Writing your way to thought leadership: Five Tips

The concept of thought leadership is not new.  In fact, it has been around for years – especially in professional services firms where reputations rest on demonstrating expertise.

It’s still a viable concept, however. As the go-to experts for information, guidance, ideas and inspiration, thought leaders attain national prominence as leaders in their field.

But being recognized as a thought leader does not happen overnight.  It’s a step-by-step process.  If you would like to become a thought leader in your field, one of the best ways is to take some of the ideas and concepts that you have found helpful in your career and turn them into articles to submit to publications that can establish you as a credible industry expert.

Here are some tips to help you on your way to becoming a published thought leader:

  1. Have something to say.  Your article should be relevant to today’s business issues, regardless of the industry you represent.  It should contribute to the current conversation and predict trends for the future.  Finally, it should inspire others to implement your ideas.
  2. Speak to your target audience.  Especially in trade publications, your article should address industry-specific challenges and issues.  And don’t forget that every publication has its editorial requirements; you should be familiar with them before writing your article.
  3. Present your ideas in an engaging way.  Even when you are seeking to be published in a magazine serving your industry, you will need to write your article for readers who, while intelligent, are probably not as steeped in your subject as you are.  Write clearly in a conversational tone and avoid technical jargon.
  4. Do not openly promote yourself or your business in your article.    Recognition is a funny thing.  Sometimes the harder you try to get recognized, the less successful you are.  Demonstrate your expertise through recognizing others’ work in your pieces and jumping off from what they say to talk about your ideas.  You and your company will be identified at the end of the article.
  5. Remember that getting recognized takes time.  Persistence can pay off.  Get published as often as you can – guest opinion pieces in publications or blogs serving your industry can lead to business publications and gradually more mainstream media attention. And by all means, get help from a professional writer if you need it.  You will save time and money in the long run.

Posted by Margot Dimond

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Communication is key to a successful relationship with your PR firm

You’ve finally chosen a PR firm to work with.  You’ve done the due diligence, sorted through proposals, interviewed the candidates, and you feel you have found the right fit for your business.

But that’s just the beginning.  The practice of public relations is based on communication, and that’s especially important when you bring in outside counsel.  Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • It’s not “one and done.”  You probably shared a great deal of information with your PR firm before hiring them, and they have a good feeling for what you do and what makes your company special.  You’re off to a good start, but don’t stop there.  Ongoing communication is essential to getting the best results from your PR firm.
  • Give your firm an early heads-up on company news.  When something newsworthy happens at your firm, your PR firm should hear about it as soon as possible. They will need time to strategize its release to the public. And be available for any interviews that result from their efforts.  PR people are at the mercy of journalists’ deadlines, so if you want positive media coverage, they have to be able to reach you quickly.
  • Trust your firm.  Sometimes – especially with entrepreneurial businesses – it’s difficult to give things up and let someone else carry the ball. Trust your PR people with sensitive information about your business so they are well-prepared for anything that may go wrong.
  • Designate an in-house contact.  Standing meetings help, even if they are telephone conferences, but company news and events don’t always occur on a schedule. It’s best to have a regular in-house contact – someone who is responsible for contacting the PR firm with company news or events, for providing the PR firm with any necessary company information, and for streamlining the internal approval process for projects.

Posted by Margot Dimond

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Growing your audience with a center of influence PR strategy

The following post is by Hollie Geitner, Vice President for Client Services at WordWrite Communications of Pittsburgh.  WordWrite is a fellow member agency – with Houston’s DoubleDimond Public Relations – of PR Boutiques International.

HubSpot’s 2018 State of Inbound report found that 63% of companies view generating traffic and leads as their biggest marketing challenge.

Many of our clients and those we talk to regularly have expressed similar frustrations, asking:  “How do I connect with my target audience when there is so much noise out there?”

It’s a reasonable question.  Traditional advertising is less effective than it once was, attention spans are shorter than ever, and newsrooms are shrinking by the day.

