Public relations is the formal way in which organizations communicate with their public. It is planned or managed communication — a means to communicate, influence and even sell. While that sounds like a boring textbook statement, it is important to recognize the key message here: planned or managed communication. The chatter about your organization happens about your organization whether or not you plan and manage it. So, if you don’t do PR, you are leaving your message to be told by others.
PR provides the third-party credibility you cannot achieve with advertising or any other marketing tactic (except public speaking) and is a cost-effective means to build a brand. Decision-makers give more weight to a message delivered in earned media as compared to purchased media. Studies show that PR has seven times more credibility among consumers than advertising!
But how does this relate to today’s buzzword in the marketing circles – thought leadership? Well, PR enables an organization to position itself as a thought leader — an organization that prospects, clients, referral sources, intermediaries and even competitors recognize as one of the foremost authorities in selected areas of specialization, resulting in its being the go-to individual or organization for said expertise.
Simply, your organization is/was/wants to be the thought leader in the markets you serve. You can build thought leadership through your actions, but it is also key to make sure this expertise is shared or you are leaving it to others to build your reputation and tell your story. People also like to know they are making smart decisions, and if they read an article in a trade publication on a topic that interests them, written by experts at your company, they will feel good about inviting you to the table.
Thought leadership is especially important in areas in which the organization may not already be viewed as a leader. For example, breaking into a new market is tough without strong brand awareness or experience. But, articles in trade publications can pay huge dividends in opening doors. A potential customer is much more likely to accept your call if they read an article by you related to their industry.
Not convinced yet? Well, remember all those sales courses you’ve been to and the stages of a sale? PR can position you in all of these stages. An article highlighting technologies related to a particular industry challenge positions your company when a potential customer is conducting their initial exploration related to a need. When the prospect takes the next step and is searching for potential resources, a well-positioned case study showcasing you as the leader will really help put you on the bidder list. Finally, when the sales cycle proceeds to the negotiation stage, you are in a position of power if you are regarded as the industry leader – the organization the company WANTS to do business with as it is a smart decision, an honor.
Have you incorporated thought leadership into your business plan? If so, we’d love to hear about it!
Kimberly Kayler, CPSM, CSI, is president of Constructive Communication. With a journalism degree and a decade of high-level experience serving engineering, architecture and construction firms as a corporate marketing executive, as well as experience working for a full-service advertising/marketing communications agency, Kimberly started Constructive Communication, Inc. in 2001 to serve the needs of technical and professional service firms. She can be reached at:614-873-6706 or firstname.lastname@example.org.