Good communication and successful PR go hand in hand
What would your reputation and brand look like if you and your whole team were masterful communicators? What would your sales look like if you could speak the language of your clients and customers all the time?
Our blog posts below will help you to communicate more effectively in your writing, on social media and in your personal interactions. Don’t forget that you can pick up our free guides about becoming an Influencer here, and please contact us if you’d like to talk about adding ec-pr to your Communication and PR team.
Insight 2020 identified that thought leadership is a key priority for marketers, it also appears to be a bit of a sweetheart subject in the marketing press right now so I thought it would be useful to provide some insight into the ‘how’ and ‘who’ of great thought leadership.
Over the years, we have written hundreds of pieces of ‘thought leadership’ on behalf of clients. Every article we craft is written from interview with a subject matter expert and we follow a process to ensure it’s interesting, relevant and strategically aligned.
The angle for each article is developed with one eye on the communication strategy, with a target persona in mind. If you speak clearly and concisely to a single persona, you are infinitely more interesting than if you speak more generically in the hope of catching the attention of everyone.The angle will often be refined and promised to an editor on an exclusive basis before the full article is written. Our client’s time is valuable and, we don’t want to be producing a piece of thought leadership which only appears on our client’s website or LinkedIn feed.
A focussed, recorded interview with the subject matter expert provides us with the source material which we then craft into an article which meets the requirements of the business, the editor and the reader. [Occasionally, the editor chooses to take the source material and draft the article themselves].
The success of the article will depend on the subject matter expert; the best articles will invariably be from engaged leaders – business leaders or field leaders – who display the following attributes:
They don’t care about being a thought leader, but they care deeply about their subject, vision or mission.
Their knowledge is profound. They take every opportunity to learn about every evolution or development which may impact their passion. Their capacity for assimilating new information is enormous. They are great thinkers.
They can clearly articulate why any aspect of their topic is important – building out its commercial, social, political or environmental relevance where appropriate. Never boring or boorish, they are always interesting and engaging when talking about their subject.
Great thought leaders are willing and able to pitch their communication at the right level for their audience. They are passionate and persuasive to the point of evangelism. They are constantly engaged in their topic.
As with all successful story tellers, great thought leaders have logical, yet creative minds and they enjoy sharing their opinion and ideas. As a result, they are prolific writers, speakers and communicators.
Three steps to improve your presentation (communication without purpose is just noise)
How do you become an excellent communicator?
Nearly everyone is familiar with feelings of nerves or even dread when it comes to making a presentation (Indeed fear of public speaking is the most common social fear). And how many of us have sat through a dreary or incomprehensible presentation that is dull or difficult to follow? Therefore, it’s a normal and perhaps well-founded fear that our own presentation or talk might not be as engaging as it ought. So what steps can you take to make an ordinary presentation into a clear, compelling and thought-provoking one? The key is to start by being clear about your purpose…
How to make your presentation great
Great presentations flow because they have a structured argument designed to take you from your current perspective to a new one. The entire talk is tailored to carry your thoughts, opinions and judgements to a different place or point of reflection. Every phrase has a purpose.
This change in perspective is only possible with a clearly defined outcome or intention where each point or section leads logically to another, without hesitation. There is a subtle but vital difference between the task of giving a talk and the communication objective that underpins it.
Present with focus and a clear intent
Clarity of outcome is key to achieving new perspectives in the minds of the audience – assuming that the content is pitched appropriately (imagine the difference between the content of a talk about ‘the value of space travel to the human race’ delivered to a) pre-school kids and b) NASA astronauts. Confusion, distraction or boredom will only occur if an audience is unable to follow the logic of the presenter either because it is poorly pitched or because it lacks focus and intent.
Provoke a response from your audience
A communication objective should provoke a response in thought, word or deed. Effective communication will provoke the response you intend. Never forget that communication without purpose is just noise.
Do this one thing: next time you do a talk, set yourself a measurable objective and ask your audience for feedback. It will make you a better communicator, I promise.
Take a look at our INSIGHTS 2020 report for CMOs, shining a light on B2B communication in the next decade. The survey researched priorities and challenges for CMOs, and explored their strategic approach to communications, as well as the extent to which communication strategies are implemented to drive business outcomes.
EC-PR is a B2B PR Agency that helps forward-thinking tech businesses to be more effective communicators. We help businesses tackle critical issues such as lead generation, tender invitations and improving conversion rates by raising awareness, driving leads and developing targeted effective messaging.
Article first published 14th Oct 2016 and revised 1st Feb 2020.
You’ve prepped your ice-breakers, the Press Releases are printed out and you’ve got your contacts details all programmed in your phone. Now to prepare for the unexpected.
If a journalist happens to come by the stand unexpectedly or asks a question that is sensitive or ‘off message’, there’s no need to panic. Four key things to remember when handling the unexpected are:
Give yourself time to prepare
It’s ok to say to the journalist “now is not a good time and could you come back in 5/10 minutes or later in the day”. Ask the journalist what he/she is looking to discuss – that way you will have some time to think through what you or the subject matter expert need to say.
