Taking the Lead in Your Industry


Great. Welcome to today’s webinar, “Taking the Lead in Your Industry.” My name is Dani Hatfield, and I’m a Public Relations Specialist with Albers Communications Group. Let me start by telling you a little bit about Albers. We’re a full-service PR, digital marketing, and communications agency headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska. We strongly believe that PR and digital marketing go hand-in-hand, and they work best when used as part of an integrated communications strategy. We represent clients in all 50 states and Canada, where our PR and social media specialists help our clients achieve positive exposure nationally and locally in their operating markets. We have specialized expertise helping companies become leaders in their markets and in their industries. As I mentioned before, I am Dani Hatfield, Public Relations Specialist at Albers Communications Group. In my position, I help our clients increase their brand awareness through a variety of strategies. Some of those include media relations, cause marketing, and digital marketing. Feel free to email me if you’d like to speak with me in more detail about your company’s communications goals. My email and Twitter handle are on the screen, you can follow me on Twitter at DaniHatfield.

So here’s a snapshot of what we’ll be covering today. First, we’ll discuss the importance of building your industry leadership. Next, we’ll take a look at how you can begin building your PR plan around your leadership. After that, I’ll share with you some proven strategies and examples that we have used to help our clients achieve industry leadership. Finally, we’ll review responsible leadership, what it looks and feels like, and how it can help in times of crisis. At the conclusion of the webinar, I’ll take a few moments to answer any questions that have been chatted in during the webinar.

So let’s start by discussing why industry leadership is so important. There are four steps in the process of building yourself as an industry leader through public relations. On the screen you’ll see a graphic representation of this. Each step leads into the next. We start by creating awareness of your business, which leads a person to consider you to fulfill their needs. Because you’re recognized as a leader in the industry, they will take action, choosing to do business with you. After a positive experience with your business, they’ll feel a sense of loyalty and they’ll continue to turn to you.

Now, no matter how much experience you have, and how great you are at what you do, leadership never just happens. It is actively sought, planned, achieved, and sustained. Becoming your industry leader raises awareness of your business: that’s among clients, prospective clients, referral sources, and the public in general. Awareness translates into consideration for your target audience, because you have connected with them in credible and meaningful ways. Now, industry leadership and consideration leads to a deeper knowledge of who you are, inspiring your target audience to take action. And again, after a positive experience with you and your business, you’ve inspired brand loyalty and pride. At this point, they’ll naturally share your story and your business with their friends, taking us through the series again.

Fundamentally, PR is about encouraging others to share your story. As you can see, when this happens, we create meaningful connections with your core audiences. That’s why it’s so important to integrate your industry leadership into your public relations plan. Having a plan will help you shape the public’s perception of you and your business. You are shaping how they think, feel, and act about your business. Public relations is effective because it’s credible and it’s memorable. An additional benefit is that many of the strategies that I’ll be discussing today are also very cost-effective.

We’re going to examine five areas of your public relations plan where you should be integrating your industry leadership. They include: media outreach, a speakers bureau which is a plan to actively seek out speaking engagements, industry recognition, your own digital channels, and also through publishing. So let’s take a closer look into each of the areas.

We’ll begin with media outreach. This is what most people think of when you bring up public relations, and it’s a great place to get started. As a business leader, you are already an expert in your field, whether that’s technology, caregiving, floral arranging, photography – whatever industry you’re in, you are an expert. You can share your expertise through the news media. As the media recognizes you as an expert and a leader in your industry, then your core audience will as well. You can reach out to the media at any time with current trends in your industry, and we highly encourage you to do so. News is new. Anything new and different in your industry is news, so let your local media know about it. An example: our client, Signal 88, used this technique in a media pitch last summer, resulting in stories placed in many of their local franchise markets. A report was released by the National Insurance Crime Bureau in June that there was an upward trend in motor vehicle theft. This was for the first time in eight years. The NICB also reports that July and August are the two most common months for motor vehicle theft. So with that, we developed a media pitch for Signal 88 around the trend and released it in early July as millions of Americans are heading off on their summer vacations.  The timing, and the new trend, made this an irresistible story for the local media – for TV, radio, and newspaper alike. Local media outlets in Oklahoma City, Houston, Indianapolis, and even Atlanta picked up the pitch and developed a story with their local Signal 88 office featured as the expert source.

