Staying Fighting Fit: PR and Business Development Health Check – Highlights

On Thursday 4th April, Upfront and Propeller Group hosted a Business Development and PR Masterclass, giving a health check on agency BD and PR plans as we enter Q2. Joining us as Keynote speaker was Bronwen Andrews, Head of Business Development for the UK and Europe at Grayling. Bronwen shared her experience, insights and tips, including that when it comes to new business you should be like a sniper.

Following Bronwen, guests broke into separate table discussions led by Jody Osman (MD, Upfront), Branwell Johnson (Head of Content, Propeller), Rose Bentley (Head of Clients & Strategy, Propeller) and Camilla Honey (MD, JFDI).

Here are our key takeaways from each table discussion:

Content: Tips for ideas, formats and distribution – Branwell Johnson, Propeller Group

As Director of Content at Propeller, Branwell highlighted that content creation should always go hand in hand with how you plan to optimise it once created. Before producing content, you need to identify what you want to get out of it. There is no value in creating content that won’t be used or seen by those its being targeted at. He advised that good content brings something new to the conversation, whether this is new ideas, trends or bespoke research. He also recommended that your clients can be a great way of getting insight for a content piece, and often they are incredibly willing to be included. Branwell noted that when it comes to creating content for your agency, it is everyone’s responsibility – the entire team should be educated on its importance and value. In order to make it easier for your team to write, he advised to create a template for your peers to follow. Be smart with your content, see what can be reworked and revised. While Branwell noted that it’s incredibly difficult to measure the effectiveness of content, what is clear is that content can provide credibility, build agency status and help you become part of the conversation.

How to build your network – Rose Bentley, Propeller Group

Currently Director of Clients and Strategy at Propeller, Rose was previously Global Head of Reputation of Wolff Olins. Rose emphasised the importance of understanding your network and how to leverage it. In her experience, she found that 80% of overall new business wins came from companies that were already within her agencies network. If there’s not an opportunity when you meet someone, it is important to keep in touch so that when an opportunity arises, you are naturally already part of the conversation. She recommended finding out what interests your contacts, researching them and their plans and either inviting them to events or organising to reconnect at industry events. Her top tips for writing emails to connections were to first personalise the email and make the connection, then address an issue relevant to them, followed by highlighting your own credibility and experience. The note should end in a proposition to meet up, with a suggested date or time that may suit. While you should be building and utilising your network and your conversations should be thought through and structured, Rose advised not to overthink it. Be natural and use your own personality to guide the conversation – how and when you think you should say something usually turns out to be the right way.

Auditing your new business success – Camilla Honey, JFDI

As Managing Director, Camilla said that she started JFDI as she believed that there was a better way to do new business. New business never used to be joined up to marketing and PR, only really in pitches. As it’s important and natural that these disciplines become increasingly joined up, it does not come without its challenges. Previously new business plans would focus on the next five years, whereas now agencies generally produce 12-month plans. Before planning, you should first look at the future both professionally and personally, and what it is you want to achieve. She advised you should then look at the past and identify any themes and threads coming out that you can then apply to your plan for the year ahead. Find out what’s working for you. Ask your clients for honest feedback which you can then incorporate into your plan. Camilla ultimately advised that when it comes to new business success; you should be disciplined, be agile but most importantly, just f**king do it!

Insights and strategies to build a successful business development programme – Jody Osman, Upfront BD

Jody echoed Camilla’s sentiments, arguing that in order to plan for the future, you need to be looking at the past and identify your key challenges, see if there are any common trends, what worked and what didn’t. Too often, agencies can rush their targeting and decide to go after a particular sector without properly considering their overall strategy. It is important to focus not only on immediate opportunities, but every conversation you have as it all can be used as insight to feed into your overall business development programme. With so many agencies wanting to talk to the same decision makers, it can be increasingly difficult to get cut through. It’s necessary to think outside the box and make an introduction memorable enough to successfully follow up. Of course, there’s always a risk that creativity might not be received in the intended way, so you should be open to the fact that it won’t always appeal to everyone. Choose something that reflects your brand and supporting Rose’s advice, being true to your own personality is almost always the best approach to take.

Thank you to all those who attended the event, to our keynote, Bronwen Andrews and to our table speakers for an insightful and thought-provoking discussion. If you’d like to talk about developing your agency’s integrated business development and PR plan, please get in touch.

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