Getting Fighting Fit: PR and Business Development Masterclass – Highlights

In December, Upfront and Propeller Group hosted their first joint event at The Charlotte Street Hotel, where four breakfast roundtables discussed how to create your joined up 2019 agency business development and PR plan. Kicking off the morning was Anna Burns, Managing Partner of Ogilvy, who heads up Ogilvy’s EMEA business development and marketing activities She shared her tips, insights and best practise when planning for a successful year ahead. Following her, each table broke into separate discussions led by Jody Osman, Branwell Johnson, Ian Farnfield and Ben Titchmarsh. Here are our key takeaways from each table discussion.

How to build and maintain strong client relationships

Leading this topic discussion was Ian Farnfield, CEO of Tonic Partners. He has been responsible for growing two major international agencies from small national businesses and driven the success of over a dozen start-ups. Through this extensive experience, Ian’s discussion highlighted that business development does not just involve winning business; retaining clients should be just as essential to your business development plan. Central to this, Ian advised, was planning. Planning for the year ahead should be all encompassing – involving the entire agency, outlining individual and team roles and reconnecting on a monthly basis to ensure progress and growth. New Business can often take president over clients, both in terms of investment and time. Discussion continued however, to highlight that the two shouldn’t be separated. Join up the skills needed in new business and client services and enhance all relationships. Take the time to understand each client – while planning is essential, there isn’t a one size fits all strategy. Just as you would with a pitch, tailor your strategy depending on the client’s potential. Ian’s table discussions throughout the morning took away the essential advice to be committed, be nosy and don’t let your clients forget the reason you won the pitch in the first place.

The key components to a successful new business plan

Jody Osman, Managing Director of Upfront drew on his experience in business development, having helped agencies win over 150m worth of business; and led discussion around how to develop a successful new business plan. This begins, he argued, with the targeting. Take the time to get the targeting right – make sure you’re contacting the right decision makers and the right companies for your agency. Segment your plan, divide it in a way that makes sense to your strategy – whether that be by sector, job title, spend etc. Have a clear focus in what you want to achieve and set targets and deadlines – plans should always be working documents so set in quarterly reviews to see if you’re on track and what’s working. If you appear to be behind where you should be at a particular time, you need to understand why and review your strategy laid out in your initial plan. Be open to changing and adapting. Jody noted that success not only looks different for different agencies, but can look different throughout the year depending on your agency’s priorities. Adapting to what your success looks like, taking into account the ever changing agency landscape and industry trends around you is an incredibly important aspect of success. Additionally, Jody highlighted the importance of an effective CRM system to track your progress, set tasks and ensure your plan is fully in action. Ending his table discussions, he noted that while plans by their very design involve thinking ahead, you should continue to look back, drawing on past experience and previous years to ensure that this year is your most successful one yet.

Creating content that moves the dial for business growth

Branwell Johnson, Director of Content at Propeller, a former journalist and deputy editor of Marketing Week, highlighted the importance of content when it comes to joining up business development and PR. Content is often viewed as a heavy investment with relatively minimal return. Agencies need to look at the cost of creating content vs. the cost of not creating it. You can invest a lot of time and money into creating a great piece of content, but if no one sees it, then that’s where the question over its value arises. It’s not all about what you produce, but how you then go on to use this great piece of content. When deadlines hit and agencies struggle with budgets, it is challenging to get stakeholders to invest in content, but it should be your responsibility to challenge yourself and your peers to research trends, see what the industry is talking about and become part of the conversation. Not only can content help recruit talent and help your business grow internally, it can elevate your company status both agency and client side. If your business is looking for external support or investment, it needs to be seen to be innovative, it needs to be admired and respected. Branwell advised delegates that content was a key component to achieving this.

Building your agency brand in a competitive market

Director of Business Development and Partnerships at Propeller Group, Ben Titchmarsh led his table discussion around how your agency can stand out within today’s competitive landscape. He argued that at face value, agencies can often all look the same. Obvious though it may seem, a company’s website is an easy way to create content around your company, but how do you stand out in an online sea of similar agencies? It gets increasingly difficult to differentiate one from another – companies are at risk of losing their USP when they face competition from thousands of other agencies that claim to do exactly the same. This is not to say that agencies have lost their individuality but they increasingly fall short of effectively communicating their key messaging. Supporting Branwell’s sentiments, content can often get overlooked because a greater client need requires urgency. There needs to be a shift in attitude of content as an additional part of company strategy to a central element of your plan for business development.

You can read more about Upfront and Propeller’s plans to fully join up business development and PR here. Thank you to all those who attended the event, and to our speakers for an insightful and thought-provoking discussion. If you’d like to talk about creating your agency’s integrated business development and PR plan, please get in touch.

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