After entrepreneurs sink thousands of dollars into a PR campaign with no thought, execution strategy or results, they may want to jump ship – fast. These budding startups often look to PR to get the instant exposure and traction they need to succeed. But the truth is that traditional PR, or the act of just pitching stories to journalists, alone is rarely the golden ticket.
This strategy is fundamentally flawed because companies don’t control the message or the audience it’s reaching. You rely on someone else to tell your story, and it’s nearly impossible to predict the results. Many entrepreneurs don’t realise that they can direct the media conversation using a different type of strategy: thought leadership.
By becoming a thought leader, an entrepreneur, CEO or executive can become the go-to resource for information on history, news, trends and the future of an industry. Also, it can help build your influence with potential customers, partners, investors, reporters, peers and others.
You control the message
Media exposure is important, but using a PR firm and journalists to communicate your message to the public can quickly become a game of telephone. As your message passes through each person and organisation, it can get convoluted or simplified.
If you’ve ever been interviewed by a journalist, seen the final piece and said, “That’s out of context,” then you can relate. In a situation where the press is positive, you still run the risk of revealing information that’s not relevant or important to your specific audience.
Although thought leadership allows you to control the message, some companies can also misinterpret what this means. It doesn’t give you free rein to brag on your company. Self-promotion will immediately devalue your message, decrease your chances of getting published and turn readers away. Thought leadership is about writing what you know, sharing your expertise and addressing potential customer pain points.
You can humanise your brand
Consumers want to engage with the faces behind a brand. When you implement a thought-leadership strategy, you’re putting the people in your company at the forefront and educating your audience.
Potential customers can interact directly with executives at your company and learn more about their experiences and industry expertise. This will position you as a trusted source for information, and when people from your audience are ready to purchase, they’ll feel confident in choosing your company.
Education and engagement build trust
When a reporter writes an insightful, in-depth analysis of industry trends, he’s educating an audience and building a community of loyal followers. If your company simply gets name-dropped, there’s a slim chance the feelings of trust and loyalty will pass on to you.
When you author the educational content, trust, engagement and a sense of community form around you, your content and brand. It’s difficult to build a following if you’re relying on journalists to pick up the message you want to convey.
And with 78 % of consumers thinking companies that provide custom content have a vested interest in building meaningful relationships, it’s the perfect segue to brand trust and loyalty.
Calculating the ROI of both PR and content marketing is difficult – unless you have a snazzy algorithm like SeatGeek. But marketers who emphasize blogging are 13 times more likely to drive ROI. HubSpot also deems content the lifeblood of inbound, which produces a 300 percent ROI for companies that incorporate it versus those that don’t.
If you’re a CEO, a CMO or an extremely passionate employee, dig into the results you’re getting from your PR firm. Make sure nothing is standing in the way of humanizing your brand, controlling the message and engaging your audience to build trust.
Some PR firms get it right by combining thought leadership and traditional PR methods or working with a thought leadership firm. Together, these complementary ingredients can make a recipe for brand success.
Related: Why You Shouldn’t Skimp on PR
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
How To Use Mistaken Inquiries To Drive Awareness Of Your Business
Whether this is a walk-in, telephonic or e-mail client, be sure not to regret your interaction with them, have a plan in place, how you will deal with such situation.
At times, we receive inquiries or communication from people seeking products/services that aren’t in our line of work. It can also be someone who has mistaken you for a certain company that you’re not. It’s easy to dismiss such inquiries, by simply saying you’re unable to assist the person.
Don’t miss an opportunity to publicise your company, treat the enquirer as one of your clients. Take a proactive approach, use this as an opportunity to inform them about your company and the services/products that you offer.
In doing this you are building a reputation for your brand, and introducing your corporation to someone who might have never known about. It might happen in future, that the said person needs your products/services when they remember how you professionally assisted them, then they will come to you.
Another possibility is that at that moment they are connected to someone who needs your services and they don’t know anyone in your field. Should you play your cards correctly, you might gain a client for the future or the present.
