Garnering attention for the right reasons

Marketing a firm requires the same amount of detail and dedication as any other client.

Marketing a firm requires the same amount of detail and dedication as any other client.

For PR agencies, a change can be good – especially if a firm markets that change effectively.

When Cohn & Wolfe merged with GCI Group on July 2, it took advantage of the spotlight in the weeks after the announcement. C&W touted its expanded reach and capabilities from the merger, while highlighting new wins and campaign launches.

The agency designates marketing representatives in every market it serves, says Stephanie Marchesi, president of Cohn & Wolfe New York, and invests in thought-leadership initiatives. Most recently, it released timely surveys about the state of the financial services sector (Financial Confidence Survey) and the influence of green on IT managers' purchasing behavior (GreenFactor B2B IT Survey).

The agency launched a new blog, Wolfe Tracking, in early 2009, which encourages readers to subscribe by practice area, topic or tag, or blogger.

“Think of yourself as the client and then put forth that same effort,” Marchesi says. “All marketing programs must have real substance. A poorly designed or executed program will have a negative effect on your reputation.”

Marketing an agency in the wake of a dramatic change can be challenging. Consider the complete makeover that Colorado's PRACO agency underwent last year, morphing into Vladimir Jones.

The week prior to relaunch, three PRACO staffers began calling up clients and journalists to leave short, somewhat cryptic messages from the perspective of “Vladimir Jones,” a fictitious personification of the firm.

“Since then, we have implemented a strategic marketing program to create conversations with existing and potential clients in a whole new way,” says Meredith Vaughan, president. “All of our initiatives to market the agency fall in to three buckets – amplifying our position as a thought leader, engaging with our target audiences, and staying top of mind.”

Vaughn adds that, since the launch, “when it comes to marketing ourselves, we don't move forward with anything that doesn't speak to one or more of our brand attributes.” These attributes include – soulful, eclectic, focused, smart, fearless, and curious.

VJ now actively posts white papers to a forum ( and encourages in-house talent to promote the agency via social media channels.

“We are also developing a social media platform for the company, less to communicate specific goings on, but more to create an organic feel for what our agency is about,” Vaughn says.

Meanwhile, East Coast agency The Meridian Group has redesigned its Web site to focus emphasis on its mission statement: “We use ‘the power of why' to build top brands.”

It simultaneously launched a blog that links both to Facebook and Twitter.

“I find the single most effective way to develop relationships with targeted clients and prospects is to continually send them relevant information concerning their business,” CEO Joe Takach says.

Both to develop the content and to market the agency, team leaders are required to write a white paper (blue papers at Meridian) each quarter, soon to be monthly. Meridian also insists that team members be involved in local, regional, and national associations.

When marketing an agency, “focus on practices that highlight results the firm delivered for clients,” says Ronald Hanser, president of Iowa-based Hanser & Associates, which recently relaunched its Web site with 70 case studies and 60 awards announcements.

Hanser warns that marketing has limits: “[Never] overshadow your clients. Avoid competing events or announcing the firm's news at a time that competes with a client's news in the same local market.”

Technique tips

The basics. Communicate successes and maintain visibility

Revamp Web site to focus on practices that differentiate the agency

Require team leaders to regularly produce marketing content

Forget to include employee input into external marketing

Issue promotional news the same day as a client

Make unrealistic plans. Set reasonable goals that won't be brushed aside

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