Issue-Based Marketing Campaigns
As mentioned earlier, an effective way of positioning a professional services firm with potential allies is to align it with a topical business or public interest issue.
The following case studies illustrate this.
USING ISSUE-BASED RESEARCH TO ENHANCE REPUTATION
A mid-tier accounting firm wanted to build its reputation as a provider of a forensic advisory service in combatting commercial fraud, known as economic crime, in corporate entities. Research showed that if fraud was detected within a large corporation, their general counsel and legal team would recommend the appropriate forensic accountants. Although the accounting firm was relatively successful for its size, it was not attracting such referred work from these large companies. So the firm decided to create an issue-based campaign that would focus on combatting economic crime aimed at alerting top management in corporate entities.
While it was looking at ways to raise its profile with these large entities, a chance meeting occurred between the accountants and some regional fraud investigators. A regional police group was combatting white collar economic crime by creating a forum to encourage the sharing of information between private and public sectors. This results achieved by this forum had come to the attention of a UK government department. The forum was considering the conduct of an economic crime survey among retailers in their region. The accounting firm offered to help with the survey and a draft was created containing around 50 questions. The survey would be printed and it was decided to attract sponsors in addition to the regional fraud forum as this should encourage participation by large retailers. When the government's anti-fraud team was shown the draft document it asked for the survey to be extended to a wider audience than just retailers in a region - it also wanted all UK corporate entities to be surveyed as, according to their data, economic crime was costing £ 18bn in the UK.
The accounting firm decided to create an economic crime survey that would be conducted among 3,500 companies listed on the UK stock exchange. The survey now had a range of sponsors including a government department and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) which added to its credibility and response rate. The target audience in the 3,500 FTSE companies were board members at CEO and Finance Director level, as these people were known to influence and recommend the procurement of forensic advisory services from the accounting firm in discussions on fraud issues with their legal colleagues.
The response to the survey was considered significant as it included 10 per cent of FTSE 100 companies, the UK's largest public entities. The data was analysed and by extrapolation and interviews with large companies, the cost of economic crime was quantified at £40bn; £32bn due to identified losses and £8bn required to train people to detect fraud. This figure was considerably higher than previous estimates and astounded a number of commentators. A public relations initiative led to extensive coverage in all of the UK national press and enquiries to the accounting firm.
Each respondent was given a profile showing how it compared with other companies of similar size and industry sector. A report was produced and launched in London to an audience including top listed company bosses. They heard from a panel of economic crime experts and a representative from the government department. Some of these enquiries resulted in a new income stream from large companies which had previously used other, larger accounting firms to investigate fraud. A series of road shows was then held around the UK to promote the report to listed companies. A follow up survey was then conducted with building societies and later with public sector organisations. Both sectors also received excellence media coverage about the fraud issue.
HIGH NETWORTH CAMPAIGN
An accounting firm wanted to forge closer ties with lawyers when dealing with high personal wealth Clients. Many of these Clients had complex business issues, and some had personal issues relating to marital separation and divorce. It was decided to conduct some sensitive market research with high net worth individuals and to include the question of separation and divorce. The findings revealed considerable uncertainty in regard to selection of the appropriate law firm to handle such matters. The report received wide press coverage and a number of specialist law firms contacted the accounting firms offering to help their wealthy Clients. A series of round tables was held nationally each led by a panel including two or more law firms, who explained with examples how they had helped high net worth individuals to resolve their financial affairs. This led to close relationships being developed between the accounting firm and many law firms. A number of high net worth individuals also contacted the accounting firm for more information about their wealth management services.
Memberships of Industry Groups and Networks
Joining selected groups can bring partners closer to their target audiences through networking; nowadays this is becoming an increasingly used approach. By attending sector or issue-based events, it is often possible to meet targets that are otherwise inaccessible.
Many of these groups now meet 'virtually', over the Internet, providing valuable insights into sector issues. The use of 'blogs' and forums to air views is now a global, and daily, phenomenon. These have to be carefully monitored to avoid the possibility of abuse as a firm's reputation is more on the line now than ever before.
'Thought leadership is perhaps, ironically, becoming devalued by repetition and by firms not fully working through what it means and what it can do for them. The two main causes I see of firms not gaining potential results from thought leadership are:
• Not thinking through what will really add distinctive value both to them and their businesses.
• Not effectively exploiting the value of the thought leadership and content they generate.
The second can definitely be an issue for firms where the marketing function is stretched and can find it difficult to take a step back and identify all the strategic and tactical opportunities it can provide.'
Robin Dicks, Director, The Thriving Company Limited
The Challenges of Reputation Management
Reputation has explained that in these times of rapid, mobile communications professional services firms need to ensure that they measure the pulse of their Clients and markets through effective research and media relations. News now travels faster than ever before, with social media channels like Facebook, Linkedln and Twitter often beating the traditional publication route of a press release. Those firms that have a media relations strategy and policy aim to stay abreast of such developments. Professional services firms that have excellent media contacts and media-trained specialists who can face journalists are more likely to be contacted for their expert opinions. Thought leadership is still one of the most effective means of attracting new business, as long as it is fresh, topical and hard-hitting in content.
CLIENT MANAGEMENT REVIEW QUESTIONS
To what extent:
1. Do you have a written and communicated media strategy and objectives?
2. Do you use thought leadership to enhance your reputation?
3. Do you have media-trained people who can face the media?
4. Do you have a crisis management process that kicks in when needed?
5. Do you create issue-based campaigns to raise your firm's profi
6. Are you members of a number of influential networks?
7. Do you have a social media policy that monitors commentary about the firm?
8. Do you use a media relations agency to complement your internal team?
9. Do you have a corporate responsibility strategy?
10. Is your firm involved in social responsibility projects?
11. Do you track your firm's reputation?
12. Do you have an updated media contact list with named spokespeople?
These questions also form the basis of the Reputation section of your Client Management Profile™, which can be found in Chapter 15.
Client Management Model™