by Lucy and Camilla d’Abo – Founders and Managing Partners of DABO & CO – Integrated Communications Agency
Almost ten years ago, we set up our integrated communications agency with a team of two (namely us), in a one bedroom apartment.
A decade later, we are an award-winning company with more than 40 talented team members, a number of international clients, a digital division and much bigger and better premises.
One of the pitfalls of being a PR and Events agency is that you are completely focused on your clients’ communication needs rather than your own. For years, even some of our closest friends had no idea just how large DABO & CO had grown or the caliber of our clients or the awards we had won.
We were fortunate in so much as our clients were our best business development tool and championed our services among their own networks. They often made up for our reluctance to “sell” ourselves. We can’t deny, this worked well. We grew organically based on the strength of our reputation. The UAE was growing, and so were we.
But as the UAE grew and changed, so too did the rest of the world in terms of technology and how business was being conducted globally. We quickly realized that if we were to capitalize on our growing talent and the opportunities that the Middle East presented, we needed to actually PR our own business and not just that of our clients.
So although this was not our priority, we have, over the years learnt a lot about the art of PR-ing our own business. Here are our top tips to get SMEs on the radar of potential investors, clients and talent:
Don’t shy away from tapping into your own network
We all have personal networks, whether its friends from university or former colleagues, or Linked-In, Facebook or Twitter followers. More often than not, they want to hear what you are up to and share in your successes. People buy in to other people. Today’s investor doesn’t always wear a pin- striped suit and sit in a bank, they are just as likely to be sat at a café reading their Twitter feeds on their ipad.
Embrace digital channels
Platforms such as Twitter; Linked-In, Instagram or Facebook can be harnessed to ensure you are on the radar of potential investors or clients. Use a blog to highlight your industry expertise and start conversations with digital influencers in your field. Digital is the most powerful Word of Mouth tool at your fingertips. Talk about your exciting growth plans and encourage others to be part of that journey. The more people hear about you, the more successful you are perceived to be.
Learn how to “work a room”
The key to building long term relationships is having a genuine interest in people. Fortunately in this market you meet people from a variety of backgrounds and industries. Networking is a skill in itself and one that does not come naturally to most people, but one that can reap dividends in terms of getting a foot through the door in terms of an all-important meeting with a potential investor or client. Once you’ve got that foothold, make the most of it.
Ensure you have your “elevator pitch” ready. This is a 60 second overview of what your business is and what you can bring to an investor or client that no one else can. If you can’t explain the benefits of what your business can bring to the table, don’t expect others to understand why they should invest in you.
Substance and style are crucial
Every interaction with a potential investor, large or small, is an opportunity to make a good impression. Ask yourself whether you know your investors or clients’ business back to front. How does your product or service enhance their portfolio? Do you have a presentation to share with them? Is it slick? Would it install confidence in them of your ability to grow a successful company?
Identify your news story
Are you the first to introduce a service or product to the market? How will this impact on the wider business community? Is there untapped potential in a certain market that you are able to meet unlike your competitors? Or are you the first SME to breakthrough in a certain industry? Identify your story – the reason why someone should sit up and take notice of you. Use this story to pitch to media.
A targeted approach rather than a scattergun one
Now that you have successfully identified what makes you different to your competitors you can start sharing this with media. The key is, to ensure you reach the right people. So in other words, if you are a construction company looking for investment, being interviewed on a travel blog is not going to help you get funding. Understand who your investors are, what they read, what they listen to and then start targeting that media.
Amplify your reach
Now that you have appeared in your chosen publication you should begin to share links of your coverage to your wider network. Encourage your network to comment and like your posts. The more people who see you sharing your success the more they will want to be part of that success.