Thought Leader in PR

Thought leadership branding and it’s growing importance in PR – Part I

As we are in the throes of a knowledge economy, simple value messages and mere visibility of a business is no longer enough to hold your ground in the face of increasing global competition and volatile markets. Your business (or it’s leaders) needs to establish itself/themselves as thought leader(s) in the identified area(s). Gartner has identified thought leadership as a major business trend that has rapidly become an established field in marketing and a basis of differentiation across sectors. So what is thought leadership? Simply put, it is about becoming an authority on specific area of expertise by consistently delivering high quality knowledge to your target audience. It is the net outcome of investing in a structured manner over a period of time in high quality content in that identified areas. The content can range from authored articles, white papers, videos, video blogs, infographics to blog posts and speaking engagements among others. Today, as perception matters more than ever, it is no wonder that thought leadership has become a critical piece in the marketing and communication strategy of any company.

Thought Leader in PR

Thought Leadership helps

Besides differentiation and building affinity for your brand, thought leadership helps in multiple other ways.  Through Thought Leadership, you become part of a conversation early as your target audience seeks to know more about the area you are positioned as a thought leader. In complex or nascent areas, thought leadership builds the critical awareness necessary for the customers to even understand or appreciate the relevance and significance of the new concept, technology or solution. Which is critical to sales and marketing as without this awareness, there is no way even a conversation can be initiated with prospects. The better and more in-depth you do it, it also elevates the brand and makes the audience sticky, resulting in higher customer loyalty and retention. It can thus generate leads or new business opportunities besides making it easier clients to refer new qualified prospects. More importantly in the era of search where search engines prioritize unique and popular content in an area, thought leadership is just the right recipe to get that added advantage. To summarize, thought leadership:

  • Makes you the go-to source for information/expertise in the identified area
  • Establishes your authority in the identified area
  • Helps build trust and confidence with the target audience
  • Increases customer/brand loyalty besides retention
  • Aids marketing in creating the critical awareness in new/complex areas

Having set the context for thought leadership and it’s importance, let us now focus on thought leadership branding and why it has become increasingly important for PR.

4 reasons why thought leadership branding is the next big thing

Media has shifted its focus to consumer more than ever

Mass media across it’s genre’s has clearly shifted it’s focus in the last few years to consumers. In that it prioritizes content or determines news value increasingly based on interest areas of its readers. A clear validation or indication of this was the visible shift across Indian media to start-ups/entrepreneurs as media outlets recognized a growing public interest in that area. What this means is that however good the company is, if the content is not aligned to the larger macro trends at that moment, it will be logically difficult for messaging or communication from that company to be picked up or be visible.

Search and its love for content

Let us face it. B2b or b2c no firm or brand can ignore search today. You don’t need to be a maven to figure search engines of all hues will and always seek unique and compelling content. Which means any company or brand which creates such content in a consistent manner over a period of time will automatically start ranking higher in search results.

Increasing pressure on RoI for marketing investments

Talk to any marketer and they will admit to increasing pressure on RoI for spends. What this means is prioritization of tools, platforms and areas of focus.  Beyond what is basic and hygiene, most marketers will seek to focus large part of spends on what they see as working or is critical to business success. Content marketing is up there and thought leadership is one of the largest focus areas in content marketing. Or thought leadership makes for a good content marketing focus.  

Consumers disregard for sales content

Forget content clutter and lack of attention spans. Today’s audiences or consumers are fundamentally not interested in sales content or promotional collaterals – the staple of marketing of yesteryears. They seek content that is useful and interesting. And if your brand is seen as a thought leader in an area of your target audience’s interest which will only happen if there is enough content out there which led to it, it automatically means your firm or brand gets embedded in the customer’s mind over other firms/brands. When your sales knocks, the customer is already aware and influenced.

… More on Thought Leadership and PR’s role in Part II.

Disclaimer: I am the sole author of this article. This has been originally published in PR Communication Age Magazine, December 2016 issue

Data/Analytics-Driven PR Is The Answer To Industry’s Measurement & Value Challenge

Early this decade, the words big data and analytics entered the PR industry’s lexicon and quickly rose to become buzzwords that one could not escape at every industry forum or the focus of thought leadership content. Measurement, on the other hand has been on the industry radar for very long, and despite the Barcelona Principles (AMEC), consensus on measurement metrics that work, and can be deployed on the ground quickly without major investments, still eludes the industry. A clear validation is the widespread use of AVE or more qualitative forms of it by many firms still, across markets. The challenge or issue is not that firms or its senior executives are not open to other measurement metrics or processes, but the lack of universal acceptance and ease of deployment is what is deterring most from attempting beyond AVE unless the client forces it. Not to mention the impact on the ability of the PR firms/industry to command attention at the highest levels of management in corporates and organizations across the world due to the inability to showcase the outcomes/results (versus output that all of us do). In this article, I would like to put forth reasons on how data/analytics driven PR will not only help us address the measurement challenge, but also how it can aid in our pursuit of getting a seat at the top (value challenge).

PR in Data Analytics
Data and analytics is not only for research and measurement

Of all the myriad articles I have read and researched, many often focus if not more, overwhelmingly on the application or relevance of the above two in research/understanding or campaign measurement. While it is true that data and analytics help in these areas, it would be a pity if the focus is restricted to these areas. For the larger impact is on areas in between both ends – in the area of messaging development, selection of channels and tools, audience selection for targeting and campaign management among others.

