Thought Leadership Can Hide in Plain Sight

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Opportunities to build thought leadership may be closer than you think—specifically in the volunteer work your employees do in your industry.

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Opportunities to build thought leadership may be closer than you think—specifically in the volunteer work your employees do in your industry. Their leadership in a key issue can be a gold mine for strategic public relations.

We just leveraged that kind of opportunity for a major business-to-business manufacturing company. The client makes equipment important to the safety of factories and processing plants. They were competing in a crowded product category, and purchasers had no means of comparing models apples-to-apples. Our client made better equipment—but it was challenging to prove that claim.

Fortunately, things were changing. Two engineers from the company had just helped develop the industry’s first performance standard for this equipment category. In fact, one had chaired the project committee and was instrumental in taking the standard across the finish line. Our client dropped this public relations nugget in a routine content planning meeting. Lesson: think beyond promoting products to demonstrating expertise.

So we set to work on a thought leadership campaign. Our objective: elevate our client’s reputation while informing buyers on how to make smarter purchasing decisions. Here was our strategy−and some tips for partnering with your own subject matter experts:

Unpack the technicalities. You’ll probably need to turn technical data or engineering-speak into a clearer benefit. For this, we had help from a customer-facing market manager, whom we interviewed along with the engineer. Be sure to hone one main benefit message.

  • Results  Our lead message was this: “Purchasers, you can now compare products on three specific operating measures—but you need to drive adoption by demanding these data from your suppliers.”

Develop once and repurpose. We first wrote and placed a technical article on what the new standard lab test measured. Then we rewrote it twice—as a Q&A discussion and as a first-person how-to article. By treating source material in different ways, you’ll be able to give editors exclusive treatments and extend your reach to multiple trade publications.

  • Results  In one quarter, we achieved placements in three leading trade publications that reached approximately 125,000 print readers—with many thousands more online impressions.

Be your own publisher. Don’t forget your own channels. Put the content on your site and social accounts. We created a new company web page about the standard and the leadership of company engineers. We preserved SEO with a new version of the story and links to our journal placements—rather than just reposting one of our trade articles.

  • Results  The company had original, relevant content; trade editors appreciated our links; and targeted prospects found guidance on how to invest in good equipment.

Put paid promotion behind it. PR doesn’t have to stay in the “free” lane. Your topic may merit some budget to extend distribution. Our DKY digital director worked with the client and our digital partner on a pay-per-click campaign. LinkedIn ads and organic searches drove traffic to the new web page.

  • Results  Combined with ads on LinkedIn, the content campaign drove 820 clicks to the new standards page on our client’s site.

It’s true our team had some ideal conditions: breaking news from a trade association with no communicator of its own—and our own embedded experts. But in PR, the trick is staying alert to issues and moments where you can step in with leadership. If you’re in food manufacturing, for instance, do you have colleagues working on an industry sanitation challenge? If you’re in healthcare, is one of your executives involved in state or federal policy reform?

Ask what your company and customers care about—and whose public voice you can develop and support. In the end, customers don’t buy just your product. They buy your expertise. And that’s the sweet spot for public relations. The material may be right under your nose.

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