Another opportunity to share your industry expertise is through spot news. Earlier this month, a security breach was discovered that allowed hackers to steal personal information from Apple devices, even when they’re within secure networks. The fix was a simple update, but our client P&L Technology capitalized on the spot news of the security breach, securing a story on Omaha’s NBC Affiliate WOWT News. P&L offered their industry expertise to the reporter, and they were featured in the story as a technology expert. Now, when you see the story, how do you think about P&L? You think of them as an expert in the field. That’s influencing the way your audience thinks, as I mentioned before. The story also created awareness among potential clients, with a goal of moving toward consideration once they have a need for technology solutions. Success!

As you’re building your PR plan, and have included media outreach regularly and in spot news situations, another opportunity to consider is a speakers bureau approach. Targeted speaking engagements are another way to increase awareness about your business, but in this approach you control the topic and speak on subjects in which you’re an expert. For example, one of the companies we work with, StrategicHealthSolutions, has a strong entrepreneurial story. The CEO and President started the business in her home, and in just over a decade, she’s grown it to more than 200 employees. Not only is she an expert in her field, but she’s also an entrepreneurial expert. We’ve helped her target groups in the business and community circles, securing speaking engagements on the topics of living your dream, creating strong culture, and overcoming the odds. Through the speakers bureau, our goal was to help StrategicHealthSolutions introduce themselves to potential employees while also raising name recognition for the CEO in the community. As you’re participating in these speaking engagements, you’re not only speaking to community members, but also other business leaders and potential clients. You’re shaping how they think about your business. Speaking events are a more personal approach than the media, so by sharing your story, you’re also helping to shape how they feel about you, and in turn, how they feel about your business.

Another area to consider as you enhance your leadership is through industry recognition. You can increase your credibility with your industry and within the greater public through award recognition. Now, it’s important to strategically plan your awards approach. We recommend targeting specific industry and local awards and building an exquisite entry instead of using a shotgun approach. Identify what types of recognition will be the most helpful to your company’s goals, and spend your time and your resources going after them – whether that’s awards for the best place to work, or for growth, or even through individual awards.  Home Instead Senior Care has been recognized as the top franchise company for three years in a row by Franchise Business Review. It’s a market research company in the franchise industry. Specifically, Home Instead has earned the overall franchise satisfaction award – an award presented to companies who are recognized by their own franchisees as being the very best franchisor. Recognition with the franchise industry helps other business owners take notice of Home Instead Senior Care not only as a leader in the home care industry, but also as a franchise business leader. It also helps Home Instead appeal to potential entrepreneurs who may be interested in purchasing a franchise.  As you’re being recognized, be sure to cross-promote your accomplishments through earned and owned media sources. Let the local media know that you’ve won through a press release, while you also post the information on your website and share it on your social media channels. An example – you may have seen our recent post on our social media channels about our recognition by B2B Omaha Magazine as the Best Company in Omaha for social media consulting. Here’s a shameless plug: if you don’t already follow us on Facebook and Twitter, you should do so. Search for Albers Communications Group on Facebook, and on Twitter our handle is @alberscg.

So that leads us right into our fourth area of the plan, your digital channels. Be sure that you’re using your owned and shared media to tout your accomplishments and your expertise. This is where you can pull examples from what you’ve already started doing. As I just mentioned, talk about your awards and achievements on your website and your social media channels. Be sure that you’re posting links to those news stories that you’re being featured in – post them on your own website. Promote your upcoming speaking engagements on your own social media platforms. And invite your followers if it’s an open and public event. Then afterward, be sure to share a photo or two. Another idea is to consider a series of video blog posts to share your knowledge, whether it’s on a blog you’re already posting to, or on your own website. Video is a refreshing change from the usual heavy text of a blog post. Don’t worry about making it something long and technical, you can share your expertise on a current topic in just a minute or two. While we do not recommend shooting it with a smartphone, a consumer video camera and video editing software can make your vlog shine. Now, hiring a professional like Albers Communications Group would make it stand out even more. Finally, concentrate on making your daily content on your social media channels reinforce your industry expertise. Social media is about engagement, and is your chance to make an impact on your core audience’s actions.

The final area to consider in your PR leadership plan is publishing. As an example, you can see here Home Instead Senior Care’s Confidence to Care book. The book was written by the company to showcase their expertise in a field of caregiving for people suffering from Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Now, if publishing a book seems like a little too much for you to start with, consider a white paper. Or even smaller yet, regular email newsletters to your clients, potential clients, referral providers or others in your industry to show that you’re taking a stand in your industry as an industry leader. Publishing can also bring about some of the other opportunities that I’ve mentioned. A book, for example, could lead to media coverage for your company and your authors. It could also open doors for additional speaking engagements.

