Tackling emerging markets can be like jumping into the great unknown. The public relations professionals at Nelson Communications Group, in Sacramento, take the initiative to learn about their prospects' markets, even if they have no experience with the industry. To convince prospects that the firm is a knowledgeable and trustworthy authority, Nelson Communications holds what it calls "reverse seminars."
"Usually our people go into customer offices to lecture on the details of a news topic that affects the customer," says Donna Lucas, president and CEO. "In a reverse seminar, we invite corporate experts to lecture us on a news topic, since that will be an emerging market for us." Recently, a telephone executive briefed Nelson Communications staffers on arcane telecommunications deregulation laws. At another seminar, a public utilities executive and a government regulator discussed the issues involved in important public utilities deregulation. After listening to the experts, staffers are better able to represent companies affected by these issues.
"For us, marketing means really understanding a targeted area we want to be involved in," says Lucas. "And sometimes we've gotten more business from speakers we've invited to lecture, though business development is not the main goal." The seminars are held about twice annually, she adds, and the lecturers, flattered to be asked to present on their area of expertise, usually speak free of charge.