5 Steps to Creating a Technical Thought Leadership Strategy

Especially on the technical side of client accounts, it’s a common occurrence to meet a company that’s clearly among the experts in their space but unsure of how to market themselves. In many of these cases, the space in which they operate could be highly niche and separated by several degrees from the public eye. Often times, these companies make the products that go into the products that make the products that most people know and use every day.

The common course of action for companies who find themselves in this position is to rely solely on direct sales. And understandably so. A talented, experienced sales team who knows the industry inside and out, and has spent years and years developing relationships with contacts at all the various players within the industry can be a dependable rainmaker for a technical organization. The only problem here is when that is a company’s sole source of outreach. It’s important to cast a wider net by developing a well-orchestrated thought leadership strategy in order to go after the fish that aren’t directly in your sales team’s sights, as well as control your reputation and brand equity beyond what others are saying about you.

If you are a technical organization thinking about expanding beyond your direct sales efforts, the following steps should help you get off the ground.

Step 1: Admit that you are an expert

The first step is simply to realize the value of the expertise that your company possesses. As a technical company, it’s sometimes hard to see past your immediate circle and realize that there is a wider demand for your knowledge beyond just your current customers.

Step 2: Join the larger conversation

If you aren’t already doing it, go out to find and join the conversations other members of your industry are currently having with each other. Technical companies sometimes cringe at the thought of social media. But there is a lot of information exchange happening on social platforms that you can take advantage of, especially if you use the right platform. Do your research and see what people are talking about. Follow influencers, build your network, and share and comment on the posts that interest you.

Step 3: Identify your contributions and your contributors

Figure out where you can contribute to this conversation. Look inside your company for developing technologies you can talk about, or ways your company’s products or services are influencing a larger trend. Also, find your subject matter experts. Who are the champions of your company’s technologies? Who are the technical experts with the knowledge you’d like to show off to the world? Chances are, they’d be prime candidates to comment on current trends or offer input to a trade magazine feature article.

Step 4: Make a plan

Once you identify your list of topics, make a calendar with plans for producing and pushing out content showcasing your knowledge on these topics. Be sure to include with your plans how you plan to publish your content. Is it an article with wide appeal to the industry? If so, a relevant trade journal might be a good fit. Is it a white paper demonstrating in-depth one of your company’s products? Consider “gating” this white paper on your company website and posting links on your social channels to garner attention and gather valuable sales leads.

Step 5: Steady does it

Especially with your owned media (blogs, podcasts, etc), it’s important to establish a regular rhythm at which viewers can expect new articles or episodes to be published, and then stick with it. Marketing this way has a cumulative effect, and it takes commitment to a steady and regular schedule of content in order to build your following and establish your credibility. If at first you don’t see life changing results, don’t despair! Stick with your plan, and pretty soon you’ll be able to watch the needle move in your favor.

There you have it. While I hope this helps, I also know it’s easier said than done. What other questions do you have? Feel free to reach out!

How to Interview a SME

Rob dives into 5 tips on how to properly interview a subject matter expert (SME)

As a content writer, a large amount of my time is spent talking with various subject matter experts, or SMEs, about their matters of expertise- and then writing a story based on my findings “by” the aforementioned SME for publication. Often referred to as “ghostwriting,” it’s a cornerstone of the marketing communications world. And rightly so. 

SMEs are often high-ranking members of their organizations, filling job functions that demand the majority of their time. They have great and valuable insight to offer potential customers, but often times, simply not enough time to compose their thoughts into content that can be used for marketing purposes. 

This situation is all too common in the world of content marketing. If you haven’t found yourself in something similar before, you’re likely the exception to the norm. But chances are, as a content marketer, you will have the opportunity to conduct many different SME interviews in your career. Following are five tips I have used over the years to help ensure I have a productive and successful interview every time that lets me craft a compelling piece of content

5 Tips for How to Interview a SME

(We couldn’t help ourselves)

Arrive Early to the Interview

I always try to give myself at least 5 minutes before the interview begins to settle in and prepare myself. As I said before, SMEs are often very busy people. You’re depending on their knowledge and cooperation to complete your work, so respecting their time is in your best interest. 

Prepare Your Questions

Before the interview begins, I prepare by thoroughly researching the topic and putting together some basic questions to loosely guide the interview. These help to make sure we touch on all necessary topics. My interview always begins by having the SME confirm that I have their correct job title and spelling of their name (forgetting this step could make things awkward down the road). 