Perhaps it’s time to consider an alternative – communicating with your center of influence (COI), or those who directly impact the decisions of your end-users/end-buyers.  In many cases, those are people or organizations you’ve been aware of but haven’t really invested the time or resources into just yet.  These folks are actively looking for viable options for their clients (your ideal customers) and the sooner you make those influencers a priority, the sooner you may see results.

Consider builders or contractors who work closely with realtors, financial advisors who market to attorneys and accountants, manufacturers of safety products who communicate with risk management consultants…

In most cases, this narrow COI audience is trusted by those who ultimately purchase or use your product or service.  They are a good referral network, and in ideal scenarios, you might be able to do the same for them, making it a beneficial relationship for all.  In working with these groups, the key is not to sell, but to educate and inform.  Offer something that helps them solve their clients’ unique challenges.

Identifying your COIs is only the first step, however.  Just like your customers, you have to understand how the COIs operate, what they read, how they consume information and how they work with their own clients.  Your outreach strategy might include social, digital and traditional marketing and your messaging will speak directly to them.  You’ll need to tweak your customer messaging a bit, but it is well worth the effort.

The COI strategy is particularly helpful today as social media allows for highly targeted advertising focused on interests, key words, geographic location and industries served.

If you feel you’ve hit a plateau in your marketing efforts, it may be time to rethink your strategy and focus on your own COI network.

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The Worst Time to Think of Crisis Communications

Expect the Unexpected – That’s good advice for everyone in business.  No one can predict the future, so being prepared for whatever comes along just makes good sense.  Part of that preparation is having a crisis communications plan in effect.

Many business owners think a crisis could never happen to them.  They don’t work with dangerous materials, nor are they guardians of sensitive information.  Moreover, they are smart and capable people who don’t do stupid things.

Optimism is a great thing, but preparedness is better.  A good reputation is essential to business success, and a reputation can be tarnished in many ways – sometimes irrevocably and often unfairly.

Not all crises are caused by a company’s management or poor safety practices.  Businesses can be interrupted, and customers lost, by natural disasters, a fire, or a computer system failure; suppliers may have a crisis that affects your company’s ability to provide products; one of your products can be recalled; or you could lose key staff, which affects your ability to provide a certain level of service for a period of time.

Once you are in the middle of a crisis, you realize that it may not only damage your reputation, but could cause you to go out of business.  And this is the worst time to think of ways to handle it because you may not be in the best frame of mind to do so.  Customers may be left in the dark as you work your way through solving your problems, leaving an impression that you just don’t care about their concerns or needs.

This is why an increasing number of businesses are taking crisis communications planning seriously.  A major part of business is communicating with your customers and making sure they know what is going on even in the middle of a serious situation.  Many companies have actually improved their reputations simply by having an effective response.

Here are some initial crisis communication tips from a previous post.

Posted by Margot Dimond

 

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Search Engine Marketing: SEO vs. PPC

Having a strong online presence is essential in today’s business environment. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) are the two most utilized methods of Search Engine Marketing, but how do they work – and which is best for your business?

First, the definitions: SEO is basically a series of techniques, strategies and tactics used by a webmaster to drive traffic to your website organically from search engines. PPC is an advertising model used to direct online traffic to websites, in which the advertiser pays whenever someone clicks on their ad.   Choosing the right keywords – words and phrases that are part of your web profile – is important to the success of both SEO and PPC.

When deciding which option will provide the best return on investment for your business, you may want to keep the following three things in mind: Cost, Credibility, and Commitment.

