Dukas Linden Public Relations is the focus of the latest “Small Business Spotlight” interview with Joe Connolly
Small Business Spotlight: Communicating And Connecting With Audiences With Dukas Linden PR
In this week’s Small Business Spotlight, Dukas Linden president Seth Linden explained how he developed the business, and had some insider’s tips on how you can get the best public relations for your own business.
Linden explained his small firm found success amid a sea of larger competitors with a focus on specialization.
“It means being a specialist. It means showing up, and not just doing the sales meeting, and I think if you develop a reputation for actually saying, ‘We’re not just going to be here to pitch for you, but we’re actually going to do what we said we were going to do,’ and you prove that, it’s basic, but that’s a rule that I think a lot of businesses have trouble with, and I think we’ve been pretty good about,” he said.
Dukas Linden specializes specifically in financial and professional services public relations – working with everyone from asset managers to accounting firms and law firms. Dukas Linden handles media placements, news releases, content creation, presentation coaching, and media coaching.
But the firm does not work with everybody. That is where specialization comes in.
“If I went to a consumer brand; let’s say a fashion brand – I wouldn’t have any specialization that would be particularly good. But when you’re talking about asset management, or you’re talking about accounting and law, I know and my team knows what to do in terms of how to position you. We know what the issues are. We know what the trends are,” Linden said.
Among Dukas Linden’s clients is the Fortune 500 company Raymond James.
“And when we say we work with Raymond James, people say, ‘Wow, they must know something,” Linden said. “So I’d like to think that reputation matters.”
Beyond specialization, a public relations firm can go into deeper sub-specialties, Linden explained.
“We want to do more in the world of content creation and website development. So we’re not a website firm, but more and more, we are writing copy for websites,” he said. “We’re also doing a lot more in terms of social media – something we weren’t doing nearly as actively five years ago.”
Dukas Linden is also taking on more crisis work, even though crisis communications is not its main focus.
“Very good firms have real issues. It doesn’t mean that they’re a bad organization, but things come up – whether a key executive leaves, whether there is bad performance – everybody had good intentions, but the numbers aren’t there – and so our services are being used more for that,” he said.
For billing, Dukas Linden generally sticks to a retainer model.
“We also do projects. But retainer, I like, and certainly, my partner, we think that’s a good model, because clients don’t want to feel that they’re constantly being billed and they’re on the meter,” Linden said. “So if you basically say, ‘OK, we’ve agreed on a price, we’re going to stick within the hours,’ that’s a much better way to have a relationship. I think people get annoyed if you get on the phone, and from the time you say hello, you’re billing from that. That’s not a good model.”
While the firm and clients do agree on hours ahead of time, going a little bit above hours is good business provided that there aren’t surprises, Linden said.
Linden is himself a former journalist, and he emphasized that when it comes to getting positive news coverage, news releases and information must actually be new.
“I remember something I was taught, that the word ‘news’ actually has the word ‘new’ in it. And I think that a lot of news releases don’t offer a lot, so it has to be a new product offering, a new executive appointment, and it also has to be very targeted,” Linden said. “So for example, if an investment bank – a boutique investment bank – brings on a new managing director, that’s not likely to be Wall Street Journal material. However, it might get play in the trade publications that cover that space. So there has to be a realistic expectation of what you’re targeting.”
Linden said he is often pleasantly surprised how often personnel announcements get picked up – particularly by trade industry verticals.
Dukas Linden also handles executive coaching and speed coaching. He emphasized that when it comes to speaking for an audience, executives often make mistakes in their approach.
“I was once at a firm – a client of ours – a boutique organization, did very well, was acquired by a private equity firm. The CEO gets into the conference room, talks to 25 employees about the transaction, and is reading from notes the entire time like it’s the State of the Union speech. He is not picking up the cues of the room to see that everybody is worried about their jobs; what’s going to happen to the firm, and unfortunately was not in touch with the emotions of the room,” he said.
Any business executive – regardless of the level or the size of the company – needs to know their audience, needs to make sure their language makes sense, and needs to rehearse, Linden said.
The underlying issue is often that executives are afraid to show their own personality.
“It’s a balance, because you don’t want somebody who’s going to be clownish and not play up to the role appropriately. But a lot of people are afraid to bring in basic examples about their life. I mean, a speech is much better when you open, obviously, with a good anecdote; if you talk about your family; how you grew up in the business. I have seen clients who have given major speeches, and what actually gets remembered when we’ve rehearsed together is the opening story about when they were a kid, and the Tooth Fairy was their first transaction,” Linden said. “Those are the things that people remember.”
A lot of executives need help in striking their balance when it comes to presenting to an audience – as they can have a tendency to be condescending, overly artificial as if they are in sales mode, or prne to using too much jargon, Linden said.
Ultimately, the most important aspect of presenting is sincerity, Linden said.
“I do think that it’s increasingly important, because as you’re dealing with millennial audiences, millennial audiences are much more attuned to artifice,” he said. “They’ve grown up in a world where they are much more, as we know – and you have conversations like this all the time – they’re much more adept at figuring out the information. So just having a sales pitch that sounds canned is not going to resonate with a millennial who’s questioning what you’re saying.”
Linden said Dukas Linden is seeking to double its size in the next three years.
“We’re growing one good client at a time. I imagine that we will be doing more in terms of content creation, and also crisis communications – I think that that’s valuable,” he said. “And I do think that when the market starts to downturn, more companies will come to us to share their stories and their value propositions.”