Treat your own brand like a client’s

Here are three terrific ways to give your agency an identity that will stick in people’s minds.

Are you an account executive trying to earn your chops at an agency? A great way to accelerate your career path is to help your agency craft its brand reputation and influence online, something most agencies don’t prioritize.

PR isn’t about press releases and media relations any more, and companies are becoming smarter every day in the questions they ask to uncover which PR firms are truly digital in nature.

How is your agency keeping up? Hopefully, it’s by implementing the same tactics you roll out for clients.

If not, you can send your career into the stratosphere and be your agency’s “new business” hero by suggesting some (or all) of the following tactics to get the ball rolling. Then, offer to spearhead the initiative and facilitate it through the appropriate departments to make sure it happens.

As brand influence and reputation grow, new business will come in the door. When it does, you’ll look good and the agency will thrive. Who knows? You might even earn a commission on the results. Ask.

There are a few basic skills every agency should master—especially digital PR agencies or those who sell social media and content marketing services.

1. Walk the talk, and do what you sell.

Just as social media requires being social, building influence requires effort in the area you want to be considered influential. You can’t build influence in thin air. It also requires showing off that expertise in a credible, consistent fashion.

If your agency sells social media services, having a strong agency social media presence is important. Do you sell content marketing services? Build out brand journalism efforts via smart blog posts, articles, comments, and social media conversations on behalf of the agency, not just for clients. The same goes for SEO, digital PR, inbound marketing, and all the other strategies that are crucial to client success and visibility.

Help your agency do for itself what it does for its clients.

If your agency hasn’t started thinking about its own brand reputation and influence, be the change agent.

Don’t even think about uttering that lame excuse of the cobbler’s children having no shoes—it doesn’t fly with prospects, and the lack of activity results in far more lost business than agencies realize. A proactive employee that goes to agency owners or executives to suggest specific tactics to build influence and reputation for the agency creates a win/win for everyone.

Too busy with client work to make it happen? Hire someone or pull in a consultant (like me).

Start here:

• Sell social media services? There is no excuse for not having a strong social presence. You don’t have to be visible on all platforms, but you should be engaged across the major platforms that make sense for your agency. If you are using a platform on behalf of client brands, showcase that client work across your agency social media, when appropriate and when disclosure is allowed. It can fill the gaps where you don’t have activity on behalf of the agency but can still demonstrate expertise.

• Make sure you have a company page on LinkedIn. It should stand out and take advantage of the platform’s product/services pages, sidebar promotions, and header images. Also consider launching a campaign to gather client testimonials. Most agencies don’t do this, but it is a great lead generator.

• Use Twitter to (1) curate content in your industry so you are on top of marketing trends and shifts, (2) identify articles where you can add expertise, and (3) participate in relevant Twitter chats. If you service a specific niche or industry, you might consider launching your own agency chat.

• Get your agency blog on track. Properly done, a blog helps agencies master storytelling and SEO—and generate a steady influx of leads. Create an editorial calendar, and give it the staff litmus test: Does it make them eager to read the articles? Do you have posts that can be syndicated to marketing industry blogs or publications to improve visibility? Is it easy to subscribe? Is each post being shared across your social media assets (Facebook posts, LinkedIn Company Page updates, Google+)?

• Continually change your Facebook page cover images to showcase your culture, expertise, and creativity. Don’t let the page stagnate for lack of attention. Also be sure to use tabs in a creative way. Are they fun? Do they drive traffic to your website or other online assets? Do they build your email database or funnel leads appropriately? Are you giving value and being useful in some way?

• Use Instagram to showcase your agency culture and client work under development—and feed it to Facebook.

Showcase your agency using the very same assets that you sell to clients. After all, who wants to hire a digital agency that isn’t visible online? It’s an obvious gap—and a prime opportunity for someone from the outside to step in and make it happen.

2. Showcase your agency’s most successful client work.

Self-publishing content online isn’t just a wonderful opportunity for your clients—it’s an open door for your agency to showcase itself and share expertise on its own behalf. If you aren’t taking time to share your client work, you are leaving a lot of potential new business on the table.

Don’t think about it as bragging; think of it as a tool to show your agency talents and put the spotlight on the very things that set you apart. It’s also a great way to remind clients that you offer many services other than what they are purchasing.

Turn that stellar campaign that pulled a high ROI into a SlideShare deck, a case study on your website, a Marketing Sherpa pitch, and a MarketingProfs article. Then share it across your social media presence. If you have more than 50 employees, consider dedicating one employee to agency PR. Either way, dedicate a few hours every month toward identifying your best work in the previous 30 days; then make it come to life online.

3. Create a formalized content marketing program that empowers staff to build the agency’s online reputation.

The above idea of repurposing content that showcases client work is an excellent first step to creating this kind of culture.

Just as a newspaper has beat reporters that cover a specific niche, every agency has employees with their own unique talents and roles. Tapping those talents on behalf of the agency brand is a fantastic way to stand apart from other agencies. Agencies that develop a formal program of content development that is integrated into agency culture are more successful.

It also helps the agency develop systems that can be applied to clients.

If you are at a digital agency, launching an internal content marketing program is also a wonderful opportunity to build up better-than-average Kred and Klout scores. Though both tools aren’t perfect and don’t show the full picture of influence, they do make an impression and add to overall credibility, and puny scores are a big red flag to potential clients.

Top executives supervising staff and handling in-house training should have impressive influence scores, along with all key personnel handling social media on behalf of clients. If it is a small agency, anyone directly handling client work should have demonstrable influence, especially if they handle communities or brand advocacy programs.

Carrie Morgan is a 20-plus year public relations veteran based in Phoenix, specializing in digital PR. A version of this story first appeared on the Rock The Status Quo blog.

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