Record the Interview (If Possible)

If you have the ability to create an audio recording of your interview, and if you have your SME’s permission to do so, it would be an excellent backup to your notes. Many SMEs you come across throughout your career could be fast-talkers, or perhaps English could be their second (or third) language. You might conduct your interview on the phone with a poor connection, or near a busy and loud work environment. Often, interviews are conducted on a tight schedule without much time to ask the SME to repeat themselves. Either way, few interviews ever happen under perfect conditions, and having a backup audio recording to refer to when your notes have holes could make all the difference. 

Let Them Talk

This is a simple, yet often overlooked tip. Obviously, SMEs know the subject you’re there to discuss with them (this is where the “E” in their acronym comes from). But sometimes, we as writers prepare so much for the story (visualizing the points that we’ll make along the way to create a successful piece of content) that we rush along to the next question when we feel the source has provided a sufficient answer. Don’t do this. If your time with the SME allows, let them talk until they feel they’ve fully covered a point. Listen for opportunities to ask follow-up questions. If they reference an anecdote, be sure to ask them to tell this story and capture it as best you can. It might provide a great example to help bring one of your points home.

Bring Backup

It’s a luxury that most working situations can’t afford. But if you’re able to, bring a member of your team to help with capturing notes (perhaps a junior level or intern who could benefit from the experience). To heads are better than one. And this might also help ease your stress over missing any important tidbits, letting you focus more on the story being told. 

Do You Have Additional Tips on How to Interview a SME?

Hopefully these tips help you on your future SME interviews. Do you have any additional tips for conducting a successful interview? If so, let us know!

4 Myths About Content Marketing

Myth #1: “Content marketing is just a fancy word for advertising.” Content marketing and ad campaigns aren’t the same, and if you treat it as such, you will fail.

The oft-misunderstood world of content marketing is a living, breathing, evolving space. It’s in a constant state of flux to meet the changing demands of buyer personas and search engine algorithms. And being the moving target that it is, there are lots of misconceptions around content marketing.

Here are four myths about content marketing, and why they simply aren’t true.

1. “Content marketing is just a fancy word for advertising.”

This myth is a serial offender and lead culprit of many a failed content marketing campaign. If you approach your content marketing campaign like an ad campaign, you will fail. While ads involve (mostly cleverly concocted) sales messages and slogans, they’re allowed to be outright self-promotional because they’re appearing in a paid ad. Any editorial that you create for content marketing purposes must be of genuine informational value to its intended audience. After all, your goal is to position this content so that your readers will find it as a result of their own research. If you lead them down a tunnel to a crummy commercial, they will feel tricked and will leave your site posthaste. Hear that? That’s the sound of your bounce rate spiking.

2. “Anyone can write content.”

You wouldn’t ask your doctor to do your taxes. Ideally, let the writers write the content. Find someone adept at collecting the appropriate information and producing quality content that engages with your target audience on a meaningful level.

Are you a small company with limited resources? By all means, assign your content creation jobs to the appropriate subject matter expert. Whether it’s a product manager, engineer or someone from sales. But for the love of all that is good, make sure they know how to write well, and how to write for the web. Be sure they are writing objectively, and at a level appropriate for your intended audience. Do your research and identify the keywords people are searching on that relate to your content themes. Providing these to your writer upfront will help focus their efforts to produce the desired results.

3. “The rewards of good content marketing are instant.”

While I wish this was true, it just isn’t realistic to post a single piece of brilliant, award-winning content to your website and expect all of Google to read it the same day.

Your mantra here should be “steady does it.” Set a realistic but regular goal date of creating, posting and promoting new content. A steady stream of quality, relevant and engaging content, updated regularly, will gradually start to find its way to your targeted audience. From here, the relationship builds. Viewers become subscribers. Subscribers become leads. Leads become conversions.

4. “The only good content is long content.”

Hogwash!

While there is truth that search engines give preference to the longer forms of content, we’re not talking about War and Peace here. More important than exact word count is taking the appropriate amount of time to effectively communicate your message. Don’t drone on simply to enhance your word count. Remember that while you’re using search engines to help get your content in front of readers, your primary objective is to write for the readers themselves. Do your research, take the appropriate amount of time to formulate your story. And if you can shoot for 1000 words (or more), then more power to you.