Whether this is a walk-in, telephonic or e-mail client, be sure not to regret your interaction with them, have a plan in place, how you will deal with such situation.
Your response should be structured in a manner that will make the enquirer feel respected and not embarrassed about the mistake they’ve made. When responding to emails ensure that you do so quickly. Sympathise that you cannot assist them because your company only specialises in different services/products. State clearly what is it that you provide and how you do it.
2Show how you solve problems
In the process of explaining your services/products, demonstrate how you can solve people’s problems or meet their needs. This means that you describe your products/services in detail. However, your description should be a comprehensive summary, consider that the enquirer has a life to live.
3Make your brand visible
When responding to emails, remember to include your logo, motto and other things that your brand is identified by. Your offices should be designed keeping this in mind when someone walks in, they should immediately see your identity.
If you have samples to give, kindly offer them to the enquirer. Should you have demonstrations/presentations that you do, politely inform the enquirer about them. Let them know how they can get hold of this.
Related: How To Impress The Press
5Provide them with an opportunity to come back to you
You can share your business card with someone you meet, this should have all your contact detail, i.e. telephone, fax, e-mail and social media details. In an email, these should be nicely positioned at the end of your email, as part of your final greeting.
6Refer them to a relevant business
Should you know of any company that offers the services/products they need, refer them to it without hesitation. If possible, provide them with contact details and a contact person to assist them.
How You Can Avoid The ‘Facebook Effect’
Don’t let perceived realities – of your business or those of your competitors – derail your strategies.
As a young entrepreneur, I received my first bit of publicity from a daily in Durban. It was massively exciting and stroked my ego tremendously because after all, what I had achieved was considered newsworthy enough to be published in a newspaper.
There was a big photo of me on page four, with my interview where I talked about the success of a promotion I had conceived and implemented. My friends saw the article and called to congratulate me, and in my distant social circles people discussed my story and congratulated me too.
Perception versus reality
What they didn’t know was that my business was barely breaking even at the time. The perception of my success was very different to my reality. I proudly showed the article to my mentor (naively expecting a pat on the back) and instead he asked: “Do you believe what they say?” “What do you mean?” I said. “Do you believe all the things the journalist has written about you in the article?” he asked again.
I didn’t answer him because I knew deep down that they weren’t all true. I wasn’t the hugely successful businessman that I was portrayed as in the article.
“If you believe all the good things the press write about you, you’ll also believe all the bad things they say. Be grateful for the press, but do not let it govern your emotions.”
Beware curated reality
In today’s era of social media, fake news, memes, and overly filtered photos, it’s very easy to become envious of the perceived lives that others showcase.
Much like the envy we experience when scrolling through our friends’ posts of their expensive destination holidays — where they can be seen showing off their tanned, ripped bodies while sipping expensive champagne — the same type of envy occurs between business owners when they scroll through competitor’s company timelines and witness their competitors winning great awards, attending glitzy launches and receiving kudos from the press.
In my experience, the perception created by these often-boastful social media posts is seldom close to reality. Like the article on my Durban business, what my friends perceived was nowhere near my financial reality.
Be cognisant and sceptical of this curated reality, so that you as a business do not react in one of two ways to a competitor’s posts:
- Don’t try to emulate their strategy based on what seems to be working
- Don’t end up feeling depressed based on your jealousy of this curated reality.
Instead, your reaction to witnessing these posts should be to:
- Frame your competitors’ posts simply as marketing. They have carefully curated these posts to only show followers the great things about their businesses, products and services. The ‘make-up’ hides the imperfections.
- Use your emotions to make a change. Use the energy their posts ignite inside of you — not the content they project — and pump that energy into YOUR strategy to reinforce it.
- Drive your differentiator harder. Make sure your business stands out as being unique and a thought leader in its industry and not one attempting to copy others. Your differentiator should not be influenced by what you are seeing either positively or negatively.
Always remember, your competitors’ posts represent selective truth-telling because they curate what they want you to see online.
