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How to communicate your business ethos to differentiate yourselves from competitors

Over the last decade, rapid developments in how we communicate, share content and use social media have made us more savvy and sceptical when it comes to choosing the brands and companies we identify with. This has been fuelled by increasing public interest and appreciation of things like environmental concerns, polarising political movements, data privacy violations, economic scandals, and the era of ‘fake news’.  

Design companies are uniquely placed to react positively to this kind of shifting landscape, and have led the way in demonstrating a more thoughtful and alternative way of running their businesses, instilling their brand ethos with things like a renewed focus on people, wellbeing, the environment, education, humanitarian efforts, or community-based initiatives.

The values a business is built on can really set it apart in the eyes of clients, suppliers and prospective talent, enriching those relationships and opening up opportunities. The challenge is how to communicate this ethos within the industry, and beyond, to truly stand out and achieve differentiation from competitors.

Have a focused, clear mantra

elena-taranenko-548463-unsplashIt might sound simple, but it’s surprising the number of design companies who haven’t quite nailed their positioning or the way they talk about themselves. Creatives, quite rightly, are often so focused on delivering excellent work for their clients that they don’t have time for this. But now, more than ever, it’s crucial to have a clear and direct positioning that uses simple and transparent language over industry jargon and buzzwords like ‘purpose’, ‘experience’ and ‘authenticity’. Your audience knows that you and your competitors can deliver excellent design work, so your positioning needs to tell them what makes your business truly individual and unique. Being hyper aware of what your competitors are saying, and not saying, from a communications perspective is crucial here.

Foster a company culture based on your brand ethos 

Your team is your strongest asset and they are uniquely placed to help spread the word about the values you strive for. Each team member is a brand ambassador, so spend time educating them how to talk about what you do, so they can become natural spokespeople for your company. This is crucial when it comes to marketing and PR opportunities. Creatives are time-poor, so the more of your team who can confidently attend or present at events, talk to press, write a blog post, or speak on your company’s behalf, the better placed you are to maximise any press opportunities that come your way.  

Actions speak louder than words

oleg-laptev-546607-unsplash-1It may be an old cliché, but it’s a good one. We can’t all be a Patagonia, Nike or Innocent Smoothies, but there are so many things you can do to help communicate your company’s ethos through the way you behave. At one end of the spectrum, it’s about ensuring the content you share online not only reflects your values but is also outward-looking and connects to other movements, companies and opinions, rather than being purely based on self-promotion. This can be extended to participating in events, creating mini event series yourselves, hosting a panel discussion, or creating a podcast. All of this can sound scary (and expensive) at first, but it needn’t be either if you partner with the right people and have a clear focus of what you want to achieve. 

Build a network of meaningful allies

One of the huge positives about social media is that the world is now much smaller in terms of who you connect with. Use this opportunity to forge relationships with other companies, clients and suppliers who share or reflect your values. Whether this manifests as co-hosting an event, writing a joint opinion piece, collaborating on a visionary concept project, or offering clients a new way of collaborating with you and a relevant partner, the results can be refreshing and memorable. Crucial here is having frank conversations early on about the PR potential of any partnership, as should be the case with all clients, so that both parties can reap the benefits later down the line. 

Engage in education

At a time when design education is under increasing threat, young designers need industry support more than ever in order to reach their potential. Many companies are already good at being involved in education initiatives, but more can always be done. This can include everything from being proactive about taking on interns and work experience students, to engaging with local schools and colleges to deliver student talks, setting student briefs at all levels of education, and fully exploring the creative industries network and getting involved in the initiatives that feel right for you.

After all, if there’s one value that all design companies should be embedding into their ethos it’s nurturing the future of our brilliant industry. Getting involved in design education, at whatever level you can, can go a long way to achieving this goal. 

About: Tim Duncan

Tim Duncan is founder and managing director of TDC PR, an integrated communications consultancy. We build reputation for clients in the creative industries, including design & innovation, creative agencies, architecture & interior design and design-led brands.

Reputation is fundamental to driving growth for creative businesses. As an agency very much born out of the sector with team members drawn from the industry, we provide a critical blend of insider knowledge with PR & communications expertise.

Tim is an accredited member of the DBA’s Experts Register.

Image credits:

Chris Barbalis | Unsplash

Oleg Laptev | Unsplash

Elena Taranenko | Unsplash


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