While we’re all itching to put 2020’s pandemic challenges behind us, 2021 has yet to look like much of an improvement. Companies are still grappling with scale backs, pivots, and survival. Marketing, public relations, and business development strategies need to continue to evolve and remain creative in the era of canceled conferences, zero face-to-face connections, and the challenge that unrelenting high-priority news poses to attracting media attention to your brand.
Despite these challenges, communications and public relations should be at the forefront of your marketing strategy as audiences are devouring more content than ever with more time spent on computers and smartphones in our “new normal.” Here are a few always-helpful tactics to keep you going strong while other marketing ROI and business development areas remain sluggish.
Publicize Project Milestones and Company News
Construction – essential construction in particular – has hardly skipped a beat. Projects are still breaking ground, topping out, and (in some cases at least) opening their doors. Even if there are fewer golden shovel events or grand opening opportunities for live interviews and tours, issuing press releases will make clear that design, engineering, and construction companies continue pursuing and completing great structures.
Press releases don’t merely alert traditional media to stories. They can also be published on your website news page, social media, and other marketing channels. Also consider using a news wire service to guarantee press release pickup by online media, which boosts your web visibility and searchability.
Company news — e.g., promotions, new hires, new service lines, big anniversaries, awards, community involvement and altruism, and more — can also be publicized via press release. Even news that might seem negative, like pandemic-related consolidation of departments, could prove helpful if you use it to showcase how it strengthens your company and improves mission alignment.
Put Your Thought Leaders at the Forefront
Professional services businesses don’t have products to test or samples to try. They are selling technical expertise. Experts in design, construction, or various engineering and consulting disciplines have much to offer — new ideas and lessons learned — that can help audiences with their pain points. Expertise like this can be showcased in various formats; for example, in articles for trade publications, in a blog, in webinar presentations, or featured in pandemic-popularized podcasts. Promoting thought leadership attracts your audience to the work your company does.
Directly showcasing your expertise is not the only way to get in front of an audience. Media introductions in the form of “source sheets” are a great way to get your thought leaders in front of target media for interview consideration when opportunities for in-person introductions are scarce. However, resist the catch-all approach. Be familiar with the topics reporters cover and target them thoughtfully.
Renew Your Focus on E-Marketing
It’s hard to imagine a better time to get meaningful content about your company directly in front of your audience. With limited opportunities for personal interaction, go meet your audiences where they are – on their computers and smart phones. Launch or dust off an e-newsletter and social media channels to remind your audience — again and again — of what makes your company stand apart from the competition.
An e-newsletter can offer a mix of technical articles, company announcements, links to recent media coverage and blog posts, personnel profiles, community service, and project spotlights. It can be shaped in various ways, specific or broad. An e-newsletter is also a great platform for highlighting company responses to nationwide concerns like the pandemic or social justice.
Don’t Be Shy — Get Recognized
Awards and honors attract attention and add priceless credibility to your marketing efforts. Project awards often have a one-to-three-year lifespan from date of completion, so if you’ve put off submitting, you might still be eligible. Go for it!
Do you have women, LGBTQ+ colleagues, or members of an ethnic minority who are rising stars or amazing leaders? They may qualify for recognition in programs that celebrate diversity. It also pays to explore the range of regional, business, and industry awards that members of your company seem to merit.
And don’t forget company awards — for instance those recognizing “best places to work” and “corporate philanthropy/social responsibility.”
Keep Your Eye on the Prize
While the pandemic has changed so much of the way we do business and respond to the unexpected, we should never lose sight of the unrelenting need for marketing communications and public relations to maintain – even bolster – the strength of your brand following.
It may seem daunting to consistently work on all four of these strategies, so start with one or two and create an internal process for soliciting suggestions and content from your colleagues.
The price of staying silent — dropping out of clients’ sight — is lost sales and market share, diminished attention, and engagement, which will make it even tougher to rebuild once COVID’s dust settles. Stay visible!
Melinda Hepp is founder and principal of Studio PR, a San Francisco Bay Area-based communications and public relations agency that helps professional services businesses connect with audiences.