Q: We’re trying to increase our marketing activities and visibility in the channel to attract new customers. So, we’re considering hiring a public relations firm to help coordinate relationships with the media and write press releases for us. Is a PR firm really worth the money? Are there additional ways they can help my MSP grow?
Hiring a public relations firm is a big decision. It’s often an investment of both time and money, but they can certainly help you gain visibility in the IT channel, craft your messaging to resonate with SMB clients, and even build a positive brand image. Essentially, a PR firm is an extension of your business—they can offer advice about your latest marketing campaign, alert you to new IT channel or managed service trends, or even help you promote your MSP business. They’re there to give you an extra set of objective eyes on multiple facets of your MSP business.
To give you an inside look at how a PR firm can help shape your MSP business, we spoke to Suzanne Collier from WhiteFox PR & Marketing. With more than 15 years working in the field, Suzanne is a seasoned PR professional, dedicated to helping businesses build and maintain a positive brand image. With her knowledge of the IT channel, Suzanne shared her take on how a PR firm can help grow your MSP.
There’s more to it than press releases
PR firms can help with a plethora of different things, but often businesses only think of them when it comes to press releases. There is so much more a PR firm can help with, though. Depending on your MSP’s goals and objectives, the range of services you’re looking for might vary, but here are a few common ways a PR firm can help your business grow.
Scheduling. A PR firm can help the MSP set a consistent schedule for marketing and PR activities. Based on the agreement and deliverables that are expected of the PR firm, they can help draft collateral and messaging pieces, press releases, and monthly content to gain visibility for your brand.
Often, businesses treat press releases as an afterthought when the organization wins an industry award. A PR firm can help take on that responsibility (along with others) to ensure that communication and marketing from the brand is consistent and strategic — not just ad hoc.
Messaging. What is your brand promise? What message do you want to resonate with your target audience? Whether you want to be known for your value, your knowledge in a specific vertical, or for experience securing cloud environments, a PR firm can help ensure that this message fits with what you want to say about your services and offerings—and that it’s communicated consistently in all your public-facing materials.
When it comes to messaging, it’s nice to have someone who understands your business but isn’t involved in the nitty-gritty day-to-day operations. An outside PR firm can ensure that whenever you’re communicating with your partners, customers, or vendors that you have a clear and consistent message across the board. The PR firm will have a fresh perspective so they can point out any inconsistencies and highlight where the message is falling flat.
Conversations with the media. Ideally, you want to work with a PR firm that has IT channel connections. They don’t necessarily need to have worked with an MSP before, but they should understand and have contacts in the channel. When publications are looking for someone to comment on trends or happenings in the industry, they can help you leverage your message in the marketplace.
Materials. PR firms can help an MSP create a variety of materials such as blog posts, case studies, byline articles for channel publications, social media posts, brochures, and emails, as well as press releases. The biggest thing to decide before you get started with a PR firm is what objectives you’re looking to accomplish. That way both parties can identify what the program should be.
For example, if you want to increase your online presence you may be looking for help engaging and talking to more customers on social media. Do your tweets fit with the perception you want to convey about your company? Social media dovetails nicely into PR and overall messaging.
Be upfront with the PR firm before you start. Set the stage for the amount of posts or case studies you want to have per quarter, and what the overall metrics should be. Keep the lines of communication open, and adjust your metrics accordingly.
Overcoming challenges associated with cost
Many MSPs assume that PR firms are too costly, and often the person in the marketing department is wearing too many hats and doesn’t have the time or resources to hand off projects to a PR firm. One way to overcome these challenges is for service providers to approach their vendors and ask if there is MDF funding to support some of these projects (blog posts, case studies, press releases, etc.).
One of my MSP clients often relies on MDF dollars to fund projects that I work on. Vendors like joint marketing projects and it is often easier to get funding for programs that will not only help to promote your business, but also build awareness and recognition of the vendor’s brand. In some cases, vendors will even do projects on your behalf. If you don’t have the necessary funding, it’s always a good idea to explore what additional resources are available.
Growing your IT service business isn’t easy, especially when you have limited time and resources. However, a skilled PR firm can help coordinate PR and marketing activities to help your build your brand. Whether it is crafting collateral or making sure your messaging is consistent across the board, they can help your message resonate with the right audience. Although cost may be a challenge for some MSPs, following Suzanne’s advice and reaching out to your vendors about MDF funding is a great way to carry out public relations projects and gain additional exposure in the industry.
Ask an MSP Expert is a weekly advice column answering common questions from MSPs and IT service providers. It covers topics ranging from pricing and selling to marketing and communications—and everything in between.