Video marketing

How to Use Thought Leadership as Part of Your PR Strategy

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Who are people going to trust? The company that looks as though it just started up yesterday and  doesn’t really understand its industry yet or the company that has an established track record, a team that really knows its stuff, with the ability to answer questions and provide useful information to customers? It’s most likely the latter, as businesses who work with other businesses want some reassurance that the company they work with knows what it’s doing.

Thought leadership is one way for a company to demonstrate knowledge and experience to potential customers. In recent years, it’s become ever more important, not just as a way to establish authority, but as a way to market and promote a company above its competitors.

Forbes.com contributor John Hall named thought leadership as one of seven PR trends to watch in 2016. If you are ready to work it into your PR strategy, there are several options for doing so.

Understanding Thought Leadership

Thought leadership establishes a company, or in some cases, an individual, as an expert in a particular industry or field. A thought leader not only knows the ins and outs of a field or industry, he or she is also willing to share that information with others, so that they can better understand the industry or so that they can use the information to meet their own needs.

Thought leadership allows a business to build a level of trust with it clients. For example, if a company that was long established as a thought leader in content marketing were to declare that 1,000-word blog posts were no longer effective, and that video blog posts were the next big thing – and backed that claim with appropriate research — people would likely take the company’s word for it and adjust their content marketing plans accordingly.

Tools for a Thought Leadership Campaign

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One of the most “tried and true” components of a thought leadership PR strategy is the white paper, an unbiased report that approaches an issue in a particular industry and that offers options for solving that issue. Since it doesn’t actually market or promote a specific company or product, but instead provides current or potential customers with information they may find valuable, it is a useful way to establish authority.

The digital era has created even more tools for companies to use to establish thought leadership. One example is a blog, usually hosted on a company’s website, which can be viewed as a shorter or more informal version of a white paper. The goal of a blog post should be to help solve a common problem or to provide relevant information on a topic.

Social media is an easy way for companies to come across as an expert in a particular field. A representative from your company can host a Twitter chat or participate in an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit. You can also use the blogging feature on LinkedIn to showcase your expertise and help people find a solution to their problem. Other modern thought leadership tools can include podcasts and informative videos.

Leveraging Thought Leadership

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Creating the materials of thought leadership is just the first step to using it as part of a PR strategy. It’s also important to leverage those materials and tools to catch the eye of the media and to get a company’s message out there.

One way to merchandise the content of a white paper or blog is to issue a press release directing people’s attention to either. The press release can stress that the paper or blog is available as a research tool to journalists and can point out that representatives are available for interviews or to provide expert opinions on the topic for general news or trade publication stories.

As part of a content marketing strategy, thought leadership can pave the way for future public appearances by a company representative. The Content Marketing Institute outlined a way for a business to leverage its thought leadership so that an expert from a company is able to land invitations to speaking gigs at conferences. Having a number of blog posts, video clips and other media that demonstrate a person’s expertise in an industry can help that person land on the long, and ultimately, short lists for conference speaking opportunities.

Thought leadership increases a company’s value to customers, by reminding them that the company isn’t only there to sell things. If you aren’t yet using the expertise of your team to build out your company’s PR strategy, there’s never been a better time to start.

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Marketing Trends to Keep Your Eye on in 2016

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At the start of a new year, three things are common. People like to set goals or resolutions for themselves to improve some aspect of their personal and/or professional life in the coming year. They also like to look back and reflect on what happened over the previous 12 months. And, they like to look forward, predicting what’s to come or what will be trending in the new year.

Predicting trends also can help companies plan for the year ahead, by giving them a sense of what will be worth investing in and what won’t be as popular. Several marketing trends are predicted to be a big deal in 2016.

Say Goodbye to Guessing and Hello to Data

In the past, a certain amount of guesswork was involved in marketing to potential customers. You could place an ad on television or in a newspaper and hope that the right people would see it, based on the audience for that medium.

Lately, actual data has become an increasingly useful tool for marketers, and it’s expected to become even more important in the coming year. In part, that is because there is more data than ever. According to Campaign Monitor, 90% of the data in the world was created over the past 12 months. Marketers in 2016 can expect to be able to sift through data to compare response rates when one message is used versus another or to see which call to action generates the greatest response from customers.

Think Mobile First

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 In 2014, the number of people using a mobile device surpassed the number of people using a desktop for the first time; and in 2015, the number of mobile-only users exceeded the number of desktop-only users for the first time, according to comScore. Instead of thinking desktop first and mobile second (or worse, ignoring mobile) marketers in 2016 should think mobile first. That means making sure everything your company puts online should be optimized for a mobile device, from your business’ website to the emails you send.

Video Will Be Big

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Hubspot dubbed 2015 the “year of video marketing.” But, it’s likely that video will continue to be as big, if not bigger, in 2016. Video made up about 57% of online traffic last year and that number is expected to climb to 69% by 2017. Watching online videos made up about 50% of all mobile online traffic in 2015.

Video allows marketers to reach audiences on an emotional level, which isn’t as easily accomplished with written stories or still images. A recent spec ad created for Johnny Walker, by two graduate students in Germany, left many who watched it in tears. The video ended up getting more than 3 million views in less than two weeks, and raised the profile of the brand. It was a win for Johnny Walker, even though the company didn’t create or purchase the ad, showing the importance of emotional resonance.

In 2016, using video as a marketing tool will mean more than simply creating ads and strategically distributing them, however. It’s also expected that live streaming video platforms, from Periscope to Facebook Live, will be a big deal this year. Live streaming gives marketers a way to directly connect with an audience. For example, a representative from a company can live stream their time at a conference, giving interested parties who can’t attend in person a chance to experience what’s going on. A company can also use a live stream to host a question and answer session or events taking place at their headquarters for customers or clients who can’t be present in person.

Email is Still Important

Don’t expect email to go anywhere in 2016. Although people keep predicting its death, email continues to be a strong marketing tool. Campaign Monitor noted that it has an incredibly high return on investment, generating $38 for every $1 spent. Marketers can continue to use new outlets and methods of reaching customers, such as whatever social media network is the most popular at the moment, but email isn’t going away. In 2016, and perhaps well beyond, they will continue to depend on email to reliably reach out to and connect with current and new customers.