Business development: how to embrace digital disruption and develop new services to meet changing client requirements and grow revenue

How the #FuturePRoof PR can utilise all the technology and tools that are both established and  emerging right now, to get in front of their new prospects, tell a compelling story and win business.

Darryl Sparey embraces digital disruption in chapter 21 of #FuturePRoof.

We’re on Twitter @WeArePRoofed if you want to come and let us know what you think. 


You’ll learn:

• About the three key developments that have disrupted the public relations industry
• How to drive new business from your current client base
• How to identify prospects, nurture leads and close new business

“Things change. Life doesn't stop for anybody.” Stephen Chbosky

Disruption is everywhere. Over the past decade, the advent of the digital technology has led to once in a generation shifts in industry after industry and category after category. 

Uber has replaced taxis in cities across the world, AirBnB now provides accommodation for millions of people each year and Facebook has become the primary way in which huge numbers of people read, watch and share news on a daily basis.

Whilst the disruption felt currently within the field of public relations may not have been as acute as in other sectors, there are three key trends which have had a significant impact on the PR industry in the last decade:

1. Social media – the growth of blogging and citizen journalism, as well as the rise of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others have created both a raft of new influencers for public relations professionals to engage with, and new platforms across which they can tell their story.

2. The growing importance of content – changes to Google’s algorithm have led to high quality content as well as links from authoritative third party websites to significantly influence search engine ranking. This has brought the traditionally disparate disciplines of search engine optimisation and public relations side by side. Starting with Panda in February 2011, which looked to boost high-quality websites within search results, Google has since unleashed a veritable menagerie of updates including Hummingbird, Pigeon and Penguin. These have brought a qualitative assessment to the number of links that websites had from third party sites.

Fig 1. Software and version updates Mediaworks [1].

Panda 23/02/11
Page Layout Algorithm 10/01/12
Penguin 24/04/12
EMD 02/08/12
Panda (25th) 14/03/13
Penguin 2.0 22/05/13
Hummingbird 20/08/13
Pigeon 24/07/14
Panda 4.1  23/09/14
Penguin 3.0 17/10/14    
Penguin Everflux 10/12/14
Google Mobile Update 21/04/15
The Quality Update 03/05/15

3. Growth of paid advertising online – according to research by the Internet Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) the digital advertising market has grown from 4% of all advertising spend in 2004 to 40% of all spend in the UK by 2014. Last year £7.2bn was spent on digital advertising in the UK alone, and this is now the dominant channel for media spend [2]. Google, and to a lesser extent, Bing and emerging platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and others have created new opportunities for anyone to promote their story and their content online.

"You complain about seeing thorny rose bushes; Me, I rejoice … that thorns have roses" Alphonse Karr

Looking ahead, PRs aiming to grow their businesses in this brave new world could be concerned about the risk of disintermediation or fear the threat to their business posed by the range of other marketing disciplines that they are now in direct competition with. 

But the forward looking PR can seize upon the opportunity created by this raft of new communications channels, the centrality of quality content and the increasing number of options to share, disseminate and promote their stories online, organically and via paid methods.

The #FuturePRoof PR professional has an increased range of services that they can offer to prospective clients beyond traditional media relations – wider, integrated communications; social media management and measurement, content design and creation amongst others. 
Moreover, the #FuturePRoof PR is willing to boost the reach and impact of content they create for clients by utilising targeted investment in paid promotion across platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

"Selling to people who actually want to hear from you is more effective than interrupting strangers that don't" Seth Godin

The first place the #FuturePRoof PR starts when looking to develop new business is their existing client base. Seth Godin simply and pointedly restates for the business development professional what Tom Peter articulated originally in “Thriving in the Chaos” – that it is five times as expensive to find a new customer than it is to retain an existing one. 

Any #FuturePRoof PR professional has a categorised list of the services that they are able to offer clients, and performs gap analysis to look for opportunities to sell additional services to more of their existing clientbase.

The #FuturePRoof PR professional also uses their existing clients to understand their core sector and service competencies and then looks for prospective clients that mirror these.
This person uses LinkedIn to search for prospects not just by company, location, industry or sector, but also previous roles (potentially within existing clients), connections or interests (based on groups or what they post). 

LinkedIn provides an opportunity to quickly understand the key companies and individuals that they may be able to offer their services to and start the process of getting to really understand their needs. 

There are, of course, a raft of other tools for identifying prospective targets, from lower cost tools like [3] to paid for services like Pearlfinders [4].

Rather than use Twitter as a means to complain about their commute each morning, the #FuturePRoof PR professional uses Twitter as an opportunity to better understand their prospects, both at a corporate communications level, and at an individual level. 

It’s not just about following the target company, but all key executives within it, their key competitors and relevant sector bodies to understand exactly what a prospective clients interests are, both personally and professionally.

The #FuturePRoof PR professional uses free tools like Google News, freemium tools such as Mention [5], or premium tools including Yellow News [6] to monitor not just their own clients, but also prospective clients and key industry issues too. They have specific alerts set up to help identify opportunities to tender services from key industry news sources like CorpComms [7], PR Moment [8], Communicate [9] and The Drum [10].

CRM systems are a key part of daily life, helping keep a record of prospective opportunities, value and likely window to close. CRM systems are available from free to low-cost price points with options including Insightly [11], Capsule CRM [12], and Batchbook [13] offering all of the functionality needed to do this. Higher end CRM systems like Salesforce [14], Microsoft CRM [15] and ACT! [16] are available to offer more extensive functionality and support too.

"Help the people in your network; and let them help you" Reid Hoffman, Founder of LinkedIn

"Social selling” has emerged as a key trend in current sales thinking [17].

The #FuturePRoof PR uses the power of social selling in both hard and soft ways to help them network with prospects and help them secure new business.

Digital channels offer ways to demonstrate successes and expertise, as well as tell a brand story to prospective clients, for example by sharing client wins via a blog, Twitter account and other social channels; getting personal recommendations from clients and contacts on LinkedIn; collating testimonials and examples of work on platforms like Slideshare [18] and [19].

Social platforms also allow for regular, thoughtful touchpoints with prospects and clients at the fraction of the cost of corporate hospitality.

“The future belongs to those who prepare for it today” Malcolm X

Ultimately the #FuturePRoof PR professional is weathering digital disruption and disintermediation by remaining agile and resilient and utilising new technologies to develop their businesses. Although ‘always on’ and probably still working as hard as they are smart, they are already enjoying the rewards – and these have never been greater.