A brief guide to professional services marketing pitfalls

Anyone who spends time doing marketing communications for professional services firms will recognize some of these disasters in waiting. PR professionals can be ridiculed for making some classic rookie faux pas, like mass emailing reporters, not knowing what they’re pitching and to whom they’re pitching – you get the gist. In fact, this happens so much that there is an entire blog devoted to bad pitches. But what about those times in every proficient PR professional’s career when you are set up for failure and media mockery? Some disasters are unavoidable … and unsolvable. The purpose of this brief guide is to alert newcomers to the field so they can plan how to deal with these problems with minimal collateral damage.

The first – the new hire release – looks innocent enough. The professional firm hires a new partner, perhaps away from a competitor. This calls for a simple news release that perhaps gets three lines of type in a trade publication or city business book. The problem is that the firm CEO believes he has just hired the next Peter Drucker and wants pickup in the Wall Street Journal. Not surprisingly, the new hire agrees completely and even says “my old PR people could do that easily.” You cannot win this one – all you can do is manage expectations and hope for the best.

A similar foible is the strategic alliance announcement. Your firm has entered into a strategic alliance with another. It can be a peer, a supplier, an overseas entity, whatever.  Your CEO’s chest puffs with pride. This is almost as good as an acquisition, and he expects major ink. The problem is, from a media point-of-view, the alliance has no clients, nothing substantive to say, and no money changed hands in this transaction. In other words, it’s not news beyond a line of type. Your role: manage expectations, and duck!

A problem unique to the management consulting profession is the world class methodology fixation. Consultants love their methodologies and they labor long hours to perfect them and the Power Point slides that explain them (or don’t, but that’s another story). You are expected to generate media coverage that will have potential clients hammering on the door, ready to throw money at your firm. Don’t get caught up in the hysteria. The first journalist to whom you pitch the story will calmly ask: “can you refer me to one of your clients that has successfully used this methodology?” When you say “no,” she will say “then come back to me when you can.” Journalists like stories, not methodologies.

If you’ve labored in the professional service marketing vineyards, you must have similar stories. What are they? We’d love to hear.

To reach John:

Phone: 212.840.0444
LinkedIn:  John Bliss