They will never post when times are tough and they are losing clients and not making a profit at the end of the month. Don’t believe everything you see, and most importantly, don’t let these ‘perceived realities’ affect you or your business strategy in any way.
6 Simple Ways To Build Brand Credibility On A Tight Budget
How to build media credibility for your business in 2017.
- Old school: Unlimited marketing budgets.
- New School: Smart and cost-effective ways to get noticed — despite an over-crowded market.
It’s no secret that when there is an economic downturn, advertising and marketing budgets — even in big businesses — take a knock. Most SMEs have much smaller advertising and marketing budgets, and we need to constantly find creative ways to build trust and credibility with potential clients, as well as increase our share of voice in our industries.
One way to do this is to build credibility with the media and generate exposure for the business to increase visibility, which in turn can translate into sales.
Where would you start?
1Follow and listen
Seeing your company’s name grace the glossy pages of your favourite magazine or your spokesperson appearing on your favourite business show can be very rewarding and lead to more opportunities.
The reality is that media outlets, editors, journalists and producers are bombarded with more stories than they can work on and most of those stories are irrelevant.
The key to increasing the likelihood of your business story being featured starts with understanding your chosen media. This includes drilling down to a specific journalist and the editor on whose platform you would like get coverage.
Do your homework, find out who their audience is, what sort of features they publish, and who they view as thought leaders. Start by investigating what the chosen platform is likely to focus on to ascertain whether or not what you have to share will be relevant and appealing to it.
Just as you researched your market before you tried to sell to it, learn who their target market is.
Editors and producers balance audience interests around their platforms, which is critical to their growth, and they also need to remain relevant in a crowded marketplace to increase advertising in an era of dwindling advertising spend. Aside from being featured by the media, listening to existing conversations and following target platforms is significant if you and your business story are to be relevant.
2Share industry changes and stories
The advantage of living in this era of information and content overload is that information and data are everywhere. But, most of it is not well organised. The ability to organise information in ways that make for interesting and insightful reading can turn media attention towards your business.
How often have you read a story and found comments from people who are industry experts? Sharing knowledge and becoming the go-to industry voice builds credibility and positions your business as a team of experts, and most people would rather buy from companies that are specialists in their field.
3Share your progress
Part of the challenge of starting and building credibility with the media is the lack of ‘story’ behind the business and the new idea. A silver lining that emerges from the sad finding that nine out of ten start-ups fail is that when small businesses make progress, it is worth celebrating.
This may not always be a cover story or sought after article, but making contact with key media about progress in a year or two sometimes leads to mentions and these can attract more coverage.
4Review a relevant event
Industry and business events tend to have interesting nuggets of information that sometimes go unnoticed and if you attend these events, there could be interest in a post-event write-up. One of the stories that we shared which garnered solid traction was about various speaker’s insights from an overseas conference that we attended.
The African continent is becoming more interested in local voices, in developing what the continent has to offer as solutions. Some of these solutions emerge at events that are not attended by media, which can give you the opportunity to write a publishable opinion piece.
5Share an industry success story
It’s tempting to write a press release that focuses on your business and hope that the spotlight lands on you. It’s like putting up your selfie in a public domain, but with the potential to be seen on TV or in print. Avoid at all costs.
Similar to sharing your progress, talking about an industry colleague — without overly marketing them or the competition — can make you the source of relevant industry information. Most industry commentators whose insights are sought after, are perceived to have relevant industry information and this also leads to more coverage linked to your business. Position yourself as the insiders with insights to share.
6Make it newsworthy
For your story to attract attention, it should interest the editor or the journalist and must be newsworthy. Unless you are someone important, and can offer an audience a new perspective, a personal story without a newsworthy angle increases the probability of your email address being redirected to the spam folder.
The notion of what makes news varies from one title to the next, from one show to another and listening to what is important in a handful of chosen platforms increases the chances of becoming a story that is worth telling.
As you build your credibility in the marketplace, foster relationships that will be valuable over time and build them by offering useful content that separates you from industry peers. After all the people with whom your business interacts and builds value can be its greatest asset.
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