Collaborating with established brands is one of the most interesting things I have the opportunity to do through Magpie Marketing. Assisting a fledgling nonprofit or a new small business is less challenging, because they typically come to me with tabula rasa: a blank slate with only the sky limiting their potential.
When a company or organization has a long track record and has cultivated an existing reputation in the community, the tactical work of expanding brand awareness becomes an exercise in careful listening and becoming immersed in the company’s day to day operations. Such was the case for a recent short-term marketing engagement (eight weeks) with Cameron Smith & Associates (herein CSA), a well-known executive search firm based in Northwest Arkansas.
CSA has a stellar brand honed over more than two decades of dedicated work and attention to detail by its founder, Cameron Smith. The team of more than two dozen executive recruiters brings a wealth of expertise, connections and an impeccable work ethic to the task of connecting global retailers (Walmart, Costco, Best Buy, Target) with the best and brightest supplier talent. Most impressive of all, the CSA team is truly a family with multiple sibling and husband-wife recruiter duos and a truly inspiring camaraderie overall team camaraderie.
The challenge for CSA was to stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace peppered with upstart recruitment and placement companies, online tools such as Monster.com and LinkedIn and plenty of misconceptions about the purpose and competitive advantages delivered by an executive search firm. In particular, CSA sought to make substantial improvements to the company’s presence in the social media space and to enhance its reputation in emerging markets such as Seattle and Minneapolis, where the firm does significant work but lacks the established brand presence it has earned over the years in Northwest Arkansas.
And, at the end of the day, CSA did not need a full-time marketing, PR or social media liaison: the firm itself needed an online shot in the arm, a strategy for moving forward and ample training and coaching to allow the recruiters themselves to more capably use social media as a tool in their search arsenal.
Our tactics were not necessarily earth-shattering, but they required a large time commitment for listening, learning the business and preparing to interpret it for public consumption. The most effective move a client company can make to ensure a successful marketing and PR effort from a consultant is to treat us as an internal team member. Because Cameron understood this essential concept, I was able to move quickly to identify the firm’s pain points and opportunities and gain the trust and buy-in of team members immediately. I had access to confidential internal information, attended staff meetings and conference calls and was immediately regarded as a staff member, allowing me to ask questions and execute quickly, which was also critical for a short-term campaign.
We kicked off the campaign with a team work session for the company’s most tenured professionals to work with me to identify the firm’s greatest strengths, largest communication challenges, current needs and its inherent culture. From this session I was able to provide a detailed list of suggested website articles to enhance the company’s image and better define its capabilities. I established social media accounts in emerging markets and increased activity and audience for the firm’s digital media accounts.
I also worked closely with key team members to conceptualize and post a targeted series of articles on the blog interpreting the purpose of an executive search firm, the role of an executive recruiter and a definition of the ideal candidate. Samples:
Beyond the Jargon: What IS an Executive Search Firm?
Beyond the Jargon: Defining the Recruiter
Recruiter Tips: The Perfect Candidate
Dear Candidate: What NOT To Say
The point of these posts was not necessarily to speak to a large audience of blog followers, which the company had yet to build. Rather, it was to create an arsenal of linkable online articles that the recruiters themselves could reference in emails to prospective companies and clients or post in LinkedIn discussion forums – we created a toolkit of messages that properly and effectively defined the company, its focus area, work and expertise.
“It is so helpful to have your work to build on. You have a great sense of what’s interesting and relevant, and your writing sets the tone (professional yet approachable) for the conversation.” ~ Stephanie Meehan
Following the initial effort on marketing messages, I provided training for the entire team of recruiters on brand consistency, voice, tone, the basics of social media and tactics for effective communication. I provided ongoing (weekly) tips on social media strategies and worked individually with team members on their own online presence and personal brands.
We monitored traditional media coverage to push awareness of the company and create buzz around articles ranging from Bloomberg and Business Week to The City Wire.
Thank you so much, Beth. You have really made a difference around here. You rock!” ~ Cameron Smith
Ultimately, the team moved forward on its own and I remained a resource as we began to wrap up the project and phase toward the company managing its own brand. This project is a perfect example of the progress that can come from a focused, short-term project engagement.