Data/analytics enable better input and more accurate/effective targeting

Most of us in the industry have always looked at the output end when it comes to measurement. While we are masters at content, messaging, and choosing the medium, what has happened with the plethora of channels and tools available today is that we cannot just rely on experience and intuition to make that call rightly. That is where data and analytics come in handy. Instead of just relying on the client information and media/channel interest to guide the message and related aspects, we can now sift through data and analytics to be able to actually advice the client. Not just on the content and shape of the message, but who the target audience should be, what format will be appropriate (vlogs, interactive infographics, authored article placement, influencer chat etc.), the timing of the broadcast or delivery, the context in which it has to be done etc. Now, it can’t get more interesting than this. With marketing and PR converging and the fine line becoming even thinner than it was a few years back, much of what I said in the previous line is exactly the language a marketer appreciates. With insights gleaned of the audience/their preferences from analyzing the humongous data available to most organizations today, we can identify what messages the audience are likely to respond better to, not just making the message better but even the targeting more accurate. As coders will tell you – better quality inputs always lead to better quality outputs. This means that our own traditional output becomes even better and more effective. Most importantly measurable, aided by data and analytics being used right across the process. Use of data and analytics also impacts the value of our core offering/expertise today. It is by now proven that there is more residual value to coverage driven by data since it becomes of larger interest. Also, journalists, are likely to come back for more if they know and see you as a reliable and readily available source of data.

Data and analytics driven PR will accelerate the push towards automation

Where will the hassled PR professional in agencies find the time to dive through mountains of data, glean insights and on top of it plough through tools to gain audience behavior patterns and preferences? Be it agencies or clients, we cannot keep hiring newer resources other than one or two specialists who will lead data and analytics into our rolls. On the other hand, if it becomes important, it forces us to make a choice. To invest in automating parts of our business that needs to be automated like creating media lists, tracking stories, basic analysis, campaign reports etc. Are we not better off spending more time on high value tasks which help make the campaign better and its results more effective?

Data/analytics driven PR is not rocket science

Let me add a quick caveat. It is not just about google analytics or other simple web analytics tools either, though they are good to start with. Let us look at the various sources where we can gain invaluable data. The boring press clippings are a great source to analyze and look for insights to start with. Then comes analysis of what competitors have done through the tracking tools we all subscribe to for our clients, social listening that tell us what our audience is liking and not liking besides the why?, website analytics and many more. Today, fortunately one has easy to use and “affordable” tools for most of these tasks. These tools also help us take what we do closer to science, from what were not too long ago largely heuristic tasks. Also, building on the premise that one needs to go beyond measurement, what social listening tools with in-built analytics or more sophisticated web analytics tools will do is to help you measure the qualitative beyond the quantitative. For example engagement levels are a key criteria which does not measure how many, but what, and how much of the audience did what with the communication shared. With increasing prevalence of content broadcasting (paid), these tools also allow us to increase the volume, frequency, caliber and contexuality of the content that we created on behalf of the client or even the coverage we have attained for the client. For example, recently, when for a start-up client of ours, we used broadcasting on social channels to amplify a major coverage in the world’s leading business daily, the response was tremendous. They received 3 calls from potential investors including a marquee one and over 200 responses to the company’s founder directly. Instead of peddling vanity metrics like the reach of the coverage which is still relevant, we can pack more punch by adding actionable metrics like investor calls, level of direct audience engagement etc.

Having said all of this, it is time we ditch our long held disregard for data or limiting it to showcasing a story we want to tell or sell. We also need to let go of our sensitivity to data that works against us or is negative. The day is not far off when clients and market dynamics will pile pressure on agencies to embrace and re-engineer their core processes around data and analytics. Let us also be clear that it is not all about measurement and in fact goes beyond measurement. PR would do well to get on this bandwagon now rather than later. As they say, better late than never!

PR and content marketing – It is time to tango!

 PR and content marketing

Xavier Prabhu analyses how PR and Content Marketing are both vital for an effective outcome of the entire brand-building exercise. It is the quality and engaging content that gives rise to effective PR which over a certain period gains high number of followers, hence brand visibility and value.

Content marketing creates a ‘pull’ factor where the PR strategy also needs to move.PR should start placing equal emphasis on end consumers, journalists and other influencers and not just the media alone. It is the integration of PR and content marketing that makes for the most potent weapon in the marketing mix. Yes, the time has arrived for both to tango in the larger interests of brands and consumers.

Disclaimer: This is an excerpt of Xavier Prabhu’s Article on Content Marketing & PR published in Silicon India Magazine, August 2016.

You can read the full article here: http://www.siliconindia.com/magazine/marketing-special-august-2016/index.php?page=8

Where Indian PR industry needs to head in 2016

Where Indian PR Industry Needs To Head In 2016...

Recent incidents have led one to believe that the PR industry and professionals at large are clueless about how the industry should stay relevant in the face of relentless change. Xavier Prabhu writes about the State of the PR Industry where he visions the future of the industry, the growing importance of technology, mobility and strategic thinking, the impact of visual and paid content and how flatter hierarchies and ongoing feedback will replace annual reviews. Boutique PR firms will continue to deliver good work and flourish.

Disclaimer: This is an excerpt of Xavier Prabhu’s Article on ‘Where Indian PR industry needs to head in 2016’, Reputation Today, Feburary 2016.

You can read the full article here: http://reputationtoday.in/views/where-indian-pr-industry-needs-to-head-in-2016/

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