  • Cost:  SEO is very labor intensive and usually takes some time to show results, so the costs can be daunting, depending on what you need and who you are competing with. If you are the new kid on the block in a crowded marketplace, it’s going to be an uphill battle to get on that coveted first page. PPC, on the other hand, can give you a much bigger bang for the buck.  With paid search ads, you can set your own budget and adjust it as needed all along the way. In addition, paid search ads usually appear on the first page above the organic search results, so the user will always see them, even if they scroll past them.  Advantage: PPC.
  • Credibility:  PPC and SEO are related to the more traditional marketing tactics of display advertising and earned media coverage (publicity). Paid advertising is easily measured for ROI, and done well can have really positive results. Also, advertising can bring the kind of immediate attention that will influence your organic search results in the long run. On the other hand, SEO is related to earned media coverage, which implies a third-party endorsement by the media outlet that publishes it. Similarly, organic search results indicate that Google or Bing has endorsed your business as worth paying attention to.  Advantage: SEO.
  • Commitment: Both SEO and PPC require a level of commitment to work well. SEO, however, can take a long time and require a great deal of content development to keep it going – new blog posts, new product offers, etc. With PPC, you can tell fairly quickly if your ads or keywords are resulting in increased traffic and what the visitors to your site are doing when they get there by using Google Analytics. You can then make adjustments as required. However, unlike PPC, SEO offers sustainability; it does not cease when you stop paying.  Advantage: A Tossup.
  • Combination: Choosing an online traffic driver doesn’t have to be an either-or decision; it’s really best to use a combination of both SEO and PPC, budget permitting. That way, you get the best of both – as long as you have an overall strategy for implementation, which is essential for both short- and long-term success.

Posted by Margot Dimond

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Thank you for your patience

Patiently listening while being thanked for my patience.

“Thank you for your patience.”  When I see it in a letter or hear it from a customer service representative, I often think, “Hmmm…but maybe I’m not being patient.”

As a homeowner and business owner in Houston, Texas, I’ve seen and heard this more than usual in the past months.  That’s because we are living in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, when recovery and other services are in high demand and not always readily available.  As a result, so many affected by Harvey’s flooding are routinely thanked for their patience – or understanding, or cooperation.

Out of curiosity, I conducted some informal research.  I asked a few friends how they feel about being thanked in advance for their patience.  I also searched online.  Both friends and the online community reveal the same thing:  phrases like this can be perceived as presumptuous, even insulting.

In an effort to be polite, the person communicating these platitudes may actually offend the customers they are trying to communicate with.  They are thanking the customer for something over which he or she has no choice.

This is a seemingly minor communication faux pas, but it’s now endemic in our culture.  The internet server is down, the flight is delayed, an urgent service call is put on hold for an inordinate amount of time – these are all cases where you can gain or lose a customer simply by how you communicate.  Thanking someone for their patience when they cannot communicate with clients, reach their destination in time for a meeting, or have sewage leaking into their home can seem insensitive.

Is there a better way to handle these situations?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Indicate that you know how inconvenient the situation is and that you will keep them updated.  (Then follow through.)
  • Apologize for the inconvenience and assure the customer that you are working to resolve the problem as quickly as possible.
  • Give the customer a time estimate when the problem will be resolved – or if they are on hold, what the “wait time” is.

Many companies are already doing this, and customers do appreciate it.  Most people understand that “stuff happens,” but when it affects important aspects of their lives, they just want as much information as possible about what’s going on and when things will be resolved.  That’s how a company shows respect for its customers.

Posted by Lisa Dimond Vasquez

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Are you amplifying your earned media success?

Todays’ post is by Hollie Geitner, Vice President of Client Services for WordWrite Communications of Pittsburgh, a fellow member firm of PR Boutiques International.

If you’ve been quoted in a positive news article about your industry, or your byline was recently published by a trade magazine, congratulations! You’re now a thought leader. This is a designation many aspire to, which is why it’s important you take the care and time to leverage that incredible placement as part of your overall marketing strategy.

The blurred lines between news media and digital channels mean that more and more people, including business leaders, utilize information they find on social media to influence their business purchasing decisions. And, despite the publicized erosion of confidence in the news media, the Cision 2017 State of the Media Report indicates that most audiences view a news story as more reputable and trustworthy than a company’s branded marketing materials.

