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How to raise your agency’s profile in the industries it serves

To be hired, you have to be known. Chip and Gini discuss how you can make sure that your targeted prospects know about and respect you and your team before they even become clients.

Getting noticed means figuring out where those prospects “live” and what media they consume. Then you must get creative about how you get your name and expertise in front of them.


The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.

CHIP: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m Chip Griffin

GINI: and I’m Gini Dietrich,

CHIP: and today we are not recording in video sorry to say so we will be doing that starting in June on a permanent basis but we have a few things to tweak or I have a few things to tweak after last week’s experiment in video which hopefully you all enjoyed listening to and perhaps even watching and if you haven’t, you can always go to agency leadership TV to get our YouTube channel and see us in all of our stunning HD glory.

GINI: And and the best part is you did not burn your camera out like you thought you had

CHIP: I did not I die I overheated it during that that recording but I did not destroy it which I am very very grateful for

GINI: Yeah. I’m grateful on your behalf

CHIP: that would have been quite unfortunate. So that means we’re back here for another episode and this week. We’re gonna Talk about something that I know is on the minds of lots of folks as they’re thinking about how to focus on business growth in this new era, which is how do you raise your profile in the industries that you serve? So, if you are focused on the restaurant industry are well, probably not a great example these days. But, you know, if you’re, if you’re focused on high tech, or you’re focused on pharma, or those, how do you raise your profile as an agency in that space so that you can more effectively win business. And of course, we’ve talked in the past about the importance of niching and figuring out you know, who it is that you serve, and not trying to be all things to all people. But once you figure that out, how do you become known as an expert in that space?

GINI: Yeah, and this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. for a couple of reasons, one, because it does allow you to create some expertise around yourself in your agency, but also it’s a right smack dab in the middle of the PESO model. And when you use the PESO model effectively, you do build reputation both both online and off. So it is a topic near and dear to my heart. And it’s something that is widely debated even just the term thought leadership is widely debated because I think anybody with a Twitter account and a keyboard can be considered a quote unquote thought leader. So what you really need to be thinking about is, How are you different? What do you have to say that truly is does differentiate yourself or your agency and your agency? And are you willing to, for lack of a better term get on your soapbox to talk about the differences that you that your expertise provides?

CHIP: Right, and I think that it’s important that you develop a perspective or a point of view, again, something we’ve talked about previously, particularly in, in these challenging times. You need to be different and you get different by having an outlook on things and being able to share that. Right. You know, I you know, I do think that thought leadership Probably one of those terms that’s overused. But the reality is that it still matters. So whether whether you that term or whether you think that it’s a

GINI: 30s reputation, whatever it happens to be,

CHIP: right, and that that’s not anything new, which this is not something that has just come about in the last five or 10 years, there’s always been expertise to be shared. And the only thing that’s really changing is the way in which you do it.

GINI: For sure. Um, so I will, I became, I came across that leadership for myself and my agency accidentally, because I was talking about why media impressions and advertising influences are bunk metrics for PR. And all of a sudden, people were like, yeah, she’s right. And I was like, Oh, wait, what just, um, but I will say that though, those types of things, that kind of thinking that is counterintuitive to what an industry is talking about. So if you’re in financial services, or you’re in health care, whatever the mass says, there’s a different way of thinking or a different way of looking at things, just because it’s the way It’s always been done two minutes. Right. So if you have that kind of, sort of contradictory view that is, you know, it’s not contradictory, contradictory to be contradictory. Wow, I had to choose a different word because it’s really hard for me to say,

CHIP: cool. You’re killing me, Jenny, good. listeners, I am really sorry that you’re having to hear this.

GINI: Wow. Um, you know, don’t do it just to do it. But, you know, have a real viewpoint on it, and you will start to build some reputation for yourself around your expertise.