Have something worthwhile to say
If there are controversial or sensitive issues in your area of expertise, work out where you stand and don’t be afraid to air those views – but make sure you can back them up. Journalists are looking for experts who are prepared to give a strong opinion. If your company prefers not to comment on such issues that’s fine, but don’t be surprised if the reporters don’t bother to call you again.
Make it interesting and relevant
Avoid talking theoretically – use tangible examples to bring your points to reality. You will come across much more authoritative. And, don’t get obsessed with your own internal messages – by all means weave them in to the conversation, but be selective and thoughtful to keep them
Be Effective & Follow up
Follow up with the journalists you met and determine if they need anything further – if you promised to send them material, then do so. Don’t forget those images. If you have any new story ideas or feature abstracts, now is the time to send them to the Editors.
If you’ve actioned Stages 1 & 2 in our last blog HOW TO BECOME AN INDUSTRY THOUGHT LEADER you will be smiling like a Cheshire Cat about the fine piece of valuable content you have in your possession. But how do you get it to be seen and heard by the people and media that matter?
Prioritise and work through the list of targets to research, the format and tone that similar articles take, and where they are being shared (websites, blogs, social groups).
Identify the contact details of the people, editors and reporters you want to persuade to run your material and approach them on a one-by-one basis. Ensure that when writing to named contacts you use the research you have carried out on their media outlet and that you tailor your piece accordingly.
Format your material.
Each channel will need its own appropriately formatted material. I would recommend that you start with one or two media organisations and do your learning and do it well. Remember, as a thought leader you need to produce new and interesting content regularly: Think outside the box!
This could be a White Paper, Comment piece, Short film, Blog, Speech or Podcast.
Approach your chosen media targets.
Approach the organisations you’ve identified, one by one, and offer them a comment, article, opinion, contribution to their media channel – make sure this is relevant to their audience:
Get it subbed and edited by a colleague you like and respect. When they have finished reading, get them to answer the magic question: So what? Let their answer guide you as to what to add or take away. Ensure you chop out anything that doesn’t directly contribute to your idea. Also add as many visuals, photos, graphs, cartoons as you possibly can to bring your idea to life. Use humour to lighten ‘dark’ material.
Make it concise and dynamic but be prepared to vary your pace. Corporate films shouldn’t be more than 90 seconds long, talks no more than 17 minutes (see Ted Talks https://www.ted.com/watch/tedx-talks)
Conferences & forums
Take every and any opportunity to present your idea. If you are not an experienced speaker, start small. In your own office with colleagues, amongst clients, some people find doing a webinar is ok because they can’t be seen.
Ask for feedback.
At every event ask what your audience would like more of – this will ensure you get constructive feedback and will keep you motivated. Don’t expect to please everyone – in fact, a bit of push back suggests you have pushed the boundaries – this is good.
Be prepared to promote the pants off your thought leadership activities. It’s a good idea to get media trained (we can help with this!) Remember that practice really does make perfect. You will make mistakes, so make the bad ones in private, choose somewhere safe to make your mistakes.
Do not expect anyone to care as much about this issue as you.
You will have to be persistent and expect some level of rejection. This is fine – not everyone is as forward thinking as you are!
Be prepared to slice and dice your material for different audiences with interests in different aspects of your idea. Don’t be precious, learn to adapt and give what the media outlet is looking for, as long as it’s still true to your beliefs.
Use whichever social media platform is relevant and appropriate to your audience. Make sure your profile pictures and wording are professional and get yourself a hashtag that people can follow to find your latest pieces. Learn the tricks of the trade, like adding relevant trending hashtags to your posts to help get them noticed, and then get active, because if you’re not then no-one else will be.
You are already an expert in your field but becoming a thought leader is considered the holy grail of PR and marketing. It’s when you’re called by the BBC News to be an expert on a breaking story, when the most respected industry trade magazine calls you for your opinion and when you’re asked to speak at those all-important industry events.
But in this noisy world where everyone has an opinion, how do you become a thought leader? How do you elevate yourself and the brand you represent, with your own clear, well thought out viewpoint?
The initial stages to becoming and staying a thought leader is taking the time to thoroughly Research & Formulate your thoughts before Communicating them with the media. Follow our tried and tested steps to get you started:
STAGE 1: RESEARCH THE 5 BE’s
Focus on something you are passionate about. You must genuinely love your subject. If you care, you will come across as authentic and credible. To remain current, you will need to keep abreast of the latest thinking relating to your area of expertise – reading widely is an essential practice for a thought leader as is talking to other experts to fine tune your opinions.
Research your area properly so that you are informed on different possible perspectives.Consider topical issues, those in the news – for example; climate change, autonomous ships and piracy, and develop your opinion on them. Writing and news reporting is rarely impartial, so think about what the motivation might be behind the various documented opinions you read.