So, if you have a great story, share it! Here are some ideas for leveraging your earned media hit: 

  1. Post it to your personal and company social channels and link to the publication or media outlet. 
  2. Share it with your internal team—including sales representatives. Encourage them to use the story when meeting with clients or prospects or share on their own channels. 
  3. Put some money behind a social post to receive more click-throughs. Facebook ads allow you to target your demographic so your content is seen by those most interested in your industry. 
  4. Publish a post on your LinkedIn page. The publishing platform is very user friendly. Spend a little time writing a post about your expertise and mention the publication that originally included you or your company. This is a good way to get more detailed than perhaps what was in the article. And, once you publish it on LinkedIn you’ll see how many people view, share or engage with your post.
  5. Mention the story in your customer newsletter and in communications to Board members and other stakeholders. 

Just like you would with your marketing efforts, have a plan in place to track the post metrics, such as likes, shares and engagement. Google Analytics, social platform dashboards and even paid services such as Trendkite make it simple to pull it all together so you can easily see the impact one great story can have on your company.

Remember, don’t toss that great media hit aside. Amplify it!

 

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Planning to Advertise? Four Things to Keep in Mind

Many potential clients approach a public relations firm seeking earned media coverage (aka “free publicity”) to promote their product or service.  Depending on the client, their target market and goals, a PR firm may recommend including advertising in the marketing mix to achieve maximum effectiveness.

We believe having a professionally planned ad campaign is the best way to proceed, but if you decide to do it on your own, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind.

  • Who do you want to reach?  Answering this question will help determine where you advertise and your advertising message.  You want to think of where your potential customers get their information and why they may need your product or service.
  • Have a consistent image and message that will appeal to your target market.  You can have ads that address different topics, but the look of your ad and the basic message about your company should remain consistent so that your ad is instantly recognizable as being from your company.
  • Once is not enough.  Repetition is essential to get through the information clutter, so you will have to set aside a decent advertising budget to get the results you want.
  • Monitor your campaign’s effectiveness.  The simplest way to do this is to regularly ask where any new contact heard about you.

Posted by Margot Dimond

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Four Common Misconceptions about PR

The year is still young, and you may not have decided what to do to improve your company’s marketing for the coming year. You think PR may be the answer, and no doubt you would benefit from it.  But it’s a good idea to know what you want to accomplish with public relations – one of the most misunderstood of business functions.

Before you call a firm or hire a PR specialist, let’s dispel some common misconceptions about the practice.

  1. PR is about writing and sending news releases.  Think of a news release as the bread and butter that accompanies the meal.  It’s not the whole meal or even the main course.  Every business or nonprofit organization needs to begin any public relations program with a strategic plan – one that incorporates their overall goal, short-term objectives, target audiences, strategy, tactics and how success will be measured.  A news release is one of many tactics that may be used in carrying out the plan.
  2. PR is “free advertising.”  First of all, public relations and advertising messages are entirely different.  You can overtly promote your organization in an ad, while to obtain “earned” media coverage (coverage you don’t have to pay for), you must have a story – one that makes a worthwhile contribution to the editorial content of a media outlet.  Second, public relations work is not free; whether you are using in-house staff or an outside firm, you will pay for the time and talent that it takes to get recognition for your business.
  3. When interviewing a PR specialist, the first thing to ask is how our business would be promoted.   Every business or nonprofit organization is unique in some way, and no one PR plan will be right for each one. Ask that question of a PR firm, and you will probably get a series of questions in return or a request to meet and talk with you in person.  That’s because the answer to your question depends on all of the factors that will go into your company’s strategic PR plan (see #1, above).
  4. We need good PR to quickly counteract recent bad publicity.  Hiring a PR firm to put a positive spin on bad acts by your company is pretty much useless.  The truth has a way of coming out, and in today’s media climate it can be devastating to your business, as online and social media can reach millions of people before you can do anything about it.  The best way – perhaps the only way – to counter negative media coverage is to apologize immediately for any wrongdoing and begin a long-term program to repair the damage to your reputation.  And that PR program has to be based on good acts, or it won’t succeed.

