This post was updated on June 22, 2020.
Professional Services has its own unique set of public relations challenges, apart from other B2B companies. You’re not structured around new products or solutions, and confidentially agreements often prevent sharing client success stories.
But, this doesn’t mean you don’t have a leg to stand on for establishing a strong public relations plan. In fact, you have a key advantage. You’re selling expertise.
Most B2B companies will center their marketing tactics around achieving this thought leader status to give them credibility in their industry. The goal is to be the go-to leader and source for information valuable to your audience to build trust and awareness. Lucky for you, your expert knowledge is the pillar of what you do. Now you just need to get your voice out there.
Working the thought leadership angle, we’ve put together a 4 step plan to build a PR strategy that you can achieve in-house.
The purpose of the steps shared today is not to drain your resources in the hopes of a big win. We know that’s not a sustainable approach, so in this post, we focus on what’s attainable. You won’t see us suggesting your firm makes the front page of Forbes, but if you stick with these ideas, you will start to see gradual success.
STEP 1: Set Your Goal and a Purpose
Like most aspects of your business, it’s better to start with a concrete goal. If you try to do one-off PR here and there just to say you do it, you’ll most likely be wasting your time. There needs to be a meaningful purpose and a way to measure if you’re achieving it. Being mentioned in the press should be seen as a means to an end, not the end goal.
If you go a layer deeper, you’ll see you’re most likely going after one of these goals:
- Building your authority and credibility
- Driving brand awareness
- Generating traffic and expanding your audience
Once you pick your top goals, select the metrics that best align to measure your success. Google Analytics is a free tool you can use to monitor your progress.
Common metrics to track:
- Website visitors
- Number of qualified leads
- SEO ranking
- Backlinks (# of sites that push traffic to your site)
- Growth in email subscribers
STEP 2: Find Your Target Audience
Now it’s time to find out the essential insight to good PR -- where is your audience spending their time? For professional services firms, your audience may not spend time reading the same industry-focused content you do, but are tuned in to discussions around the solutions your firm offers.
Get to know what media outlets, associations, groups, and blogs cover your topics of interest, and make a list. Rank them in order of best fit and potential to build a relationship. This stage can easily become overwhelming if you bite off more than you can chew, so it’s okay to start small. You can always reference back to the list if you strike out and your goals aren’t being met with one approach.
STEP 3: Develop Your Story as a Thought Leader
Establishing a strong thought leadership story can make you the go-to authority for your market. Perhaps you already have an advantage over your competitors by carving out the time to invest in a PR strategy. But, if your competitors have already established themselves as well, then focus on an angel that is uniquely yours. Hone in on your differentiators and insights only your firm could provide. What is the niche that you have and your competitors don't? Use this to help you establish your brand’s voice, which should carry over into every piece of content you produce.
A good way to test your message is to start with social media posts and see what the response from your following is. After all, thought leadership needs to be a two-way relationship. Then look at the topics that resonate and use that insight to spend your time writing blogs or other content wisely.
STEP 4: Stay in the Action
The best way to keep yourself accountable is by making a calendar to map out your tactics and goals for the year. To do this, divide the calendar into your owned and earned media tactics to make sure you have a good mix of both.
Owned media are the outlets your firm has complete control over. This route is great for establishing thought leadership because it’s free and closely associated with your brand.
Examples of owned media for professional services firms:
- Your website/blog
- Social media profiles
- Branded materials, such as slide decks
- Long-form content (case studies or infographics)
- Press releases
Earned media can be harder to succeed in, but can have a big pay off. This covers all PR that is given to you by a third-party outlet, as we discussed in step 2.
Examples of earned media for professional services firms:
- Pitching stories to media to share expert knowledge or data
- Speaking engagements at events
- Guest appearances on podcasts or webinars
- Monitoring HARO to provide information/quotes journalists are looking for
Remember, consistency is key. Don’t let all the hard work and time you put into these steps building your PR strategy go to waste by forgetting to prioritize your plan. Even if it is for an hour or two a week, it’s important to stay active for the benefits to grow.
If you want more tips on how to grow your firm’s brand, check out our previous post in this series, 7 free DIY Marketing Tips for Professional Services Firms, or our guide to building your firm's SEO.
About the Author
Manager, Content MarketingSee more by Trilby Lawless