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Earned media: The not-so-secret to our success

Curtis Sparrer

Bospar’s self-PR practice not only helps promote our agency, it also nurtures program development for our current clients as well.

—Curtis Sparrer, Bospar

It seems profoundly meta that one of the keys to success for our PR agency’s five years in business is — (drum roll, please) the practice of public relations. PR is what our clients trust us to do on their behalf, and a hefty part of our growth comes from exceeding their expectations and the positive word of mouth that follows. However, similar to what many brands experience, to grow the company we needed to reach outside our core network.

To meet our goals for growth — and after learning that many clients used Google to find a new PR firm — we determined we needed a multi-tier approach that worked with different flavors of marketing leadership. Instead of waiting around for our PR efforts to work for us, we planned to use earned coverage to knock on the doors of our key prospects.

Implementing a home-grown PR program allowed us to become the “perfect” PR client. We aspired to be bold, authentic and ethical. Doing our own PR, we reasoned, would be useful for our other clients as well: Bospar’s agency PR practice could serve as a laboratory, where we could take risks, learn from our mistakes and truly understand how PR could help our business and even change behavior.

We wanted Bospar’s internal PR practice to represent the best of a modern PR program. That meant taking full advantage of the PESO model. It also meant dividing the work. We created an awards task force, an earned media task force, a social team and a content team to create paid content, leading to thought leadership articles about the best practices in PR for Forbes and an eBook published in partnership with PRWeek: “Why PR is a CMO’s Best Friend.”

We launched thought leadership campaigns that tied modern pain points to either our offering as a virtual firm or our position as a leading PR agency for startups and startups at heart.

In 2018 we publicly took on open offices, reasoning that this was a workplace issue with strong emotions and little previous existing research. The issue also helped highlight Bospar’s virtual office lifestyle, key when recruiting new hires. The story was covered by outlets as diverse as the Motley Fool, Marketplace and France’s GentSide.

January 2019 PRWeek published a case study of Bospar’s PR program with this headline: “Bospar To Neil Patrick Harris: Stop Calling Our City ‘San Fran.’” The feature covered Bospar’s efforts to promote the agency through a data-driven campaign about an issue that drives San Franciscans white-hot with rage: calling their city “San Fran” or “Frisco.” We teamed up with the San Francisco Museum & Historical Society and I even penned an open letter to Harris explaining why he should always call the city by its proper, full name.

Bospar’s social team shared my letter through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Bospar saw its impressions increase by 1,830% and engagements increase 136%. In-bound sales inquiries tripled.

On January 6, we launched our five-year anniversary celebration. Bospar produced a press release with quotes from clients such as George Takei and a video featuring the agency’s history. We secured placements in various PR industry media outlets. In a podcast with PRWeek, Bospar revealed it was taking its entire staff to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to celebrate the milestone

Significantly, Bospar’s self-PR practice not only helps promote our agency, it also nurtures program development for our current clients.

When we try something slightly out-of-the-box for Bospar and realize success, we can present these tactics — and the results — to skittish clients to secure their buy-in. When we place ourselves as interview subjects, we package our own lessons learned to make ourselves better media trainers. And as an agency using our own PR for our business development purposes, we are demonstrating to our clients how to make the most of their own PR placements.

And each time this happens, Bospar’s business development task force shares the news with prospects, either in a short email update or in a monthly tracker of our best coverage. In 2019 Bospar’s PR efforts lead to new clients joining, representing about $3.6 million in yearly revenue — a great way to kick off our five years in business.

And… more Americans now say they will stop saying “San Fran.”

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