There are no guarantees with PR. That’s a guarantee.
It’s important to ensure anyone considering PR knows the risks. It’s not advertising. It takes an altogether different kind of creativity to achieve results.
I say that because for many businesses, having newsworthy stories that will attract the attention of the press isn’t a daily occurrence. In fact for some, it’s not even a monthly or quarterly one.
That’s when business owners think ‘game over’. No news, no PR. Wrong. In fact, for most of my clients I’d say 90% of their coverage comes from having an opinion and having the courage to share it.
Think like a challenger
The clients who excel are usually the challenger brands – those who are attempting to either transform a market or win market share through innovation.
If you look back in brand history, many of the household names we know and love turned to PR to get their company noticed. Dyson challenged conventional design, The Body Shop challenged with ethical supply chains, Virgin Atlantic challenged British Airways on service.
From manpower through to technology, millions were spent getting these products and services to market, but millions weren’t thrown into advertising them at launch. The budgets couldn’t be justified. After all, how do you advertise a brand no one has heard of, especially if your competitors are already spending millions? How do you position yourself as a credible alternative?
Be a thought leader
They turned to PR and used much smaller budgets to get their message to the consumer through the press. The common thread to their early media coverage was thought leadership: articulating what they did and why they did it, with real authenticity.
Taking on the incumbents with an alternative story is highly effective. It ticks the boxes of ‘controversy’ and ‘new ideas’ that the press looks for and gives you a way to get your message across on your terms.
Two methods, both work
The best ways to do this is through contributions to features (planned articles on a hot topic) and opinion pieces (800 words written by you).
Features are a numbers game. It’s competitive – you won’t be the only one pursuing thought leadership as a cost effective way to drive brand awareness. So the more features you chase, the better your chances of success. Speed is also a critical factor. Get in quickly with an original, considered opinion and you’re more likely to be included. You may find you will have to comment on things related to being in business in your industry as well as talking about the issues that are pertinent to the sectors you want to work with.
Of course, you can’t be certain there will always be features that match the things you want to talk about so opinion pieces bridge the gap brilliantly.
This form of thought leadership explores a current industry challenge and provides a non-sales view on how it can be addressed. Know your audience and the business challenges they have and you’ll be able to find topics that the press wants to commission articles on.
Risk and Reward
I admit it can feel risky to share your opinion in such a public way, but there’s a reason why so many people do it. It works. And if you work with a PR who is experienced, you won’t find yourself in a high risk situation.
One of my clients shares every opinion piece and feature they secure on social media. Depending on the piece it might be shared multiple times through the month, or even the quarter. As a result social impressions have gone up 16 fold, and the people who come to the website through social are now spending twice as long on the site. What’s more, the quality of prospect and the conversion rates have greatly improved. Thought leadership has differentiated them from the competition and helped them grow their brand.
Finding a point of view
If you’re wondering where to start then consider this: Every day you’ll be having conversations with your clients and prospects where you share an opinion. You’ll be guiding them on a different way of doing things and how they can achieve greater results and win against the competition. Remember that you’re respected for this opinion especially if you’re winning deals on the strength of it.
You may therefore be more of a challenger than you realise. You may have more to say than you think and you may have more to gain from PR than you think.
Ultimately the reality is that the more you think like a challenger the more likely you will be known as one. It’s this disposition that gets results and overcomes the hurdle of guarantees. It gives you the momentum to use your voice to chase features and construct well argued opinion, as well as provide credible engaging content for social. Two strategies for the price of one. To my mind, for any business owner with ambition, that’s a very good place to find yourself in.