CHIP: Yeah, I think you know, being a contrarian is certainly valuable. In many cases, as long as you actually believe it. Don’t be a contrarian for the sake of being a contrarian. And you know, you do want to make sure that you’re staking out ground that you think is actually smart and beneficial. But at the same time, if you are able to come up with a different point of view than you know everybody else is and you’re you’re able to challenge conventional wisdom and standard thinking. That, that certainly creates an opportunity for you,

GINI: I think there’s a really good opportunity. So what I always have people do is create a couple of lists. Number one, create a list of your competitors. And in that list of competition, look to see what they do really well, and where your strengths might align, and then look to see where your strengths and weaknesses are different, and where you might have a differing opinion or a different point of view or different expertise than them. So that’s one list. The second list is to do the same thing with organizations or influencers or thought leaders in other industries that you admire. And that might be they may be dead or alive, it might be Steve Jobs, it might be Rene Brown, it might be whoever it happens to be, you know, create that list as well. And then write down the characteristics and the behaviors and the things that you like about them and what you respect about them. And as you do that, you can start to see some similarities where you might be able to and I’m not saying copy them by any stretch of the imagination. You know, you don’t want to become Steve Jobs and wear a black turtleneck or like certainly other people. Do that, but you look for ways that you can emulate some of the things that they do. And, and do it in a way that’s personal and unique to you.

CHIP: You know, I think that’s a fantastic idea to look outside of your own industry and the markets that you serve to get ideas because that way you can, you can borrow elements of it without appearing to copy to be copying someone who you may be in competition with, or who may be already known to that space. And this is, you know, frankly, I think this is something that’s beneficial for folks to do anyway, I’m a huge believer in the power of serendipity and, and exploring things outside of your comfort zone or outside of what your your day to day profession is. So, you know, one of the things that I’ve been doing is I’ve been doing more video, for example, is watching a lot of videos in other industries, or to sort of see how they’re doing things and what approach they’re taking and you know, what’s their cadence for doing live video and, you know, pre produced video and all that kind of, so you can you can Do the same thing for whatever it is that you’re doing, whether you’re looking for our content ideas, or tactical ideas, really take advantage of everything that’s out there.

GINI: Yeah. So that’s the first step is to look to see and create those lists. I mean, actively sit down and write those lists. And then the second thing is to really start to pay attention to, you know, what are the masses saying, and back in the day, we would call this the, the echo chamber what but what, you know, what are they saying? And how can you be different because you certainly don’t want to contribute or add to the echo chamber, you don’t want to be saying the same thing that everybody else says. So when you create those lists, and you start to sort of see buckets, where you can be different then that’s where you start to develop your content and your content can be written, it can be audio, it can be video, however it is that makes you uncomfortable, but you definitely need to start developing content, using your social networks to distribute it and then doing your own media relations. You know, getting out there and doing contributed content and those kinds of things to get to your your expertise tool, wider network,

CHIP: right agents. He’s absolutely have to be eating their own dog food and understanding how to use the tactics that they would use on behalf of clients to help, you know, build their own reputation and get their own message out. And I think a piece of that starts with, you really have to, well define who your ideal client is, so that you can figure out even within whatever industry that you’re targeting, you know, let’s say that it’s widget manufacturers, you know, who within the widget manufacturer space, are you really trying to reach? You know, what are their? What are their titles, what, you know, what publications do they read, you need to know where that audience already is, what are they doing, you know, you don’t if you’re creating content, or you’re being quoted in content, or you’re being a guest on audio or video, and it’s not the kind of thing that your target audience is consuming, it may not actually be helping. So you really need to understand who it is that you’re trying to reach and what the best way to reach them is.

