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Can networks compete with mega-brand marketing budgets?

Mapped Globe in Hands

As the Alliot Group global conference kicks off in London this week, with members of its alliance from over 36 different jurisdictions attending across the legal and accountancy sectors, it seems a good time to write a blog focused on brand and comms for networks and alliances.

A common misconception across all sectors is that communications and PR consultants provide a service you can simply clip on to what you do. It would take quite a coincidence for the way a business is run and organised to perfectly match the ideal comms plan.

A couple of weeks ago I was preparing to appear on a panel discussion at the AILFN summit in London. The discussion focused on brand and communications for networks – professional services firms who have linked up by association.

Networks are a particular challenge, because each network member retains their own name, branding and culture. It is a challenge to get recognised when the big boys they compete with can push a single, unified brand and message.

PwC and Clifford Chance don’t have this problem.

Consider this also. For the firm leaders within the network, alliance or association, much of their available time is spent on the mechanics of keeping a firm and the group functioning. Unsurprisingly, an important area gets forgotten: the group’s ‘brand’, ie how others, especially clients, target clients and other law firms, see it.

Let’s break down the main challenges that networks and alliances face:

What is needed is a decent language and ‘narrative’ for the group and its members. Getting this right from a comms perspective isn’t spin – it actually involves some changes in the way things are done at the firms.

A strategy for building a network/alliance ‘brand’ would therefore include the following.

Groundwork

Building the brand

A network whose members have gone through this process will have a good and authentic story to tell. For any marketing, business development or PR professional they will be a dream client, because they have understood from the outset what people want and need to hear.

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