By now, you have not only heard the news of Brexit, you are racing to respond to it. Our clients tell us that they are "all hands on deck" in trying to support their own clients through the implications - both potential and immediate - of the planned exit of the UK from the EU following the history-making referendum on 23 June 2016.
By Monday morning, the response could already be seen across many professional service B2B firms, particularly global law firms and accountancies/management consultancies.
Although large, global firms seem best positioned to respond quickly, nearly all B2B professional service firms will need to address Brexit as its implications expand across both global and local markets. Not since the global financial crisis of 2008-2009 have we seen a single topic rise so quickly and dominantly as a top business priority.
Marketers will undoubtedly play a key role in framing and coordinating their firms' approach to Brexit. In the coming weeks, we will share our recommendations for how marketers can use digital to improve and amplify their response. In this first post, we offer a list of immediate questions you can explore as you start to build your firm's Brexit marketing strategy.
1. Who within your firm is taking leadership (or ought to be taking leadership) on Brexit?
The first step is to understand who in your firm you should be working with to frame your firm's response. Partner groups based in London and the EU are obvious candidates, but you should also examine your top client relationships for potential Brexit impact. Partners who have strong relationships to clients deeply affected by Brexit, especially clients in the financial sector, will play an important role in helping their clients work through the implications.
Once you know the right set of people, consider forming an ad-hoc group of advisors or "Brexit stakeholders" who can contribute to and guide the development of your firm's unique perspective on Brexit. You should be discussing:
- In which markets (both geographical and industry-based) do you need to be communicating?
- Which partners or thought leaders are best positioned to respond?
- What are the first themes or messages you need to communicate?
- What kind of investment is your firm willing to make to support your Brexit marketing efforts?
Throw a wide net before you settle on a defined team. Many firms emphasize the ability of their practitioners to work across practices and regional boundaries. Brexit is a perfect example to show those abilities in action.
TIP: You may feel it's hard to understand your full strategy at such an early stage, but without at least a high-level direction, you could find yourself drowning in a sea of isolated tactics - a rushed email here, a quick landing page there - that will be harder to coordinate over time.
2. What current content assets do you have? What is already in development? What should you be soliciting from your thought leaders?
The next step is to take a quick look through the content you may already have developed. Though few business people expected the current outcome, the Brexit vote had been planned since the last UK election, and your firm may have already been addressing it, if only tangentially.
Many UK-based firms are already armed with content they had developed examining the potential implications of Brexit long before last Thursday's referendum:
Most firms, however, will be playing catch-up. To that end, it's critical that you understand what you have on hand, and what content your practitioners (lawyers, accountants, consultants) are currently developing to help their clients.
You can also help your firm's partners and stakeholders set their future Brexit content strategy, particularly if you can provide them with a competitive perspective- i.e., what other firms are doing to address the issue.
TIP: Consider both your usual competitors and peers, as well as what other professional service firms are providing, when setting your content strategy. You may notice gaps that need to be filled, or, more importantly, opportunities for your firm to step ahead.
3. Which members of the media, including local, are your PR teams connecting with? How soon can they reach out?
We don't expect the conversation about Brexit to die down any time soon. In the first couple days, the conversation has naturally been taking place on an international level. In the coming weeks, however, we expect people to begin working out potential implications on a more local level. There will be a strong desire to understand Brexit implications for even the most local businesses - indeed, "how Brexit hits home" is likely to be a headline in many areas both in and outside of the UK and EU.
You can greatly increase your firm's prominence by establishing connections between media representatives and the right thought leaders at your firm. Your firm should be their first stop when they need commentary, quotes or supporting data on Brexit issues as they develop.
TIP: Positioning key people as resources for the media not only establishes their expertise and that of the firm, but also has an enormous impact on the visibility of your Brexit content, particularly with regards to SEO.
4. How are you implementing a social media strategy?
With a topic like Brexit, no one can wait for traditional media channels to catch up on by-the-minute developments. Most politicians, nearly all journalists, and a sizeable portion of executives are leaning on social media channels like Twitter or LinkedIn to stay on top of Brexit and other top business issues.
If ever there were a time to push against lingering internal doubts about the effectiveness of social media, this is it. You should be integrating social distribution into your content strategy from the beginning. Remember to consider:
- How to use your branded channels, including both primary and secondary (practice-based or geographic) handles or pages.
- How to boost the social activity of your firm's partners and thought leaders. Retweeting is a minimum ante. Consider dedicating some of your paid social budget to amplifying their activity.
