When discussing the tactical communications end of marketing, one of the regular questions we PR consultants hear is this:
‘How do we cut through all the deafening noise?’
In this post I want to focus on one of the best PR tactics* to get yourself heard, visible and recognised. The tactic begins with establishing and publishing topical opinions. Whatever business sector you are in, there will be hot topics. People – including your customers and prospects – will be discussing them on social media, at conferences and in the business press.
Some topics come and go over the course of a few months, and might be event or news-driven. Others seem to stick around forever. Staying silent, or sitting on the fence while these discussions take place, won’t get you noticed. Can you name any shrinking violets associated with business success? Me neither.
So, a great way to stand out is to take a position on one of these topics and be ready to credibly defend it. It really helps if your opinion is counter-intuitive or contra to the mainstream. This is not the same as stoking controversy for the sake of it. That’s just a short-cut to notoriety. And nobody wants to be the Katie Hopkins of their sector.
Much better to do it with a blend of authenticity, humility and humour. It really is better if you don’t take yourself too seriously. Two people who do this well in the marketing sector are Bob Hoffman, aka The Ad Contrarian, and academic and Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson.
Taking a stand either for or against something that people in your industry are debating will help get you noticed and remembered. You can then consider how to leverage this. Great reputations are about what you do as much as what you say. Can you create an industry forum, coalition or campaign round the topic? How can you build some momentum around this?
It should be clear by now that this is no quick fix tactic. You need to be consistent, articulate and patient. But, eventually, the benefits will start to reveal themselves.
You might find you’re invited to speak at an industry event or onto a panel debate. You should see your name in print: journalists will notice your comments and will be more receptive to your contributions. They prefer quoting people with a strong and distinct point of view. It might even lead to a regular column. And you should begin to see that selling becomes easier. People will say things like: “Ah, yes, I’ve heard of you. I like what you’ve said about …… (insert hot topic); it’s great what you’re doing.”
Why is any of this important? Because one of the things we know from the new field of behavioural science is that people are inherently risk-averse. In a business context, this means they are more comfortable buying from people and companies they know.
Taking a stance on a hot industry topic, building a movement around that subject – one that associates you and your firm with positive change – is a useful and hard to copy PR tactic. Doing it repeatedly will earn you plaudits and fame.
You may not be able to outspend competitors, but you can almost certainly outsmart them. If you need some help, get in touch and let’s talk about how to get started.
*It’s always better to make decisions about PR tactics as part of an overall marketing communications strategy