So there you have it. With all the hype around content marketing, I hope these four myths help you realize that it isn’t exactly rocket surgery.

Have you conducted your own content marketing campaigns and have some additional myths to share? If so, or if you’d like to talk about how O’Keeffe can help with your content marketing campaigns, let us know!

B2C Versus B2B PR: The Biggest Differences

Understanding the differences between B2B and B2C is key when developing a smart PR strategy.

To the uninitiated, B2B and B2C might sound like rival boy bands from the 90s. But in marketing communications, they’re the two biggest differentiators to consider when it comes to strategy. Is your business marketing to businesses (B2B) or consumers (B2C)? 

Is Your Business B2C or B2B?

A B2B business’s customers are other businesses. There are usually bidding processes involved, and decisions can take up to months to complete. However, the monetary amount of the sale, once complete, is often significant and warrants the length of time it takes to complete the sale. A manufacturer of fire detection systems selling a high quantity of their products, along with an installation and service contract, to a chain of hotels would be an example of B2B business. 

B2C businesses deal directly with consumers. The decision-making process, between establishing initial awareness of your product or service and its features and benefits, and the customer deciding to make the purchase, is normally quite fast. While price points are typically lower in B2C transactions, the volume is far higher. A customer visiting a store to purchase an article of clothing is a good example of a B2C transaction. 

One of the keys to creating good content is knowing your target audience. While the products and services we promote for our clients vary widely, the marketing communications industry has historically divided the audiences for all products and services being marketed into B2B or B2C buckets. And for a good reason! Think about it, it makes sense. People who purchase products to help them do their jobs better are going to have different motivations than those shopping for food, clothing or entertainment. So it follows that the right way to reach these people will differ, based upon their corresponding bucket.

An article by Forbes describes a couple of the differences between the two audiences as B2B having a longer decision-making process and a greater number of stakeholders than B2C. So applying this knowledge, how might your B2C and B2B PR campaigns differ?

The Strategy Behind B2B PR

Casablanca: "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

B2B PR is in it for the long haul. Strategies to set potential customers down the path to conversion might include creating thought leadership articles to build awareness, or securing your SMEs as sources for trade media articles targeted at different levels of your customers’ organizations (from leadership down to the shop floor). You might publish well-researched white papers or bylined articles to demonstrate and share your knowledge on general industry topics. You want to put your company on the map and establish yourself as a credible expert in the space in which you operate. 

How B2C PR Differs

Raccoon grasping for a bite of food

In comparison to B2B PR, B2C PR aims more at grabbing a potential customer’s attention to create an immediate need for your specific product or service. B2C customers typically won’t conduct a large amount of research before purchasing your product. Rather, they’ll convert to meet a need you created through a well-placed product review on social media, or interview on the morning news.

PR Strategy is Important (Whether It’s B2C or B2B PR)

Hopefully this helps you see that PR is more complex than simply sending a press release. Whether B2B or B2C, there are nuanced approaches to effectively reaching your desired audiences. But if you need help, we’d love to hear from you!

Developing Content: 5 Things to Know

Rob shares his best tips for developing content. Our favorite? Make time to procrastinate. Read the rest on the blog.

Just the other day, Dan described me to a client as one who salivates over a good piece of content needing to be written. For whatever reason, that description stuck with me (am I that slobbery?)- But the more I think about it, the more I realize he wasn’t that far off! I do get pretty excited over crafting a good story for readers, with all the juicy details arranged just right for maximum impact and “a-ha” moments. And I love digging into a new topic that I haven’t written about before- reading what other people have to say about it, speaking with established experts that know it all too well. Then there’s that moment when you finally dare to think you know enough to pull off a story. I still get a charge every time all the pieces suddenly line up.

If you too are a content creator like me or looking to dive into developing content for your business, here’s a few things I suggest you consider before you make that leap.

Know Your Sources

I have built an entire career writing about industries, products, and processes about which I know very little (at least at the get-go). Over time, and through years of work, I familiarized myself with each of them. Sometimes enough to be able to pull off a piece of content without much research. But having a good source I could refer to for information about the topic was always absolutely crucial to my success. Whether it’s a website, person, or collection of documents, without a good source, it can be very hard/ impossible to ever get a piece of content off the ground.

