Making yourself or your company look and sound like an authority

Posted: March 29, 2011 in Uncategorized
Concept Of A Leader

To be a standout you must be willing to stand out

For a couple of years I handled national PR for a NYC-based consultancy in design and technology.  It is still very much a premiere player in its class but it remains pretty much what it was when it tapped me ostensibly to raise its profile: Their clients are household names, but the firm is one of the better kept secrets in the industry. The take-away here is a variant of the admonition about being careful what you ask for.  Or retain PR for.  In this case, broader public prominence.

The problem was the temperament of the principal(s).  As adamant as they seemed about being famous, a la their competitors, they were shall we say camera-shy to a fault.  Turned out that the glare of publicity and all that comes with it was anathema to them.  Unusual for PR clients, to be sure. Still, it’s instructive in the quest for prominence.  A definite pre-req: comfort in the spotlight and with the risk of getting caught in the act of being yourself.  A lot of executives and entrepreneurs complain that their “story is not being told…the message isn’t getting out there…we should be always be on the short-list of vendors in our category”.

Sound familiar?  If so, there are some basic steps to take and things to think about depending on how serious you are about cultivating an aura of greater prominence and authority.  Note that this assumes your product or service is best of breed.  An inferior offering (or a value proposition that comes up short in terms of being compelling) is a reputation killer before you even begin.  So be honest with yourself.  If, however, you truly are who and what you SAY you are, then proceed undaunted:

1. Go for high-return exposure. You want exposure that gives you the highest return among those people to whom you want to be exposed.  Starting out, it is essential to know exactly who they are because it will determine the media channels by which to reach them.  Complete this sentence: “I want to be on ___________’s short-list of people called in to make a pitch.

2. Build the reputation for being the guys who present the longest-lived value, i.e., value that commands a premium price.  Do this by presenting compelling cost-of-ownership proof points relevant to the current needs of your prospect.

3. Use the 80-20 rule to identify the heavy-breathers in your category: Which influencers, analysts, bloggers, thought-leaders, industry watchers do the people in #1 above pay the most attention to? If yours is like practically every other industry (and don’t try to tell me it isn’t) the number individuals to whom the people you’re interested in look for guidance, advice, opinions and suggestions can probably be counted on two hands.  No matter how big a company is, for example, the most important people, the ones who make the big decisions day in and day out, can usually fit into a small conference room.  Same is true for the opinion leaders in any industry.

4. Start “stalking” them.  Not in the tabloid sense of the word, but make a close study of them.  Read their blogs, their research reports, find out everything you can about what they do, what their prejudices are, and how and why they got to be influential.

5. Engage them. Following the best practices and rules of social-media engagement, comment on their blog posts, send them emails, follow them on Twitter.  BUTrefrain from anything that smacks of a pitch about YOU. Direct your subject matter to whatever is being discussed by, or held dear to, THEM.  Share your personal experiences in dealing with whatever it is they are talking about.  Offer ideas, insights, and tips.  Then, suggest a blog topic of your own based on content of interest to them.   The point is to begin your metamorphosis in the influencer’s eye from “anybody” to “somebody.”

6. Use the social Web and all elements of real-time marketing consistent with the specific authority reputation you want to establish.  Be–and remain–specific to your expertise.  Don’t confuse people by diluting your content or wandering off-point.

7. Establish credentials in a broader sphere of influence. Actively promote yourself as a participant and panel moderator at industry events.  Solicit a speaking engagement with (don’t laugh) your local chamber of commerce.  Why?  You would be amazed at how many local merchants and professionals know people it would benefit you to know.  Local chambers of commerce are like public libraries and librarians with incredibly rich databases that are absolutely free: invaluable resources hiding in plain sight.

8. Conduct regular surveys relevant to your product (or service), industry, market and technology.  Implement traditional PR initiatives around the findings.  Media of all stripe are equally hungry for fresh survey findings that are counter-intuitive or that substantiate conventional wisdom.  They just are. No reason why you cannot become the J.D. Power of your category.  At the very least, you can insinuate yourself into the circle of whoever actually is your category’s JDP.

What else can you think of specific to the kind of authority for which you want to be acclaimed?

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