Learn the what, why, and how social media agencies can create a real brand identity to help set themselves apart from the competition.
Every business needs an identity, but for agencies offering social media marketing, it’s even more important.
Agencies that offer those services must demonstrate that through their own branding and identity they can deliver exactly that for their clients, too–helping them to establish their position in the marketplace, become known and also extend their reach.
For marketing and PR agencies that want to broaden their offering to provide social media marketing services, re-defining brand identity can become a challenge. They need to position themselves, but they don’t want to undermine what they have achieved or the positive perceptions already established with clients.
Branding means many things to different people and an effective identity can work on several levels. But get it wrong and not only do you confuse potential clients, and staff, you can also jeopardize your relationship with current clients too.
To get the big picture regarding how to establish your identity (especially for agencies looking to offer social media marketing services), I’ve tapped into the brains of those who have nailed just that and asked them to share their thoughts.
What follows is advice from Sean Standberry, director of Social Management, LYFE Marketing; Adam Durfee, director of PR and Social Strategy, Wallaroo Media; John Lincoln, co-Founder and CEO of Ignite Visibility; Kay Hammond, CEO of TAMBA; and Vicky Simpson, director of Content Strategy at Customer Magnetism.
Creating a brand or identity, or re-visiting one already in place because the business has evolved, always creates much discussion and debate.
What exactly is identity, how important is it, who should be involved in creating or revising it, what steps can you take to make it work for your business and what do you need to do to control it?
Those questions all need to be tackled. In today’s fast-paced social media marketing environment, it’s never been more important for marketing, PR and social media marketing agency leaders and staff to have clarity about that and what it means for their business.
When establishing, or revising, an identity a good place to start is with a consensus about what exactly brand identity is. How you do this is crucial. Those at the top may well lead the way in defining it but to garner support, everyone in the agency must understand it and feel ownership.
For Sean Standberry, director of Social Management at LYFE Marketing, it’s the core mission of the business that has to be reflected in its identity: “An agency’s brand identity is based on the core mission and values of its top management. We were able to develop our identity with visionary conversations and pooling together common values. From there, we installed a culture that practices these values and one overall simple mission.”
For Adam Durfee, director of PR and Social Strategy at Wallaroo Media, the starting place was to get inside the heads of clients: “We had a strategy meeting early in our history where we decided clients would prefer contact with all important members of our team, and that every marketing contract should be customized—never come from a can. We’ve now made that the focus of our sales pitches, our client on-boarding process and our contracts.”
Brand identity doesn’t always have to come from the leadership. Going against that convention is what can make you stand out too, according to Vicky Simpson, director of Content Strategy at Customer Magnetism: “What we focus on is allowing our employees’ creativity and personality to shine through their work. Their passion and dedication has allowed us to create long-lasting relationships with our clients and has shaped our brand as an agency committed to providing unparalleled work for our clients. Your employees are the ones who represent and build your brand on a day-to-day basis. So, rely on them to help create a unique identity.”
Once you are clear about defining your brand identity and what it means to your agency, and your clients, now it needs to be created.
For a new agency, the slate is clean. For those marketing and PR agencies where they are adding on social media marketing services, it’s more complicated.
A brand shift can feel awkward, and even unsettling, for both clients and staff who were signed up previously but now may wonder whether their needs are still important and able to be met.
A defining statement is key here to anchor brand identity. That statement needs to focus on your core values and what, specifically, you can offer.
LYFE Marketing’s statement captures one core concept and neatly wraps a goal around it. As Sean Standberry explains: “LYFE Marketing’s mission is to help 1,000 businesses GROW within the next five years. Although we do amazing work with social media marketing, we are most known for doing whatever it takes to help small businesses grow online.”
Your brand statement provides a stake in the ground. Now, more hard work is needed with ensuring that its essence is felt in everything you say and do.
In speaking to social media marketing leaders it’s clear that there are key fundamentals required in building brand reputation.
It’s consistency that, according to John Lincoln, co-founder and CEO of Ignite Visibility, is crucial: “From your website to your content marketing to your social media marketing to your ads. Over time, by delivering a consistent message that falls in line with the values you are looking to perpetuate, your Agency will eventually become the identity you are looking to portray.”
For others, it’s about focus and carving out a memorable and credible identity. Kay Hammond, CEO of TAMBA, says her agency has done exactly this based on sharing knowledge in its areas of specialism, which are, specifically, social media and influencer marketing:
She explains: “Whilst many agencies keep their cards close to their chest, as if social media were a dark art, we prefer to share white papers, infographics and conduct our own research to be at the forefront of the space. This has allowed us to attract and retain fantastic brands across the globe as our clients, and we have become known for having a large voice for a small agency!”
One of the strengths of defining or re-visiting brand identity, but also one of its weaknesses, is that it’s usually done from the inside out–with management and other staff members influencing decisions.
Don’t lose sight of the views and inputs from current, and potential, clients–to gauge opinion, reaction, and also to assess congruency. After all, it’s crucial that brand identity connects with the very people you want to do business with.
After you have decided on the big picture as far as brand identity goes, you need to get started on the practicalities–the nuts and bolts of what you need to do.
To help you do that, I’ve put together a handy brand identity checklist of key elements that need to be considered.
Aside from the essentials of changing logos, straplines, and mission statement, it’s crucial to have a communications plan in place for rolling out re-branding. That should cover who needs to be informed, and how (the specific tools to use for target audiences as well as who will deliver them), plus a timeline to ensure that activities are scheduled and co-ordinated and in the right order so that it all gets done.
Everyone needs to know at what point new branding comes into play.
A whole range of marketing materials will need to be updated: brochures, newsletters, business cards, templates for pitch documents, presentations, credentials, biographies, case studies, email signatures, press and media materials, and promotional items as well as graphics, wording, and footage for social media profiles, posts, and advertising.
Reports, updates, client portals, and contracts should all be reviewed and revised.
Building and office signage and stationery will also need to be updated and timeline for production taken into account.
All that activity should be supported with branding guidelines, so that consistency and control are maintained. Staff must understand the importance of protecting the brand identity and how that will empower the social media agency.
Where re-branding involves a name change, then time and effort needs to be put into considering how other functions in the business will be affected and also how they will need to be involved. That includes, for example, contracts of employment, email addresses, registering a new business.
In an increasingly crowded marketplace, it’s your brand identity that will set you apart. Both staff and clients need to feel that your brand speaks to them and you have to have absolute clarity about what it is you stand for. If you don’t, you’ll simply be left behind.
Ric Dragon, from Social Marketology, sums it up nicely. Clients and potential clients simply have to get your brand identity: “Now if we’re having to get off the mountain and talk with consumers one-on-one, that voice has to be very clear, that personality has to be very clear.” Quote taken from: https://www.dragonsearch.com/blog/developing-a-brand-voice-video/
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