As the security profile of American business changes due to ongoing internal business threats, security issues, active shooters, and the specter of terrorism, so to do we see an increasing demand for specialized security services across the entire enterprise risk management spectrum.
This growing demand is spurring vast opportunities for enterprise risk management, physical security, safety and emergency management entrepreneurs looking to launch their own businesses–whether they be one man bands or partners investing in a small startup venture. In addition, it is driving established small- and medium-sized businesses to develop new and innovative services and solutions.
Consider the following statistics that illustrate both current market competitiveness and the phenomenal business opportunities emerging across the broader risk management spectrum:
- The annual demand for U.S. private security services is projected to expand by almost 4.2 percent to approximately $68 billion through 2019. Nearly one third of security spending will go to alarm monitoring. (Freedonia 2015 U.S. Private Security Services Market report.)
- The annual investment in Homeland Security and public safety products and services purchased by U.S. Federal agencies and the private sector (excluding Homeland Defense post-warranty revenues) grew from $48 billion in 2011 to $51 billion in 2012. Investment is forecast to reach $81 billion by 2020. (S. Homeland Security (HLS) and Public Safety Market 2013-2020 report.)
Competitors and differentiators
With the fierce level of competition that comes with growth industries, how can new or established businesses differentiate their brand so they can break into this new territory and stand out among the crowd?
When demand exists for a particular service in a market where thousands of companies provide the same or a similar service, with various degrees of success, competition expands. And, irrespective of the type of services provided in this hypercompetitive market space, a competitive risk management company must differentiate itself by building and maintaining a solid reputation, providing effective and reliable services and solutions, and establishing a sustained market presence.
The playing field has changed over the past decade. Contrary to popular belief, being the biggest does not make a company the best; offering “introductory prices and special deals” does not guarantee service delivery; claiming to offer “personal and excellent service” is no longer a unique differentiator; and having a watertight contract is not a sufficient client retention strategy.
To most companies, potential vendors’ solution and service offerings look confusingly similar. So how can risk management companies cut through the clutter and stand out? How can they demonstrate that they offer unique, effective solutions, and build a reputation that places them at the head of the pack?
Start with a public relations plan and strategy
Building a solid brand and reputational presence calls for a focused, strategic approach. Public relations (PR) plans need to be based on a company’s business and marketing plans, and work as a strategic vehicle to help a company achieve stated business and marketing objectives. PR plans should also factor in competitor activity, market issues, trends, and developments.
Far too many companies, with every good intention, start by building a website and opening some social media real estate. They write a few articles and create a Facebook post or two, then start Tweeting, rashly claiming, “We can market ourselves!” and “Plans–who needs them?”
While a website and social media real estate are core components of PR and marketing, without a well thought out plan and strategy that grounds and focuses the objectives of the company, these elements remain nothing more than tactical communication conduits that deliver blind messaging and constitute little more than a wasted opportunity. Conversely, practical plans with sound, informed strategies provide an effective roadmap for achieving specific objectives.
PR plans should never exist in isolation; they need to be fully integrated into the company’s big picture. A full suite of interrelated plans would include a PR plan to grow the business, a customer relationship plan to build loyalty, a content marketing plan to enhance channel/customer communications, and a crisis communications plan to protect reputation. In addition, social media plans, with appropriate policies, help manage the burgeoning complexities of social media marketing and communications, and a business continuity plan ensures resilience during critical events.
All plans should exist together, refer to and support each other, yet be managed and owned by senior managers responsible for overseeing each individual component and/or its related functions.
Don’t just “write stuff”: Generate content that is king!
Content must add value. It should be strategy and plan driven, not generic and bland. It should be newsworthy and engaging, covering key issues and trends in the security and broader risk management market. It should be disseminated on a regular schedule, as content distributed on an ad-hoc basis adds very little value and is tantamount to fishing in a pool of potential clients without any bait. A focused and targeted or “sniper” technique beats the old buckshot or “spray and pray” approach hands down.
Content cannot exist in a vacuum. It must work alongside and be integrated into media relations, internal communications, advertising, customer relationship management, and content marketing. It should serve as a valuable extension of a company’s crisis communications plan to help protect its reputation.
New and existing clients are drawn to strategically oriented content that makes them think and challenges current processes and methodologies. When this approach to developing and disseminating content is implemented properly, it raises awareness of and increases loyalty to the company, its value, and its reputation over the long term.
Free up business time
The thought of outsourcing PR to a consultancy can make security and risk startups recoil with horror from fear of high costs. The truth, however, is that professional PR has been shown to pay for itself many times over. Startups and small businesses spend valuable time and waste potential business opportunities when they struggle to fulfill the entire PR function themselves. Outsourcing PR to consultancies with experience, skill, and market knowledge can save companies from making costly mistakes and free them up to focus on capitalizing on valuable sales leads, developing new business, managing day-to-day business functions, and developing new products and services. Moreover, PR is no longer a luxury for elite businesses only.
An effective PR campaign should focus on four key objectives. First, the campaign should aim to make the startup and small security company easily “discoverable”’ to clients by increasing its online and print presence. Second, it should make prospective clients aware of the company and its differentiators through credible, informative and engaging content so they gain a better understanding of the company and its value proposition, and help these prospects make a more informed business decision. Third, it should position spokespeople as subject matter experts. And finally, it should cultivate, grow, and protect the company’s reputation in both media and non-media domains. All objectives and associated PR strategies have to be refined and sustained; a ‘one hit wonder’ approach to reputation establishment and management does not work!
A carefully implemented PR solution will go a long way to adding value to a company, its reputation and its ability to differentiate itself from larger competitors. Companies that ignore or dismiss the value provided by PR do so at their own risk.
Fortress Strategic Communications provides specialized strategic public relations and crisis communications consulting to companies that offer products, services, and solutions designed to manage and mitigate all types of risk. The company is able to draw on a combined 20 years of global experience from its executives in a wide array of vertical markets. For more information please visit: www.fortresscomms.com