In our previous article, we discussed how IP organizations can increase their value and effectiveness by leveraging a public relations communications strategy. The first step in implementing an effective IP public relations campaign is to develop distinct and compelling positioning.

Positioning is one of the most important elements in marketing. Your positioning and supportive messaging describe your business, organization, product / service or assets – and their key differentiators. Done well, and your position will help you attain industry thought leadership. Done poorly and your audiences will not easily perceive what you do, offer or possess.

In positioning, we are looking to insert your organization, offerings and assets into the best strategic position within a target audience member’s mind. If your position and messaging are unclear, you will waste a significant amount of your marketing spend – no matter what type of product or service you sell.

There are numerous cases where a better-defined position changed the way a company was perceived, and their fortunes improved. Following is a real-world example:

One of my previous clients provided an online backup service for PCs. It held the lion’s share of the market and garnered almost all of media coverage within its industry, which was considerable. The problem was that analysts considered this a sleepy company in a sleepy $165 million market. Additionally, we could not seem to break out of the IT trade media.

Our team went about examining all of the fundamental benefits the company provided, its IP and its market. We determined that by repositioning the company from an online PC-backup company – to offering remote PC disaster recovery, we would in effect “bolt on” to a much larger, well understood $10.2 billion market.

Once we started projecting the new positioning and messaging, things really got hot for our client. Previously, where our client was only covered in computer trade magazines; now as a PC disaster recovery provider, the business press and consumer press were eager to hear from our client and write articles and cover the company in broadcast outlets.

Did anything fundamentally change about the core operations of the business? No. Yet the change in positioning and messaging had a very dramatic impact.

So, how is this relevant for an IP-based organization?

Let’s start with an IP law firm. We will address in-house IP teams and defensive patent management organizations in the next few articles.

An IP law firm has numerous competitors and different types of clientele. You need a way to differentiate your firm’s offerings from those of your competitors in an easy to comprehend and compelling manner.

You are trying to position your business within the mind of your audience in an understandable manner, that is both unique and compelling. And once you gain that very positive position, while continuing to invest in projecting the positioning and messaging, it is nearly impossible for a competitor to take it away.

There have been numerous books about positioning and messagingThe best can be found here. They are great.

Big public relations firms charge a significant amount of money for positioning and messaging sessions. They too are great.

If you don’t have time to read, or have the resources for a full-blown positioning session, this can help you get started in the right direction.

The formula for this positioning exercise is [what is your business] + [key differentiator(s) (that is true and you can prove)].

Seems very straightforward. And it is. But you have to do some digging in order to determine what your audience values in an IP law firm.

In order to effectively move an audience, you must determine what the audience is, what they hear now, and what you want them to hear.

Each IP law firm has an audience. The audience is most likely comprised of current and prospective clients, current and prospective employees, industry groups, government organizations and investors – and the media you will leverage to push out your messages, among others.

Important questions to consider about your audience(s):

  • Is your client base diverse or concentrated within a select set of industries?
  • Do you provide consistent services across the client base or are there different services geared toward certain industries or clients of a certain size?
  • Do you work with startups or more established clients?
  • Do you prefer hiring new graduates or established patent attorneys?
  • Do you have relationships with any law schools?
  • Do you have relationships with key industry trade groups?
  • Do you have, want or shy away from investors?
  • What is your geographic reach (although this is now nearly irrelevant)?

Let’s consider how the firm, or its management, would like to be perceived. Unlike other industries – where classifying a company can be a bit challenging – you are an IP law firm. The audience will inherently understand that the major function of your business is to address IP-related law issues.

As a side note, we all know that there are a number of global, comprehensive law firms that also provide IP law services within their portfolio. For standalone IP law firms, this is a major benefit. You are specialists and your audience(s) will appreciate that.

In our next article, we will examine differentiators.