Reputation: Gaining Reputation with Clients
Reputation, the seventh element of the Client Management Model™, explains:
• sources of reputation;
• media relations and its impact on Clients;
• thought leadership and its impact on Clients;
• thought followership;
• the importance of media training;
• issue-based campaigns;
• networks and group membership.
• What affects your reputation?
• How can you use thought leadership?
• Who are your target audiences?
• What issues are of interest to your Clients?
• What can you publish?
Sources of Reputation
The reputation of a professional services firm can develop from many areas. Just as Clients 'buy' people, they are influenced by a firm's reputation. Many firms receive referrals from existing Clients because they have delivered a sufficiently high quality of service that the Client is willing to mention this to peer organisations. Whilst word of mouth is an ideal form of developing new Clients, it can be a relatively slow process and so builds up over a considerable time period.
An issue-based campaign, perhaps a piece of thought leadership, targeted at the right prospects or Clients can be very effective in rapidly building your firm's reputation and can often lead to a new revenue stream. Reputation can be gained rapidly by association with a high-profile organisation, for example, if your firm sponsors or co-sponsors a widely publicised report or a good cause.
Media Relations and its Impact on Clients
In recent years many professional services firms have established a public relations (PR) function to enable managed contact with the media and other audiences to position their firm accordingly. This function often starts at the corporate level, aiming to reach specific audiences with messages and publications that can influence the direction of the firm in its chosen markets. Others outsource the PR function to an agency. Many firms do not have an articulated PR strategy.
The larger professional services firms also have PR managers for service lines and some have sector-focused PR teams or specialist agencies. Each of these has its place in supporting the firm's strategy.
Thought Leadership and its Impact on Clients
In today's increasingly competitive arena for professional services, ideas are a major source of differentiation. Those professional services firms that stand out in their market have moved beyond providing solutions to Clients' problems and have aimed to become famous for their work particular areas through the differentiator of thought leadership. They often do this by conducting issue-based research to position their firm as experts and commentators in a specific field. Nowadays Clients expect their advisors to be leaders in their fields and this is often demonstrated through thought leadership initiatives.
For example, a firm might wish to position itself with large corporates by researching the impact on corporate share prices of mergers in a sector. During the process of interviewing top executives for their views, the firm may build new relationships. By asking the right questions, a firm can take a stance on an issue that yields a high level of media attention and coverage. This leads to Clients and prospects contacting the firm for a copy of the report or for some advice. However, many firms admit to jumping on the bandwagon of other firms' research. This is known as thought followership. Clients are increasingly seeking firms that are innovative and prepared to speak out on topical issues.