Know Your Audience

This step will help you develop the right tone in your content. Before you begin writing, be sure you know very well the target audience to whom you’re writing. What is their knowledge of the topic? Are they an informed, long-time client looking to keep up on industry best practices? Or are they a new customer searching to solve a problem they’ve never dealt with before? If your topic is technical or advanced in nature, and your intended reader is uninitiated, it might require some skillful distillation of information so that your content hits home. Or, if you’re writing to experts, doing your homework to learn the appropriate industrial phrases and jargon can make your tone sound like it knows what you’re talking about.

Know Your Keywords

Before you start writing, it’s essential to know your keywords for several reasons. First off, it helps you organize your content- making sure you touch on and address all the necessary points. Second, what good is a piece of digital content if your intended readers can’t find it?

Know Your Word Count

How long do you have to establish your credibility, develop your ideas, make your case, defeat the counterpoint, or educate your reader about the topic? Long-form content lets you take your time, easing your readers into the subject, going off on tangents where applicable, providing several examples to back up your arguments. But with shorter pieces of content, you might be required to adopt a news style of writing- getting quickly to your point and cutting out the fluff.

Know Your Deadline

I’m convinced that procrastination is an essential component of the creative process. Letting an idea bounce around in the back of your mind as you work on other projects until it’s fully formed can help your writing exponentially. But even a perfect piece of content is useless if you miss your deadline. Knowing how long you have to complete your work can help you strike a balance between letting the idea marinate and doing the writing. And if you don’t have a deadline, set one. Sometimes it takes a sense of urgency to help force your idea out onto the page.

So there you have it. Hopefully, these tips help you develop the content you’re looking for. But if you need more help, don’t be afraid to reach out to us!

The Changing Landscape of Media Relations

Rob explores the changing nature of our work in the media.

News or Content?

At the risk of sounding far older than I am…

Back in my day when I was getting started working in media relations, things were much different. Of course, with the exponential growth in digital communications from day to day, this same statement would also be true if I were far younger as well.

It is a very true statement, nonetheless. While email was widely used for article pitches and press release distribution (I’m not that old), there was still the odd media contact who listed their contact preference as mail or even fax. When’s the last time you saw a fax machine?

The media relations landscape is in constant evolution. The two most significant contributing factors I can identify are the internet boom in the late 90s that moved many print outlets online, and the dawn of social media that drastically altered the news cycle. Previously, it might’ve been customary to get caught up on the local news of the day by watching the 5 o’clock news- or read about all the developments happening in your industry in this month’s issue of [Enter your industry here] Monthly. Nowadays, the news cycle is 24/7. Coverage is nearly simultaneous, and it lasts as long as it takes to be buried by other ‘breaking’ news headlines. In addition to this, media outlets are operating with smaller and smaller staffs, who are increasingly inundated with pitches and press releases. Getting your message to the right reporter through all of this noise can be a real challenge.

The following tips will help you navigate today’s media relations landscape.

Stay on Top of Things

The timeliness of a pitch has always been a positive, but nowadays it is almost essential. Be sure to keep up-to-date on all the latest news related to the topics you’d like to comment on. Use resources like Google News Alerts and HARO to help keep an eye on the field. Figure out who is talking about what, and what they are saying. Ask your customers where they get their information and target these and similar outlets.

Build Your Relationships and Credibility

After you’ve determined who the influencers are in your targeted space, get on their radar. Follow them on social media and share the stories they post. Share your knowledge on a well maintained and regularly updated company blog, and refer any reporters looking for more information to your blog. Respond to any reporters’ questions quickly and professionally, and always meet any deadline they give you. If you are a reliable, credible source for them, they will remember you the next time they’re looking for help.

Cut the BS

Earning media is a reciprocal relationship. Reporters are always on deadline, so if you can help them quickly and easily fill a gap, they’ll be obliged to work with you and run your news. However, the key word here is “news.” Be sure your content is written in a professional, objective news style (AP is preferred) so reporters can copy and paste it. The more your material reads like the news you see in their outlet, the better the chance you have of getting it placed. There is a place for marketing jargon, self-promotional speak, and buzzwords, but it isn’t here.

By following these tips, you can get the attention you need and finally see your company in the headlines.

Want to know more? Drop us a line!

Three Parallels Between Parenting and Public Relations

Easily the single most momentous event that changed my life was becoming a parent. The whole focal point of my existence suddenly changed from looking out for numero uno to being a full-time caretaker for a tiny, loud and messy little stranger.

