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There’s a Hot Air Balloon in the Car Park

Well-known industry consultant, Joe Perri, puts his case to advice practices about the value of public relations to their business, particularly in relation to business exit and succession strategies…

Practice Owners Overlooking PR Opportunities

When most financial advisers implement a business exit and succession plan, they will set out their goals and direction and often include areas such as organisational restructure, streamlining systems and processes, governance and marketing in their plans.

Unfortunately, in far too many cases, these advisers and advice practices neglect to include a public relations (PR) communications program as part of their marketing and promotional plans and activities.

There are many reasons for this neglect, but the main reason is often that practice owners understand and are familiar with the traditional forms of marketing, such as advertising and sponsorship, but are not as familiar with and aware of the role of PR.

So, why consider PR?

Put quite simply, if you want to reach a broader group of prospective buyers or investors, a practice owner needs to raise the public profile and presence of their business.

Therefore, PR needs to be an integral component of the marketing and promotional process that articulates the strengths of the business to potential buyers, which may include competitors, staff and alliance partners.

Also, in many cases, PR is less expensive than traditional advertising and, for a financial services business, can achieve far more traction than an investment in advertising and similar marketing activities.

PR is effective because…

When people see third party coverage of a business, product or service in the media, it is perceived much differently than an advertisement.

When we see an advertisement, we know the company is trying to sell us something. However, if your target audience sees a published story, it is regarded as third party endorsement and the business gains a higher degree of credibility.

As a result, the target audience is much more likely to regard the practice and its services higher than if they see or read an advertisement.

A further benefit of an ongoing PR program is generating a higher visibility for the practice with its target audience, making the business and its brand more prominent and appealing to prospective buyers.

It also reassures existing clients, staff, centres of influence and alliance partners, and provides them with an incentive to retain their relationship with the practice and refer its services to potential clients.

Using PR to sell the business

A PR campaign to promote a practice to potential buyers and investors has a very different strategic imperative and focus because it promotes the company first and its services second.

However, PR is not an activity for amateurs as it is far more complex than simply writing a media release and sending it far and wide in the hope that it will be published in a newspaper or magazine.

Truly effective PR is very targeted in its application, utilising a strategic and tactical approach to build creditability and awareness through a program that educates and informs the target audience.

In addition, the modern PR program is multi-dimensional incorporating social media, the company’s website and a distribution process that ensures staff, clients, suppliers and others are in the ‘communication loop’.

The importance of time

Just as single trip to the local gym for a strenuous workout won’t convert an unfit overweight individual into a finely tuned athlete with an Arnold Schwarzenegger body, the same principle applies to selling a practice and extracting the maximum value for the owner(s).

It takes time; and the practice owner that starts his/her succession and exit journey sooner will increase the potential to achieve the best price for the years of hard work and endeavour that they put into their business.

Equally, the supporting PR program requires time as the end game is to emphasise the value of the practice, not its price; therefore the messages reach out and educate the target audience.

Hot air balloon in the car park

Some years ago a business owner said he had no need for PR as nothing happened in his business that was newsworthy or worth writing about.

He told me this the week after a hot air balloon had landed in his company’s car park!

The same applies today with many business owners unable to recognise the hot air balloon ‘newsworthy’ events that happen around them every day, such as:

  • A senior management appointment
  • A move to a new office
  • An anniversary or milestone
  • Entering or receiving business awards
  • Community/charitable activities
  • Principal speaking at a conference
  • Attending a conference
  • Industry comment

The list literally goes on and on.

The practice owner that seeks to be rewarded for the years devoted to their business needs to start their journey as soon as possible with the end game or end result as their primary objective.

A PR program that supports this objective has many benefits that include:

  • The creation of a competitive and high profile point of difference and the articulation of the commercial advantages and expertise of the practice
  • An opportunity to attract prospective buyers and investors – as well as new clients, alliance partners and business opportunities
  • Establishment of a communication link that maintains and enhances relationships
  • Provision of a platform to generate revenue by motivating clients to maintain their relationship, encourage prospective clients to utilise the services and expertise of the practice – and in doing so contribute to the business bottom line and asking price in the event of sale.

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Joe Perri & Associates provides PR and marketing focused communication strategies/solutions for clients in the corporate, SME and non-profit sectors that help them achieve their strategic business aspirations.

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