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.
What editors want from cybersecurity PRs
If you want to get more out of your cybersecurity PR and news stories in 2018, this article will tell you how. We interviewed three industry journalists to find out what they valued most and least from cybersecurity PRs.
Here’s what Tom Allen, Special Projects Editor at Computing, V3, and The Inquirer, Tony Morbin, Editor-in-Chief of SC Magazine and Dan Raywood, Contributing Editor of Infosecurity Magazine had to say.
1. What makes a good security story?
The rules for a good security story are simple according to Dan at Infosecurity: “Something that engages the reader, seeks to tell a story and is well written and researched.”
Tony at SC magazine told us that: “When choosing which story to follow up, we try to pick the one that will have the biggest impact on the reader in terms of doing their job better, helping their company or their career.” He went on to say: “Our audience targets cyber security professionals, so we are not looking for advice to consumers.” Tony also looks for new, insightful, attributable comment. “We want quotable quotes, i.e. not what everyone else has already said” and by attributable, he means the full name and job title of the person being quoted.
Tom at Computing says: “The most interesting stories, aside from those about something going wrong, are always the ones that involve a new use of technology, whether it’s a brand-new approach or an innovative use of existing systems.” He finds it frustrating when people don’t explain properly why a certain technology, such as AI, has been used or what is important about it and what benefit it will bring to security that other solutions don’t.
In most instances, the media want board level contributors – ideally not a sales or marketing executive who can make readers feel that they are being sold to. This is because editorial is about sharing information and knowledge, while provoking discussion and debate.
At ec-pr, our rule of thumb is that a story needs to introduce something new with a clearly articulated benefit and it should only be sent to press with an expressed interest in the subject matter. Stories should always be well-researched and written in a way that is engaging to the reader.
2. Why do some ‘great’ stories sometimes fail to be published?
Over the past 20+ years, we have never once failed to get press coverage for a story. Our process for researching, writing and securing approvals is robust – this is rooted in deep professional respect for both our clients and our press contacts. However, Tom tells us that some great-sounding stories arrive in his inbox incomplete and even when he asks for further details, he gets no response or an unusable one. He firmly believes that where subject knowledge is concerned “a little really does go a long way – any journalist will respect their PR contact more if they can discuss a press release with them instead of hearing the dreaded words, ‘Let me get back to you on that.”
Tom also says that slow response times can kill a story.
“Occasionally, answers to my questions come back within an hour; at other times I’ve waited days, by which time the story is old news. There’s often a reason for it, but journalists need to be informed if there’s a significant delay so that we can find another source.”
3. What could PR people do more of to help you produce interesting content?
An editorial campaign should include a variety of content types including news, thought leadership, comment, blogs and case studies. Case studies are particularly prized by the media and as such, are often the hardest to secure in any depth.
Tony commented that, in addition to providing the basics (who, what, why, when, where and how), providing detailed narrative on why something is important will help a story to stand out, especially if your story is one of several on the subject. He also points out that a good picture can sell a story.
Dan makes an interesting point about the number of journalists being such that they are usually busy with the work they need to, so following up on all of the other opportunities offered to them is just not possible.
So, our take on this is that partially formed, poorly thought out ideas are simply not going to get a look in.
4. What are the most common mistakes people make when approaching you?
Over the years, we have learnt that telephoning journalists to ask if they’ve received a press release is a waste of everyone’s time, but Tom’s experience surprised even us. He told us that PRs phone him
“just to read off the first paragraph from a press release and then ask if they can send the PR to me: instant turn off. Don’t do it.”
Being accurate is critical to the credibility of journalism. Journalists check their stories and expect PRs to be accurate in the information they share, so Tony’s confession is understandable: “We make mistakes, but we get really annoyed when PRs make the mistakes for us, then send us a correction, asking us to change something they previously sent.”
Tony gives a valuable heads-up: “A big mistake is not putting the most important/interesting thing at the front. EG ‘Everyone at Natwest has had £100 stolen from them’, rather than, New research has been published by leading global cyber security company LockupmyData, conducted by the highly regarded Whatsitallabout research company as a result of face to face interviews with 6,000 cyber security professionals last year. The findings show that Lockupmydata is rated reliable by 49 percent of respondents’…… then mention the £100 three paras later…… We do want all those other details, but we want to know why we should be interested.”
Dan’s ‘common mistake’ is more fundamental and perhaps less forgivable
“usually not knowing what we actually cover or what we and our audience look for.”
My take out from these conversations is that cybersecurity journalists remain busy, inquisitive and professional people. They need fully formed, well written and engaging material combined with informed and responsive communication. If you are tardy in dealing with the press you can expect your media profile to languish, but treat journalists with the same professional respect as you would any other business colleague and you’ll reap some impressive rewards.
This blog was first published on LinkedIn.