GINI: So I have a really, really great story when it comes to this and I use this story in Spin Sucks the book so some of you may have have read it but I several years ago, gosh, probably 10 years ago now since I wrote the book in 2012, it’s probably been 10 years ago, I was speaking to a group, a small group of 15 CEOs. And we were talking about, you know, the importance of expertise and reputation and all those kinds of things. And, and one of the attendees raised his hand at this point, and he was like, you know, Jenny, I’ve been with you this whole time. And I think you’re really smart. And I think that what you’re talking about makes a lot of sense. But I, you know, I sell pens, I don’t like their commodity business, we sell them to the military, we compete on price and it’s down to the penny, I don’t have anything that I can create content around, that will allow me to differentiate from my, my competitors that will allow me to charge two cents more than they do. And I had the advantage of having the other members in the room with him who knew his business better than I did. And they started to give them a really hard time and so we had this whole conversation about what his business is like, and it came out there. He only hires people without sight. And I said, Well, do your competitors do that? And he was like, no. And I said, Well, why do you do that? And so we talked about the reasons and the intricacies of building the pens and people with sight, of course, you know, we tend to look around a lot and there’s part of it part of the process of actually building the pens is so intricate that you can’t be unfocused. You can’t have you can’t miss your attention. So people without sight don’t have the squirrels that are looking at around right. So we talked about this and we talked about what that looked like. And I said to him, this was like Thanksgiving time I said, by Valentine’s Day, I want you to make me a deal. I want you to talk to some of your employees and just get them on video talking about you know, their hobbies, their interests, and in one guy had claimed about hood unassisted. Another guy was a massive gospel singer, like the really talented people outside of work, just get their stories on video and let’s see what happens. It’s not going to hurt anything. So I watched in the Washington, Washington Valentine’s Day came in and wins. And I called him and I said, Hey, remember, you made me that deal? That you’re going to do these videos, employee videos on your website? I don’t see him yet. And he’s like, Yeah, I know, I’m sorry. I left the meeting, and I was all gung ho about doing it. And I just, it just didn’t feel like you know, a week later that it was something that we should do. And so we talked about it again. And then we I got some of his colleagues involved. And they, they peer pressured him, which was great. And he did it. And then fast forward to five years later, they were no longer competing on price, because they were telling me stories about their employees, that it wasn’t necessarily thought leadership for him. But it was creating thought leadership for the organization. And, and he said, We don’t compete. We’re no longer commodity people want to work with us because they want to work with the people that are inside our organization. And they’re really cool human beings, right? So it was able to tell that story in a different way. Their competition just doesn’t do.

CHIP: Right. Well, and I think that that underscores the importance that story underscores the importance of engaging with other people to talk through what it is that you might be able to highlight, because he obviously wasn’t thinking about one of his greatest assets.

GINI: Right?

CHIP: And then Frankly, I mean, why I don’t know, who knows, but it’s, it’s one of those things where I mean, I know a lot of agencies who have other agencies that rep them, because they know that someone else has to be the one that that helps them uncover that. But you know, whether it’s whether it’s actually an agency hiring an agency to get their story out, or it’s, you know, creating a team internally and having more conversation or, or engaging folks from the outside, just bouncing things around with them. You need to be thinking about how do you how do you pull out and draw out some of the stories and the expertise that you may have that you’re not even thinking about? Because it’s just second nature to you. It’s, it’s how you do your job every day. Right? I’ve been to that.

GINI: Well, I think that’s really Good advice. And that can be friends. It can be colleagues, it can be a coach. I was I had a conversation with a client just a few weeks ago. And I said to her, where do you get your inspiration? She’s incredibly creative. And she told me the story of her grandmother who worked at the Clinique counter and would come over to their house and just help her create new masterpieces with makeup. And she’s like, it started there. And she told me the story. She’s telling me the story. I’m getting goosebumps. And I’m like, Where is this story on your website? Why is this ever so I’m hearing this. So having that outside perspective, I think is really valuable. Because we do we get caught in where we don’t see the forest for the trees, right? We I mean, we’re stuck right there in the middle of it, and we don’t see those opportunities right smack dab in front of us.

CHIP: Right. Well, and I think you know, one of the other things that you have to do if you want to be you know, a thought leader and you really want to serve an industry well as you have to become more of an expert in that industry. It You know, and I think you know, one of the mistakes that a lot of agencies make is they learn enough to cover the talking points that they’re given and know that they can speak at a very high level, but you really need to start digging in. And particularly right now, as so many industries are changing and having particular new challenges, you need to brush up on that you need to be reading the industry publications beyond just the communications angle, because you got to get smart about it. And you have to understand how they’re changing how they’re evolving, and figure out how you can evolve along with them, or perhaps even give them the advice that will help them to evolve more, certainly. And so you know, that there is a role for communicators to become more business experts, particularly in the industries they serve.

