One of my key themes this year (i.e. a topic I will be ‘banging the drum’ about!) is encouraging companies and organisations to bring their experts out from the cubicle and put them fairly and squarely (and strategically) into the public spotlight.
In other words, don’t hide your experts away from public view but rather, empower them to get ‘out there’ in the marketplace: Out, loud and proud being useful, helpful, interesting, engaging … even provocative if required!
‘Out there’ is a technical term folks.
It could mean a company’s in-house technical experts undertake any number of public-facing communications activities, including blogging, podcasting, featuring on YouTube videos, writing whitepapers, tweeting, sharing content on LinkedIn, speaking at industry events etc. These activities can be structured with purpose and strategic intent and, importantly, aligned with a company’s ongoing communications program.
From my experience, I see three big reasons why an organisation should make rockstars of their technical experts by empowering them to publicly share their knowledge and expertise, as well as engage personally with customers, media and other relevant organisational constituents. Here they are:
ONE – People trust internal experts as a source of information for a company
According to the latest Edelman Trust Barometer (released this week, see slide below), we trust technical experts more than anyone. Interestingly, this has been the case for some time (see quote below under slide, from 2013).
Accordingly, having your internal experts creating content and conversing with folk via social media will help increase the level of trust people have in your organisation. Of course, such activities can also lead to speaking and media opportunities, further enhancing the rockstar status of individual experts and thought leaders within the community or industry in which you operate.
These research findings aren’t a once-off ‘flash in the pan’ either.
The research confirms the democratizing trend of recent years – the redistribution of influence from traditional authority figures such as CEOs toward employees, peers and those with credentials – with the latter trusted nearly twice as much as a chief executive. Individuals that topped the list of most credible spokespeople include academic or technical experts (68 percent), a person like yourself (60 percent), and a regular employee (49 percent). SOURCE
TWO – Puts a ‘human face’ to your organisation
The ‘humanisation’ aspect of marketing and organisational communications gets scant attention or respect from many business leaders, probably because it hasn’t got an obvious ROI ‘stamped on its forehead’. But it’s critically important.
When we see an open, human and transparent organisation in action – the way they communicate, the unfettered two-way engagement they have with their community (and more often than not, these companies DO have a community of fans, advocates and supporters of what it is they do and stand for) – it’s bleedingly obvious to see the positive benefits resulting from such a ‘halo effect’.
In its purest sense, social media is brilliant for helping a company showcase its people, and this is what the public gravitates towards. Having your people produce content for the company’s online publishing platforms adds humanity, credibility and value to your brand. You can’t buy this credibility or value, it needs to emerge organically from within your organisation, earned at the coal-face. Of course, education, direction and guidance will help the process develop more quickly.
I’m a firm believer in the saying that people don’t do business with logos, they do business with humans. Get the human element right – and having your experts to the fore adding value is part of this equation – and you increase the chances of prospective customers developing greater affinity and connection with your brand.
THREE – Differentiates your brand from that of your competitors
We live in an era of increased product and service parity, when it’s often difficult to tell one company from another. So much so it’s often only a company’s brand – their reputation in our eyes, or our collective experience of having dealt with them across multiple touch-points – that influences our decision as to which entity we choose to do business with, or recommend to others.
But we also live in risk-averse times that see many organisations – especially larger ones – going into their shells, refusing to open up on social channels in a way that’s, errr, social. They don’t let their people (officially via company online channels) post blogs , publish videos or tweet. Chances are, their logo has no personality and the walls of the boardroom are beige. Okay, I might be being a tad facetious here 🙂
Of course, this ‘corporate personality bypass’ spells opportunity for others in the same market to differentiate themselves. And no, I don’t mean painting the walls of the boardroom red, but rather, focus on strategically building a public-facing expert visibility program as a way of building a ‘moat of uniqueness’ around your brand.
Just think, no-one is going to be able to replicate the army of talented and smart experts you have out in the marketplace creating useful content and engaging with customers, influencers and advocates en masse.
These three reasons are not mumbo-jumbo.
An oft-used example of experts-as-rockstars strategy is New York’s Indium Corporation.
Indium makes solder paste and other electronic assembly materials. Sexy, huh?
In this article on the Valuable Content blog, Rick Short from Indium explains the importance of getting the company’s technical troops out on to the frontline:
“Our customers are engineers. Our technical staff are engineers. Engineers like other engineers: they understand them, they trust them. Heck, they were surrounded by hundreds of engineers for years while in university. They’ve been with each other all their lives. They seek each other out because they’re comfortable with each other. They speak the same language, making their transactions highly efficient and effective.”
“For that you will need to go to conferences and tradeshows, as well as visit customers and industry partners”
He adds: “The goal is to provide the right content and show other engineers that you are interested in working to discover more about the topic they too are interested in.”
Great effort by Indium, and it continues to pay dividends for the company.
Are you interested in getting your internal subject matter experts or potential thought leaders up to speed with social media and online publishing platforms?
Do you want to help prepare them for a more ‘frontline’ role, to develop and curate content that will resonate with your target audience? Perhaps you’d like them to start connecting more with influencers and customers via social networking tools?
This can (and should) be done strategically, with purpose.
PR Warrior develops (and helps activate) ‘Expert Visibility Programs’ for companies and organisations that have a team of talented experts with the ability to engage people and generate conversation externally, but just need help in putting it all together in a structured way.
This includes training, of course, but also helping to develop and package content for the company’s owned media channels. In other words, we can work with your experts to extract their ideas, knowledge and stories and turn them into compelling content for relevant audiences.
If you’d like to know more, feel free to hit me up on email – trevor(dot)young(at)prwarrior(dot)com.