New media helps firms connect with clients

Don't feel obligated to use new media tools like blogs and podcasts just because everyone else seems to use them, agencies often tell their clients. But while the same advice holds true for agencies themselves that want to use Web 2.0 tools, a little experimentation doesn't hurt.

Don't feel obligated to use new media tools like blogs and podcasts just because everyone else seems to use them, agencies often tell their clients. But while the same advice holds true for agencies themselves that want to use Web 2.0 tools, a little experimentation doesn't hurt.

Arketi Group principal, Mike Neumeier, says his company's use of podcasts featuring different executives "shows that we're willing to step out of the box and play with what works," but also allows prospective clients to get a quick understanding of how the executives think about PR issues.

"What we love about our podcasts is that while they are not as interactive as a straight-up blog, with a quick sampling of [them], clients can quickly put a voice on what is in our caddy," Neumeier says. They also establish more of a personal connection between listener and speaker.

Podcasts can be useful not just for general marketing, but also during new client pitches. For a client otherwise too busy to field calls for references of prospective clients can simply have Arketi record their experience while working with the firm. Accurately measuring whether these new media tools actually help in winning new clients is not possible, Neumeier says, but the anecdotal evidence is promising.

"What we found over time is basically about 15% Web site traffic is coming in through our Podcasts - through iTunes, Podcast Alley, or other places you can post them," Neumeier adds. "Clients mention it and we certainly showcase when we sell to clients. We encourage them to go out and look what we've done for ourselves."

Qorvis Communications senior director Seth Pietras notes that trying out new technologies for marketing is always important, but not all of them are worthwhile.

LinkedIn, for example, is a site the agency has tested and vetted as a tool for recruitment - finding new employees through connections other employees have on the site, for instance. Qorvis is still evaluating how exactly it might use Facebook because the more personal material typically found on it means it may not be as appropriate as a business networking tool.

But blogs have for some time been used by Qorvis to convey the expertise of its senior leaders, including partner Don Goldberg's expertise in crisis management and MD Stan Collender's knowledge of financial issues.

O'Keeffe & Company VP Andrew LaVanway agrees that agencies should tread carefully in employing new media to market themselves, using it only when it adds substance or conveys something new.

He points to his firm's use of a Thanksgiving video card, featuring a company executive singing a song called "Tom the Turkey," as an example of using new media to show a humorous side of the firm that clients might not otherwise see. Unlike traditional cards, electronic cards show senders a better idea of their impact.

"The best part about new media is not necessarily the new and interesting ways to reach the prospective customers, it's the new and interesting ways to measure customers," LaVanway says. "As we sent out the video and the card, we could see who's coming in - who was clicking on the card, who was watching the video."

Key points:

Agencies shouldn't use new media tools just because they can, but because they help market the firm in meaningful ways.

Podcasts can give a quick, personal overview of how agencies address communications issues.
New media's impact is measured mainly anecdotally, though client's viewing of blogs and podcasts can be easily tracked.

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