BE EVIDENCE DRIVEN
Evaluate which angles have the most merit, and document these. Having looked at the main options, consider the evidence that the opinions are based on. Draw up a list of evidence the writers refer to and evaluate which you think is the most robust and persuasive. Which do you find the most compelling?
Develop your opinion with appropriate proof points.As you develop your opinions, remember to keep detailed notes and annotate your text so that you can keep track of where your influences have come from. Depending on the material format you produce, you may need to quote sources.
Create visual representations of your idea.Wherever possible, create models, illustrations, infographics or even cartoons to bring your ideas to life. If you struggle with this, find someone who can help you. Remember, different people engage with, and absorb, information in different ways; by using graphics you can simplify complex concepts, increasing your chances of engaging with more people.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
It’s critical to be clear about who you want to engage withbecause this will inform the tone and intellectual level you need to adopt in your language, content and presentation style. For example, the BBC News traditionally broadcasts news stories in a way that an average 14-year old can understand – this means researchers and interviewers drill down to the essence of a story, sometimes appearing to oversimplify it in order to make it accessible to its broad audience. Other media organisations will have a different approach or style.
STAGE 2: FORMULATE
PULL TOGETHER YOUR THOUGHTS IN A ‘THINK PIECE’
With the information you have researched, draft a minimum of 100 words on each of the points below… alternatively, you can record your thoughts into a voice recorder. Ask yourself the following questions:
Why do you care about this?
Why should your audience care about?
What facts/developments do they need to be aware of?
What common assumptions/mistakes are made when trying to deal with this and why are they wrong?
Can you provide some examples of good and bad practices… – names, case studies, more names!
How do you propose this issue could be approached? Identify your evidence for suggesting this could work.
Map out the resistance you anticipate to your proposal, quote naysayers. Explain why you believe these naysayers to be wrong.
Summarise what you expect to achieve if your approach is followed.
Draft your introduction… and your conclusion.
Once you have your 1000+ words, take your draft to a colleague or your PR company, to review and provide constructive comment. For your key ‘Think Piece’, do not aim for a word count. You are aiming to produce a thoroughly researched, well argued, interestingly composed opinion that will provoke responses in thought, word or deed. And when you have done that – stop.
With your Think Piece done, your next challenge is to get your opinions out there!
For help on how to reach the right media outlets and audiences, don’t miss our Stage 3 article on Communication coming soon or request our full FREE guide on How to become a Thought Leader at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have reached the end of the blog and you’re not sure you have the time to action this, contact us to do the heavy lifting for you email@example.com.
Trade shows are meccas of newsworthy announcements because they provide the perfect launch pad to reveal new products, offer thought leadership from industry experts, and discuss industry trends. Media and consumers alike pay close attention to event news. If your company has a presence planned at an upcoming trade show or exhibition, you need to be prepared with the story you are there to tell. You need to create a press release that will get you noticed.
Identifying the Story
Before you put pen to paper, ensure you ALWAYS ask yourself the following questions:
Is my story ‘news’?Is it something that hasn’t been released to the press before and is it relevant or useful to your target audiences?
Have you secured third party permission to release the information? You don’t want to upset existing or potential clients or leak news too soon… take particular care to check facts and quotes.
What is the hook that will engage the journalist? You need to know what the USP of your story is and communicate it clearly.
What are the key messages you want to convey? Stick to having no more than three, otherwise your key message will get lost.
How to Write an Effective Press Release
Answered the above? You are now ready to write the Press Release.
Beat writers block by using our 5 W’s to help you write a stand out piece that will grab the media attention you are after.
WHOyou are working with:
WHATdifference have you made:
WHEN did this take place:
WHEREdid it happen:
WHYshould anyone take notice of this:
Your Final Check List
You’ve broken the back of it. Now it’s time to top and tail your story and tick off to ensure everything is covered.
You have the angle right. Make sure your story has the following attributes: it’s timely and unique, newsworthy or contrary to industry norms and trends.
You have a concise headline. Keep it punchy. Use less than ten words. The title should clearly signpost the key point presented in the opening paragraph.
It is written in the third-person. A press release must be presented objectively. Refrain from expressing personal opinions unless in quotes. Remember, you are the voice of your business or organisation, not an individual.
You have included relevant quotes. Journalists will use these to add an authoritative voice to their reports. Don’t waste quotes with ‘bland’ statements – say something intelligent and analytical and make sure the person who is saying it carries credibility or industry weight.
And don’t forget your ‘Notes to Editors’ section. Editors may want to follow up – make it easy for them, including all relevant contact details if they want more info, relevant social media hashtags, and any short facts (like recent awards or accolades) about your company that may be useful.
Optimise your News Release
You’ve written an effective Press Release and it’s been signed off for distribution. However, this is not simply a question of sending it out to your press contacts and waiting, the release can play a part of an integrated marketing approach using your social media accounts, website and intranet. To help you maximise the impact of your news release we have created a practical guide and planner, free to download here. It will help you plan timely and integrated activity to generate quality content and increase the reach of your press release in the media.