Forefront Communications

For Media Relations, Do You Need a Brand Builder or Brand Protector?


Mark Dowd

Mark Dowd

You’ve done the hard work – coming up with a great idea and building a flourishing business. Now is the time to overlay PR, but do you require an agency with the specialist ability to build your brand and ensure your company is a go-to for media, or do you want a firm mainly skilled at protecting your brand but generally doing nothing to rock the boat?

For those in fintech, we at Forefront think the answer is almost always the former.

All too often we speak with firms on the hunt for new PR representation because their current agency seems content waiting for news opportunities to come to them and is okay with a “no comment” whenever a news topic is outside of their comfort zone.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]At Forefront, we understand well that the art of making a name for a growing company is very different to the business of protecting an already established brand.[/perfectpullquote]

While that approach may be exactly what some firms need, we just don’t see that working well for scrappy start-ups wanting to make a name for themselves or even established mid-size firms looking to attract both investment and new business opportunities in today’s uber-competitive market.

Beware of the Overdog

The barrier to entry for launching a PR agency has never been lower, as shared office spaces like WeWork are on every corner and cloud-based technologies have significantly cut operating costs.

As a result, a growing cohort of practitioners with experience working in communications departments at big-name banks, investment management firms or technology companies are setting up their own shops. They are able to draw in start-up clients’ due to their prominent financial market experience and promises of big-name media connections.

But all too often, the results fail to match the expectations and the relationship ends in disappointment.

While these former big company types are great at operating out of a defensive posture, reacting when issues arise and doing valuable work serving as a brand protector, they often struggle when the aim is starting from scratch in a crowded market with a client that lacks the cache of their previous employers.

Being a Brand Builder

At Forefront, we understand well that the art of making a name for a growing company is very different to the business of protecting an already established brand – both services that our agency offers to our clients.

But positioning start-ups for growth remains our passion. Before launching the agency, our co-managing partners Mark Dowd and Eric Soderberg spent virtually their entire careers on the client side doing just that.

As we’ve done in the past and do now at Forefront, we start the process of brand building by establishing a firm’s corporate story, highlighting its unique characteristics and using valuable proof points to back up the narrative. We then take this top-line and supporting messaging and push it down to a variety of stakeholder touch points – website, sales collateral, social media and a media fact sheet to name a few.

On the media relations side, devising intelligent story ideas for press is also an essential ingredient when it comes to building a company’s profile from the ground up. This begins with determining which topics are strategically important to the company and their clients, but the hard part is constructing a compelling story angle around those that works for both the company, as well as the reporter and their readers.

Once you’ve been fortunate enough to land a story like this (which is no easy task!) and have it published, it’s important to be prepared to get the most mileage out of this hard-found earned media placement.

Your partner in brand building should be prepared to amplify the placement on social media platforms and encourage your employees to share it to leverage the benefits of network effects. The placement could also potentially be circulated to customers through client newsletters or similar direct marketing pieces. Your own content – for example, a blog post that provides some of the comments that were left on the cutting room floor – may even be a viable companion piece, depending on the significance of the story.

Given the siloed nature of the marketing, PR and social teams at most large firms, as well not needing to capitalize on these types of PR wins, such integrated marcomms tactics are generally not part of the typical bag of tricks employed by the brand protector.

While brand protectors at big companies hit a home run when they keep their firm’s name out of the press, skilled brand builders demand exactly the opposite. They want to see your businesses’ name in lights, appearing on the right media platforms at the right time, and are ready to help amplify the results far and wide. By engaging a passionate brand building partner, your company has the potential to be introduced to new, lucrative audiences who may otherwise have never found you.