GINI: Yeah, and I, you know, I mean, I’m thinking of friends, clients, the whole swath and pretty much everybody works inside industries that don’t have agency leaders that are thought leaders and everybody needs, every industry needs, whatever it is. You know, they need to digital marketing, they need communications experts, they need branding experts, they need that. And you don’t have any competition inside those industries. I mean, certainly if you’re me and you’re going after other PR firms you do but you know, like if you’re in financial services, or you’re in tech or you’re in AI, or whatever, machine learning or whatever it happens to be there, probably maybe three or three to five competitors, and they’re not doing any expertise, expert positioning or anything like that. So you have a real opportunity here to work inside those industries and become thought leaders, probably fairly quickly.

CHIP: Yeah, well, and the other thing is, you know, becoming an expert, but the whole process of becoming an expert, or more of an expert, I should say, often also helps you to get exposed to more people. So because one of the best ways to become an expert is to have a lot of conversations. And so you know, you need to if you want to specialize in a particular industry, you need to be out there. And having conversations with folks who are in that industry, whether they’re communicators or not, and trying to understand, you know, what’s making them tick, learn, learn their language learn, you know, the way that they do things. And you can do this a lot of different ways. Part of it, frankly, right now is just, you know, reaching out and saying, Hey, can we just have a phone call? Because a lot of folks are much more willing to talk right now they may, they may have time available, or, you know, if they make time available, they will also typically be more open with you than they would would have been three or four months ago. So having these conversations is important. You can manufacture them too. You can, you can interview people for blog posts, you can have cast a podcast, or or video or whatever. Yeah, there’s a lot of opportunity out there now, for you to be having these kinds of conversations that play a dual role. It helps make you more of an expert, but it also helps you build the relationships that you need in order to further yourself in that industry.

GINI: Yeah, I have a client that does a podcast and she interviews people Do the marketing directors for the companies that she wants to work with. And because it’s a longer tail business development piece, but it works really well, because people will say, you know, how you offer PR services? You know, we need that we need some help. Right? Does that look like and voila, like, she’s right there. So there is an opportunity there to combine your expertise and thought leadership with business development for sure.

CHIP: Right. When I think I’ve told the story before more, maybe I haven’t, I can’t remember, you know, which stories I tell anymore. But the age? Yeah, it is what it is. Thanks. Appreciate it. But, you know, with the podcasts that I have, I have had people pitch me the pot to be a guest on the podcast and subsequently become a client because as part of that podcast conversation, they learned about what I did and how I could be helpful. Right, right. So you know, at some point you sort of you crest the hill, and it’s not just you going out there and seeking things people are actually coming to you and They may actually become clients just because, you know, they found you they wanted exposure, and they found out that you were actually the kind of expert they needed.

GINI: Yep. It’s I mean, it works. It’s that’s why it’s cities. It’s right in the middle of the PESO model, because it works extraordinarily well for all aspects of what you’re trying to do.

CHIP: Right? Well, and I think that, you know, you with the PESO model, it’s also important to understand that, you know, with all of the thought leadership that you’re creating, you need to figure out how to use the other levers in order to increase the distribution because, you know, part of the challenge of content marketing or thought leadership or wherever you want to call it is creating the actual content and the ideas, but a huge piece of it is getting it out in front of the right people at the right time. And, and that’s where a lot of the PESO model comes into play.

GINI: Yeah, I mean, yes, we are using content, you’re using social you’re using paid you’re using email, you’re using media relations, you’re doing the whole thing. So yeah, it’s it. I mean, search engine optimization at all. It all comes together in one place. So I would say the The most important part in creating your own thought leadership is developing your content first, and then using influencers bloggers and journalists to help you expand your network.

CHIP: Right. Yeah. And and, you know, in addition to, you know, if you’re doing a podcast or interviews, you know, including the media that you’re trying to eventually target, particularly if you’re a PR agency, that’s valuable to write because you can use it as a tool to develop your media content out

GINI: there relationship. Yeah.

