In the crowded world of data and insights, standing out is essential. When a client has a choice of hundreds of agencies or suppliers, they need to know what exactly sets you apart from your competitors and why you can meet their needs best. Defining your area of expertise or specialism and acting as a thought leader in this area will help establish your company as the ‘go to’ agency or supplier for a specific requirement.
At the beginning of a relationship with a PR agency, the agency can help you define your offering. Your agency should have expertise in your market, so they should be aware of the messages that will give you a point of distinction. This is what it is you should be focusing your stories on. They should recommend pro-active PR ideas that support these messages. However, developing and differentiating your company’s position in the market is a two-way street – the agency will do their best to help you find an appropriate story but as the client you need to be helpful and open in communicating your needs and sharing your content (which in our case is most often, data). It is also helpful to involve a broader team than only marketing from the outset so messages are built, communicated and integrated deeper within the business and you know you can deliver on what is planned.
When choosing a point of differentiation don’t state the ‘bleedin’’ obvious. As a sample company you’re expected to deliver good quality sample. As an agency you should be delivering actionable insights. Stating these ‘hygiene’ factors is all well and good, but it isn’t going to help you stand out in a crowded marketplace where all your competitors are also providing these services. Instead find something that sets you apart and makes you special. Communicate the value that you bring that others can’t. This could be knowledge of a particular sector, technique or market; or it could be through your customer service, employees, business model or culture or it could be through a new innovation, technology or service.
However, focusing your message on one area doesn’t mean that you can’t do business in areas adjacent to your core specialism. A common worry is that differentiating is ‘pigeon holing’ a business that has many skills and talents into a one-trick pony. But differentiating doesn’t have to be restricting. For one, you can pick a fairly broad specialism – for example, a collection of markets or related methodologies. And with sufficient thought leadership you will open opportunities to work with many clients, so can then offer them related services outside of your core.
Differentiation is important not only to stand out to clients and their procurement departments, but also to get cut through with journalists in the first place. Journalists are always on the look-out for an interesting story, so they want to know immediately what sets you apart. What’s more, as a differentiated company with a specific specialism, journalists may then look to your company to provide specific types of data when they need it, providing increased opportunities for coverage.
However, you also must remember to be realistic. Just because you have a differentiated offering, it doesn’t mean that mainstream media will feature you in their publication. Your company works in market research, and outside of the field of data, research and insights there is little awareness of what you do. While the Trumps, Facebooks, and Royal Families of the world steal the front pages of national newspapers daily, don’t be surprised if it takes a while to build the relationship between your company and the media Also, don’t underestimate the value of the research trade media. While coverage in WIRED or the Wall Street Journal may seem appealing, the insight clients you’re trying to reach are actually more likely to be readers of the research trade press. So, while mainstream media may seem impressive for investors, the coverage may ultimately be lost on the audiences you’re seeking.
Working with your agency to achieve differentiated messaging is essential to achieving effective PR. A generic message which doesn’t highlight your expertise is a waste of both yours and your PR’s time and money, while a message that highlights your differences from your competitors will allow you to showcase your expertise and get the most out of the relationship.
You can download our 6 tips for working with a PR agency white paper here.