It may seem counter-intuitive to advocate the power of PR at a festival called Ad Week Europe. But while agencies are brilliant at servicing the advertising, media and technology needs of their clients, it’s a truism that they are not always so good at promoting their own successes, viewpoints and specialisms to the wider world. Sometimes you have to “earn” it with a programme of PR, content and events.
Or to put it another way, agencies may be storytellers but can they tell their own story? If you have a famous brand name within the industry based on heritage – come on down Saatchi & Saatchi (the agency with most consumer awareness), Ogilvy & Mather, JWT and McCann – that might be enough to demand initial attention from trade and business journalists.
But how can the rest of assembled agency-land become famous? Fame depends on being able to show off your best work, the opinions of your leadership team and your original thinking. We know that ad-land is a highly competitive field and there are lots of agencies fighting to get their voices heard. So, you need to be able to shout louder than your competitors – and in the right places.
This is where PR specialists can deliver when it comes to crafting great storytelling content and spotting, or creating, opportunities to tell that story. The best PRs are always able to build a bridge between the key messages that clients want to talk about and the stories that will attract the attention of journalists and other influencers.
PR agencies know how to pull together the convincing case studies, content and data to show they understand and can work strategically across earned, owned and paid channels. They value creative thinking, just like advertising and media agencies – and like the latter try to place the right message in the right channel at the right time, from broadcast and print opportunities to conferences and panel events. The latter are particularly useful for explaining your message directly to potential clients with little chance of misinterpretation and with the ability to bring the personal warmth and charisma of your C-suite to the fore.
It’s important to remember that there is a wider world out there where agencies can deliver their message and build business profile beyond the obvious marketing trade titles. If you want to signal to a client that you understand their sector-specific challenges as you ready to pitch for their business, what could give you more valued credentials than appearing in the relevant vertical trade media?
At Propeller, we advise clients on how to get cut-through across the full media spectrum – from marketing and tech titles to specialist media for retail, travel, finance markets and beyond. Agencies in the run up to a pitch find it strengthens their hand if they can appear in a title read by their target client – for instance a relevant thought piece in a travel business title if the agency is in the running for a cruise line. There’s been a lot of debate about context versus audience of late in ad-land and we can say that context certainly matters in these cases.
The right PR strategy, embracing content and events, gets you noticed, provides an audit trail of positive signals if a possible client or investor is running the rule over your business and helps in recruitment of talent.
In a crowded ad land market, it’s ironic but true that ‘earned’ rather than ‘bought’ or ‘owned’ media is often the major differentiator amongst agencies within their own marketing mix. Maybe there are some things money can’t (directly) buy after all.
Learn how PR works with business journalists at Propeller’s ‘Wallflowers At The Orgy’ panel at Ad Week Europe. The panel is on the Workshop Stage, Tuesday March 21st at 2.30 pm.