CHIP: And, you know, most my experiences, almost nobody ever says no, to me as far as being a guest on a podcast. In fact, I can think of maybe one case where someone gave me a hard No, in over a decade of doing podcasts.

GINI: It was john wall, wasn’t it?

CHIP: It was Yeah. It was not john wall. But But, but but it was it was someone that you know, and I will, I will tell you the story. All right. It was it was not it was it was not a real negative, nasty thing, just so nobody’s really speculating here. But it was It was interesting. But But my point is, most people will say yes, it may be that it’s difficult to find a time or or you know, those kinds of things. But most people will say yes to being a guest or to giving an interview, because it helps them in addition to helping you absolutely. And so you really, really need to find ways to leverage this and think about it in terms of everybody that you want to get to know, to become an expert in that industry. So it’s, you know, some of it’s the people that you’re trying to sell to some of it’s the media that you’re reaching out to. Some of them may be event organizers. That’s a, that’s a that’s a great way, you know, if you if you know, someone is involved in selecting speakers for events, and obviously smart to have a conversation at some other point about how events are changing all that but, you know, trying to make sure that you’re on the radar of all of the different people that can help you. I mean, it’s just you really need to be thinking about that you need to have these lists in place. You need to have target lists so you know who you’re trying to reach. And you’re not just doing it in a random shotgun style approach.

GINI: Yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s, however you want to call it, whatever you want to call it, whatever it looks like there’s a real opportunity. And it does. It helps both online and off, because it does help with your search engine optimization. And it does help with, you know, networking and business development and everything in between. It’s a, it’s, I cannot say enough. I mean, we started this whole conversation off by saying, I’m a big fan. Right?

CHIP: Well, and to be honest, I think it’s fun. I mean, anytime that I have served different industries, and I’ve gotten a chance to learn about them, and, and maybe this is just me, but I love to learn about new things. And, and I think that you, even the things that you learn about the industries you serve, you may be able to repurpose and reuse to help you run your own business better as well. For sure as its you start to see how people are using different tactics to sell their widgets. And maybe you can use that in some modified fashion to help sell your agency services too. So, I mean, just keep digging, keep learning, keep exploring, and those are the kinds of things that will pay real dividend In the future,

GINI: yes. And I will leave it with one last thing as I was building my own thought leadership, probably not very strategically, I was just getting on my soapbox. I also wrote a column for the Business Journal here in Chicago. And because of that column, I was invited to sit on a board of an accounting firm. And I remember, at least the first year I would sit in those board meetings, like, What are they talking? I had no idea. I had no clue. So I would take tons of notes. And then I would come back to the office and I would you know, Google and research and, and I learned a ton about accounting and finance just from those board meetings. And I was there from a marketing perspective. Of course, it was not there for the finance for any financial anything. But when they sold 10 years later, I had had such an immense amount of education, on how to run the business side of my agency, that I should have paid them versus me them paying me but I don’t I mean, it worked out really, really well. So don’t don’t limit yourself just to. I mean, certainly it was very scary. And I mean, it was a good year of me sitting in those meetings going, I have no idea what language they’re speaking. But it it those kinds of opportunities, to your point give you a really unique perspective on how to run your own agency.

CHIP: Yeah, there are so many different opportunities to learn, even in your own hobbies and things like that. Yeah, I know that in what I do, as far as sports officiating some of those things, I learned things that I can apply to my own business along the way. So, you know, whatever it is, you need to be able to take advantage of that and, you know, digest those lessons and help improve what you’re doing for your own business. Yes, indeed. With that, we will draw to a close yet another episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast. Thank you all for listening. I’m Chip Griffin and

GINI: And I’m Gini Dietrich,

CHIP: and it depends

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The Hosts

Chip Griffin is the founder of the Small Agency Growth Alliance (SAGA) where he helps PR & marketing agency owners build the businesses that they want to own. He brings more than two decades of experience as an agency executive and entrepreneur to share the wisdom of his success and lessons of his failures. Follow him on Twitter at @ChipGriffin.


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, the lead blogger at Spin Sucks, and the host of Spin Sucks the podcast. She also is co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Follow her on Twitter at @GiniDietrich.

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