The pre-cable television, pre-Internet media universe comprised a few major television networks, traditional radio, hard copy newspapers, a variety of magazines that were available nationally and several trade publications in each major industry. Today’s assortment looks markedly different. It encompasses a dizzying array of channels that include online news outlets, satellite radio, cable television (which includes hundreds of stations and programs), a wide assortment of national magazines, hundreds of regional magazines, tens of thousands of trade pubs, and all that’s available online, such as online news, blogs, social media channels, podcasts, video sharing and more.
While technology continues to disrupt and fragment the PR industry, the number of media and social channels are climbing, which means there is an opportunity for PR firms to get creative and add value. When it comes to ROI, the driving force behind all marketing disciplines, PR needs to catch up. In the new world of public relations, measurement can take form in several ways, beginning with thought leadership. Thought leadership is not about being known; it’s about being known for something. It’s not about brand awareness – but the place you occupy in your target customers’ minds. Here are four ways PR can build thought leadership, through smart integration with other marketing disciplines.
PR’s media placements/results, bylined articles, news releases, white papers, tips/views, video, infographics, blog posts and other documents create powerful content, which can communicate a company’s views, expertise and leadership position. To educate and influence, this content can and should be leveraged by sharing it regularly and consistently with key stakeholders through traditional and online channels.
Email marketing, social media sharing, direct mail and collateral materials are just some of the ways to disseminate this.
Social media plays an important role in managing perception for both consumer and B2B companies. It’s a smart content engine and enables organizations to demonstrate thought leadership and its expertise in non-commercial ways. The most successful social strategies include influencer campaigns, where industry players who are most active online are followed and engaged. In turn, some follow you back, particularly when you are sharing relevant content frequently and have something authentic to say. Social is also a way to manage what people know about you, so it cannot be overlooked when it comes to brand reputation management. Moreover, because we’re a graphic society, it’s important to use videos and photos to tell your story and engage those with whom you’d like to connect and impact.
Media relations, particularly unpaid or earned media, establishes industry leadership in a highly credible way. Media coverage is viewed as third party endorsements and can lead to more exposure among media and influencers, including social media pundits. Editorial coverage can include white papers, webinars, bylined articles, Q & A columns, company profiles, broadcast interviews, blogger placements/reviews, award and personnel announcements and other placements, all of which can build category leadership. In this process, it’s important to utilize subject matter experts and/or key opinion leaders from within a company to tell its story and provide expert advice and commentary to media. Media relies on people to express its coverage, and they must be thoroughly prepared to deliver concise and hard-hitting messages that tell your story. The resulting media coverage can be synopsized, optimized and syndicated to support the SEO, social media and online reputation initiatives, which, as previously stated, all build thought leadership.
One aspect of thought leadership is managing mindshare – how people find you – and how often. Organic search optimization is alive and well and leverages content, social, media relations and general SEO fundamentals, such as link building and on- and off-site optimization practices. It’s not enough to secure an article or write a blog post. Today, you must effectively promote content to ensure it gets exposure and readership. This builds your leadership position and prominently positions a company or person in the eyes of key stakeholders. It is important to note that optimizing a website just isn’t enough. With all of the competition that exists, it takes commitment and time to build an online presence.
If a company or an individual has a lot to offer in way of her/his expertise and subject matter knowledge, but has a negative reputation online, it can damage thought leadership. So much hinges on perception that it’s important to take a proactive stance when it comes to online reputation. A positive reputation is the byproduct of all of the thought leadership undertakings I’ve touched on. To succeed, an organization has an obligation to advocate on its behalf and create and build its leadership position.
Today’s PR is a means to an end. It’s ammunition that can build reputation, online presence, perception and expert recognition, and lead to speaking engagements, analyst briefings and ultimately sales. PR is dead. Long live the new PR, Thought Leadership.