Responsible leadership. As you’re building yourself and your company as an industry leader, there are a few things to consider. Make sure that the relationships that you’re creating with media contacts, with clients, with the public in general, make sure they’re genuine and meaningful. If not, you are wasting your time and theirs. Part of that meaningful relationship is being honest and transparent. Integrity is important. Don’t be afraid to stand behind your values, as a company and as a person. And, as the relationship has been built, as you’ve created action, and then loyalty in your brand, encourage others to share your story. When you’re a respected expert and a leader in your industry, others will be looking to you for best practices. They’ll share your stories for you – just ask.

Being an industry leader and a recognized expert doesn’t make you immune from negative stories or situations. However, the leadership that you have established will help you in times of crisis. In a time of crisis, you already have an existing relationship with the news media, and it’s a positive relationship because it was established through proactive public relations if you’ve followed our plan already. Now know that the media will turn to you for comment, but they’ll trust the information that you give them because of the meaningful, honest, and transparent relationship that you have already built. You’ve established your credibility to the public at large through news stories, speaking engagements, and other elements of your plan. And finally, you have a positive relationship with your clients and your customers. They already know, and most importantly, respect your brand. Again, none of this will make you immune from critical incidents that might happen, but the good will that you’ve built up can help you limit the impact that these incidents have on your brand and your reputation.

Before we get into questions, I want to invite you to our next webinar. It’s Wednesday, May 21st at 10 A.M. Central. Alison Paladino will be presenting Your Job and Your Online Image: It’s Complicated. Although new media isn’t so new anymore, many professionals still find the relationship between their personal and professional lives on social media a little confusing. Alison will be discussing new research about how Omaha companies perceive and use social media. She’ll also share strategies to become an advocate for your company online, and how to use your profile to support your resume as you work toward your next-level position. Again, that’s May 21st at 10 A.M. Central.

One more housekeeping item – I want to ask each of you to take a few moments to fill out the questionnaire that will appear on your screen at the end of the presentation. Please provide your comments about today’s webinar, or share topic suggestions you’d like us to address in future webinars. Now, I’ll take a few minutes to answer any questions that have been chatted in, and if you have a question and you haven’t done so already, please feel free to chat it in through the box on the lower left-hand side of your screen.

Alright Dani, we do have some questions coming in. The first one would be: how do you do this at the local level? My business does not have a national audience. Well, I think this can be done at any level. You can take the ideas I mentioned, and implement them at your level – whatever level that might be. You have local media, whether that’s your community papers or if you are living in a TV market, your local TV stations. You also would have local groups that you could be speaking to. Look for those in your community. You can also consider serving on some boards, or sponsoring a local chapter of your professional organization. Just take a look within your own community and see what elements are available to you so you can implement them at your local level.

Alright, thanks Dani. One more – we’re not the biggest company. How do we represent ourselves as a leader, in that case, if we’re not the big one? I really don’t think that size matters. You can be the sought leader in your industry no matter what size company you are. The reality is most companies aren’t good at this – they aren’t good at promoting themselves as a leader, so if you can be the best at making yourself the industry leader and showing your expertise as a leader to the community, you’re going to shine, and if you can do this then you are going to be seen as the best.

Great, and one other question. How do you start a relationship with the media, whether it be a national relationship or a local relationship with local reporters? That’s a good question. I would suggest an introduction over the phone. You can call your local newspaper editor, or at a TV station that would be the assignment manager. It used to be that you could take them out for coffee or lunch, but times have changed and newsrooms are working on a lot smaller staff, so they don’t really have time for that. But, a polite introduction or phonecall will go a lot farther than you think. Call, introduce yourself, make sure it’s a good time to talk, and then have a five-minute phone conversation to introduce yourself and your business, and then they’ll remember you the next time that you send them that press release.

One final question, and again if you do have questions please chat them in in the lower left-hand side of your screen. One final question – how do you measure your returns with these tactics? Well, as you are putting together your strategy, hopefully with quite of the few pieces that I’ve mentioned today, make sure that you include measurement goals within your strategy, whether that is positive media impressions, number of speaking engagements, those sort of things. With each of your pieces, set yourself a goal and then after a month or a couple of months, however you decide to set up your plan, go back and review if you’ve met those goals, and if you haven’t, where you need to work to make sure that you’re reaching them.

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