost every category of business, including high-technology, consumer and business-to-business. At each stop I had the same responsibilities: being a smart and savvy PR practitioner while working in the trenches and managing accounts. And, at every stop I was responsible for new business generation.
Much has been said about how PR has changed over the past few years. While most of what’s said is accurate and important, noteworthy is the fact that seeking new business has also changed. Here are a few ways new business generation has changed:
In 2013, prospects find you.
This is the first and by far the most significant change. Prospects find agencies or individual PR professionals by way of their online presence—an online presence far beyond just a website—although that remains hugely valuable. Prospects look for professionals who practice what they preach, who are active and engaged. They value things like blogs, Twitter feeds, LinkedIn profiles, and Klout scores. They pay attention to the activity of the organization and of the individuals within it. Social media has given transparency to the process, and agencies and professionals must show up to be seriously considered by prospects.
Second, no longer do PR people sell one piece of the pie and live in a communications silo.
Today we work hard showing how our time, energy, effort and budget will benefit other initiatives. We partner with the marketing team, but execute programs that complement the work of their creative teams. (Often we develop strategies working hand-in-hand with advertising teams—a concept unheard of years ago.) Collaboration is a term we use often. It resonates with our audiences.
The third dramatic shift is the opportunity to sell much more than traditional media relations and social media services.
When you offer prospects thought leadership, analyst relations, media auditing and measurement programs, it’s like a sales guy going to market with a suitcase full of “stuff” to sell. When you have a good in-house creative team, the list of touch points is endless. You have many points of entry and a number of budgets from which you can secure a fee.
Fourth, referrals are huge
—while that’s not new, their importance is greater than ever. It’s a crowded market and prospects have plenty of agency choices, so the best way to get a jump start on a selection process is to ask a friend or industry colleague. Many times we’ve asked about the agencies invited to an agency round-up and learned that some of those were suggested by someone else (Independent of researching vendors online). If you work hard to keep clients happy, they help you get new business.
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And finally, cold calling is a memory
. While knocking on someone’s door with a smart, strategic pitch is valuable (for both you and the prospect), cold calling isn’t worth the time or energy. That wasn’t the case years ago, and I have memories of smiling and dialing a long list of companies—with minimal success. Once in a while you roused some lukewarm interest, but it was a long sales cycle that rarely bore fruit.
The outreach we do these days follows significant research and creative thinking, and we only approach prospects who will be thrilled to hear about our direct experience. This highly-targeted occasional outreach is a heck of a lot more fun.
Is new business part of your PR? If so, what do you do differently than you did years ago?
Scott Signore is the principal and CEO of Matter Communications. A version of this story first appeared on the agency's PR Whiteboard blog.