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Conducting the Communications Ensemble, Part I

April 11, 2013

“Voice From the Trenches” aims to inform and inspire marketing professionals who are immersed in the day-to-day activities of their firms. This month, Karen Euler excerpts from a recent session on marketing communications at the SMPS Boston Marketing Boot Camp.

musicAt the boot camp, Pia Cardinali, CPSM and I covered five rough groupings of communications literature. We started with basics such as the website and firm brochure, moved through public relations and specialized pieces, and finished with social media.

Together, the groups can be thought of as an ensemble. A musical metaphor is apt because the pieces work separately at times and at other times together. There is an essential kit of pieces that form the melody of the firm’s music, while other pieces add harmony, rising up and falling away as needed to deepen awareness about the firm and its work.

The Essential Kit

Whether a firm is new or long-established, its primary pieces of literature are the one-page firm profile, the website, and the printed firm brochure. It is simply impossible to launch a new firm without these materials, and a long-established firm must update them from time to time or risk appearing dated.

Today’s website usually contains information on key projects, key people, a mention of its philosophy or methodology, and case studies, white papers or blog posts that promote special expertise that the firm offers.

Stationery is an important part of this essential kit and includes the business cards, email signature, letterhead & notecards. In today’s world, paper stationery is used only rarely, but business cards have certainly not yet fallen away.

The email signature can be a powerful tool for mentioning special news. It is dynamic, easily changed to include a message or a link for a short or long period of time.

Broadcasting: Press Releases and E-blasts

After a new firm becomes a going concern, it will want to circulate high-profile project news, awards received, senior hires, and firm anniversaries. An established firm will typically embark on a strong PR program as a secondary effort when the proposal process is running smoothly.

“PR” as it is often abbreviated, is typically achieved through a combination of e-blasts, traditional press releases, and newsletters of some kind. Traditional press releases might not have a graphic design component and are aimed at mainstream media. E-blasts, newsletters, and even Facebook posts all have the potential to be visually creative and impactful.

There are two necessary ingredients for doing any of these well which are not always easy to come by: a mailing list of clients and one of media contacts.

Some principals may be skilled at maintaining a client list while others less so. Some firms have media contact lists that are woefully out of date. Many firms do not have an organized PR program through which to keep track of media outlets that are of interest both to read and to which to contribute. Therefore it may fall to marketing to research relevant publications and obtain the email addresses of their editors.

Developing Clients: Event Pieces

Holiday cards are often very important to a firm because the holiday season is the one time of the year they surely will reach out to clients without a business agenda. In fact, holiday cards that tout too much of a “salesy” firm message are often looked down upon.

Another way to relate directly to clients’ well-being is through a special event. Industry parties were more common before the recession rocked the boat in 2009. Once in a while a party is called for and an invitation can be a great way to show appreciation.

Seminars held at a firm’s office or through trade groups such as Urban Land Institute or Women’s Transportation Seminar are a reliable way to generate quality leads for a firm. Today, firms are just as likely to use webinars as seminars. Either way, a visually compelling invitation is part of successful event-planning.

Part II of the communications ensemble will be covered next month. Til then, we’re humming along.

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