Posted by Margot Dimond

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Trade Show Success Starts with the Right Strategy

Trade Shows are a major part of marketing for many businesses, but generating solid leads requires a plan.  Guest blogger, Wendy Marx of Marx Communications, shows how the right strategy can make all the difference.

Sadly, getting leads is no slam dunk and not every lead you get is a hot one. You need to have the right audience, right message, right time — and the right strategy.

When it comes to trade shows, you might think that generating B2B leads is a piece of cake. After all, you’re under one roof, engaging with those who have an active interest in your industry, often for multiple days.

And, although LinkedIn is responsible for generating as many as 80% of all B2B leads, trade shows are still a successful staple of any B2B marketing strategy.

77% of marketers say trade shows generate a significant quantity of leads. ~ Tom Pick of Meltwater

So how can you make the most of your trade show experience?

5 WAYS TO GENERATE B2B LEADS AT TRADE SHOWS

1.  Contact the Right People Weeks Before.  Typically, a trade show will release a list of press members who are covering the show. This may include bloggers, influencers, and journalists.

While these contacts are not themselves leads, their audience is. One of the most important steps you can take to snag time with these influential people is to reach out to them by email at least several weeks before a show. Request that they stop by your booth, and if possible, schedule a time for them to do so. Remember that media get jammed at trade shows so you want to be early enough for them to see you. If they are overscheduled or not attending the conference, not to worry. Offer them the opportunity to interview you in advance and embargo the interview till the show.

If you can, give them samples, a free trial, or a demo of your product or service.  And don’t forget to provide background information or any helpful collateral.

2.  Land a Speaking Engagement.  Securing a speaking gig is a great way to generate more credibility around your brand, as well as yourself as a thought leader.

This isn’t always easy to do, so you must plan well in advance. Thought leadership begins with your owned media. In addition, once you have established credibility, you will have to submit an application to speak, likely months in advance. Here’s one tip to help get you in the door: Submit if you can with a customer. Trade shows are loaded with vendors eager to speak and you can differentiate yourself by presenting with a customer.

Landing a speaking engagement at a trade show is well worth the effort, as it will drive prospects, not only to your booth, but to your website since you will (with any luck) create a memorable presence.

3.  Establish Your Goals.  Of course, the end game is always to turn strangers into buyers. However, the stage you’re at in your marketing game will largely determine your goals and means of achieving them.

If you’re a startup, you’re main mission at a trade show might be to create a buzz by handing out free swag. However, if you’re well-established, you might be aiming to launch a new product, or secure greater publicity.

Get your strategy in place by first determining your end game.

4.  Get Busy on Social Media.  In the weeks and days that precede a trade event, you’ll want to create a buzz on social media. If your brand is launching a new product at a trade show, why not use Snapchat to reveal a hint of the product, mentioning that the full product will be unleashed at the upcoming trade show.

While you’re at the trade show, take full advantage of Facebook Live to capture real-time highlights of the event.

5.  Follow Up.  Want to know something a bit frightening? One statistic says:

“90% of trade show attendees received no follow-up within 12 months of their visit.” ~ Danny Zecevic of Skura

If you want anything to come of your trade show experience, you must follow up. That means inputting new contacts into your CRM, reaching out via email or telephone, and asking for permission to add them to your email list.

Just think… if you can accomplish this one task that so few B2B companies are paying attention to, you’ll have the upper hand to win your prospects’ attention.

Ready to go conquer your next trade show? Just remember…

  • Make contact with the press well before the show.
  • Land a speaking engagement.
  • Create and work within your trade show marketing strategy.
  • Publicize your presence at the event on social media.
  • Always follow up with the contacts you made at the show. 

Wendy Marx is president of Marx Communications, which is based in Connecticut.

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