Three Ideas for Measuring Professional Services Reputation (Hint: Thought Leadership)

A strong reputation helps a firm stand out and remain competitive. Some clients may ask us, why measure reputation when we conduct client satisfaction surveys? Aren’t they enough to measure how our reputation is faring in the marketplace?

Simple answer? No, it is not.

Greentarget’s annual survey of general counsel and chief marketing officers has shown time and again that recommendations from trusted sources and credentialing are important in purchasing decisions. A CMO can measure outputs (webinars, events, press releases, media coverage) until the end of time, but unless he/she understands and analyzes the outcomes of all of this hard work, the impact on firm reputation will remain cloudy.

“The Top 20 Influencers of CMOs” study recently featured in Forbes revealed findings from more than 1,300 North American CMOs. It analyzed more than 680,000 tweets the CMOs published in 2016, including unique hashtags, links shared, mentions, replies and retweets. Josh Steimle, author and CMO, predicted that “companies will turn to popular business authors, speakers, podcasters and executives who have built large and engaged followings and offer them freebies to hawk everything from invoicing software to consulting services.” These are thought leaders, and most of their assets are digital, measurable and linked to reputation building.

Outcomes that bolster reputation could include subscription increases to a firm’s newsletter, downloads of a firm-written survey report or introductions to new prospects (that turn into warm leads) that directly trace back to a thought leader’s PR campaign, eventually resulting in revenue.

Professional and financial services businesses are unique in their ability – and we think responsibility – to contribute to a smart, productive dialogue around hot issues across sectors. These contributions result in positive reputation building.

Here are three ideas to measure the impact of public relations and thought leadership programs on reputation.

  • Conduct a benchmark survey of target audiences about perceptions of a firm’s thought leadership in specific industries or sector categories in advance of a PR initiative. Survey them again 12-18 months later to see how you’ve moved their perceptions.
  • Obtain perceptions of top-tier reporters covering the space in which you’d like to be a thought leader and influencer. These reporters may provide insights you never dreamed of getting from clients of your own. These insights can be used as a benchmark or simply to inform the direction of your content for a PR campaign.
  • Identify a narrow set of competitors in the area you’d like to claim thought leadership from and conduct an audit of their content, media coverage and social media activity. Analyze and compare with your own.

Of course, professional services firms often have trouble getting distinctive thought leadership campaigns off the ground. A lack of specific business goals is a common challenge that hampers the ability to claim reputational or thought leadership territory that will most effectively help a firm compete for and win business in the face of intense competition and changing business models that require developing new strategies – particularly for law firms. Marketers should combat this challenge with specific goals and a strategic plan to execute proactive reputation-building that directly supports those goals.

Kasper Ulf Nielsen, executive partner at the Reputation Institute, has said that reputation measurement, not brand measurement, is where companies should focus. He says Walt Disney, BMW and Google are among the 15 percent of businesses that understand how measuring reputation is the key to informing marketing and public relations programs that truly influence business outcomes and client service excellence.

Professional services firms with true thought leadership programs will see increased influence in the industries they serve. We know it because we see it – and measure it – every day among our clients. We’re not talking about consumer-brand celebrity influence, which, while highly measurable and directly traceable to sales, is already losing its shine due to overuse. We’re talking about influence built on skilled participation in smarter conversations around critical industry issues.

Pam’s experience in public relations and marketing communications spans almost two decades and a multitude of industries and sectors.

When not at work, she brings her passion to her love of languages, urban living, culture, international affairs and anything with a global context.