- Your hashtag/keyword strategy. Don't be too eager to establish your own, unless you truly have a unique angle. Listen to the conversations most relevant to your content, and join in by adding the most applicable tags.
- Which outside thought leaders you could be engaging on social media. Can you send them content they will use? Can you get their attention and leverage their followers?
TIP: Paying close attention to your social engagement metrics, and regularly reporting the numbers to your lead Brexit team, will help develop momentum for further social media investment.
5. What options should you consider when developing an immediate web presence? Is there a choice that provides a full overview of your content?
The first step, of course, is to take advantage of the most visible part of your website: your homepage. Position Brexit as a lead topic or story. If your homepage relies on purely automated feeds of recent content, or if it leans towards non-thought-leadership content, consider an update that will give you the room to work in.
Of course, the next step is to give thought on where you will send visitors from there. Perhaps you will start with a single lead publication or alert, over time you are bound to develop a whole set of content addressing different facets and developments. Even in the short term, you will need something that can showcase more than a single story.
There are many options you can consider, none of which are mutually-exclusive:
- Landing Page: Using a marketing automation tool to create a landing page is particularly helpful if you are coordinating with an email campaign.
- Blog: Creating a Brexit-focused blog is a good option if you expect a regular flow of content, especially if your strategy will be to adopt shorter and more flexible formats than a typical publication or alert.
- Service or Practice Page: On many sites, the practice or service page will have the tools you need to aggregate multiple kinds of content into a single place. Though not a great long-term strategy, it can be a good stop-gap, especially in these early days.
- Topic Page or Taxonomy: Some firms have topic-based pages or taxonomies that allow editors to mark content as belonging to a specific theme. A no-brainer if this is available to you.
- Mini- or Micro-site: Even if you don't have a mini-site tool on hand, you shouldn't be put off by the effort. Using an off-the-shelf design, you can quickly and easily put up a site on a platform like WordPress. You can then extend or redesign it over time as your strategy becomes more clear. If you expect your firm to be addressing Brexit for the long term, this is a viable first step to take.
TIP: Don't try to solve for the long term, and don't feel like you have to focus on just one solution. In fact, it's best to move quickly, and plan on iterating and orchestrating your solutions as your strategy becomes clearer in the future.
6. How can you turn this “important topic” into a “meaningful campaign?”
Because of the ripple effects that Brexit is sure to have on the economy and, in turn, your client’s business plans, it is important to not only design a plan and a clear content strategy, but also to think about treating the content you produce around the topic like a campaign. For months, and more likely years, clients will be referring to your site in an attempt to find the latest thought leadership and professionals to help guide them through the turbulent waters ahead.
Creating a consistent look and feel to the content you produce will help clients navigate it with efficiency, but it will also help establish connective tissue between the many different pieces. Here are a few quick steps that will help you build out a more connected campaign:
- Be decisive about terminology. Try to get your arms around all of the terminology that is connected to this ever-expanding topic and create a Brexit style guide of terminology. Not only will this be helpful internally for your team, but it will provide a more consistent experience for your clients.
- Identify your firm’s point-of-view about Brexit. Maybe your firm believes that the important effects will be long-term and long-lasting, and client’s should stay calm and focus on developing a bigger, holistic plan. Maybe your firm believes that the time to begin responding is now, and speed is of the utmost importance. Each of these narratives requires a slightly different visual approach and treatment.
- Create a look and feel. Speaking of design, be sure to assign a defined color palette or set of iconography to your Brexit updates. This is especially important if you choose to integrate Brexit thought leadership into your traditional thought leadership stream. Give your clients the convenience of being able to easily find all of the material you will be producing around this topic.
- Think series first. When building out your editorial calendar, try to break larger pieces into more digestible pieces. If a piece is large enough, perhaps it makes sense to break it apart into a series. This will capture your client’s attention for a longer period of time, but it will also allow your team to more nimbly respond to what is sure to be a dynamic situation.
TIP: Create a consistent look, feel, tone and voice for this topic. Doing so will act as the glue between each piece that your client’s will be looking for as the body of thought leadership grows.
As Brexit continues to unfold, information will be sought out by your clients, the media and industry leaders, so taking decisive, strategic action can give your firm a unique, productive approach that pays in dividends long term. One North will continue updating information, sharing approaches and offering marketing solutions on our blog as we delve into Brexit and its effect on the world in the coming weeks.