Easily the single most momentous event that changed my life was becoming a parent. The whole focal point of my existence suddenly changed from looking out for numero uno to being a full-time caretaker for a tiny, loud and messy little stranger. Long gone were the days of spontaneous nights out, using the facilities at my convenience or eating meals like a non-inmate. However, adaptation and growth usually follow change- and my matriculation to parenthood was no exception.

I’m now the father of two young children. And as I look back over the lessons I’ve learned introducing those two miniature people to the world, there are many parallels I can draw to the world of Public Relations. Maybe because of my love for alliteration, they all begin with the letter P. So I’m calling them the 3Ps of Parenting and PR.

Perspective

My kids are currently 4 and 1 (almost 2). This means we’re just now entering into the exciting and fun world of constant wars being waged on one another. My usual role as the mediator has taught me that the message conveyed isn’t always the message received. The receiving party will usually view the message through their own lens of “how this affects me,” which could potentially have some negative outcomes if there are any loopholes.

When crafting communications for a client, it’s always important to look at the message from all angles. How might your message be received by people with different viewpoints or attitudes? Be sure to remove any opportunities for the audience to interpret your message in any other way than its intended meaning. Spending a few minutes thinking this through before releasing your message could avoid the next big conflict.

Patience

Children are little crazy people. There, I said it. They have a hard time understanding (or caring) that there are other people with other needs, or that things don’t magically clean themselves every night after they go to bed. Most of the time, this is a non-issue. Kids are cute, and it’s easy to overlook their behavior. At least in the light of day. However, after a long day of work, and an even longer night of parenting that slowly stretches later and later into the wee morning hours, it becomes increasingly difficult to react with patience.

In the PR world, it’s a challenge to keep all the balls in the air- even when everything is hunky dory. However, when a crisis emerges, or when a sudden deadline materializes out of thin air, it becomes exponentially more difficult not to react out of emotion and frustration- which often leads to work that falls short of achieving the desired outcome.

Like good parents, PR practitioners must remain calm in the face of short deadlines and unexpected crises. Keeping a cool head when things get rocky will allow you to operate under pressure, producing well calculated and appropriate work that accomplishes your client’s goals. It’s always a good idea to take a step back and a deep breath before you react.

Priorities

Becoming a parent is one of the most efficient ways I can think of to eliminate every second of free time from your day (and night). I used to enjoy reading books, walking trails through the park, and the occasional Netflix weekend binge fest. While it’s a far cry from pre-fatherhood days, it is still possible to spend some time here and there doing what I enjoy. The secret is thinking ahead to what needs to be done, then planning and prioritizing tasks to accomplish those said things, so once the kids are in bed, there’s time left to decompress.

The parallel to client work is clear. A diligent account manager will have multiple projects in the works for their clients. Maintaining an organized view of these projects and their deadlines, and prioritizing your time to meet each deadline, is essential- and might even help you create a little bit of downtime at the end of a busy day.

A History of Storytelling

Storytelling is an essential component of the human experience. Rob Dietrich shares a history of storytelling from caves to epic poems to modern technology.

Storytelling has always been an essential component of the human experience. Humans have an innate desire to tell and listen to stories. A child asks her parent for a story before bedtime. A teacher tells his students a story to help make a lesson stick. Friends share advice by summarizing past experiences with each other. Stories entertain and educate us. They help us relive the past and prepare for the future.

From Caves to Epic Poems

The first example we have of human storytelling is on the walls of caves in Chauvet, France. In 1994, archeologists discovered paintings that depict various animals- deer, lions, wooly mammoths- as well as the eruption of a volcano. Researchers believe the inhabitants of the cave valued these illustrated stories so highly that they considered them to have sacred or magic properties. Carbon dating places these illustrations around 36,000 years old.

The ancient Egyptians took storytelling to the next level. Their hieroglyphic language, a series of pictographic symbols, is widely considered to be history’s first example of a written language. Developed around 5,000 years ago, this writing system allowed them to communicate more detailed ideas. Decoding this alphabet revealed ancient Egyptian stories about life at the time, beliefs about the afterlife, kings, wars and plague. The stories also revealed the evolving complexities of storytelling, such as humor and satire.

Around 2,700 years ago, Homer united the ancient Greeks with his epic poems the Iliad and the Odyssey. These stories were recorded and distributed to the surrounding city-states, and have been credited for establishing the Greek culture. It is highly likely that this was the first time humans realized the fantastic power contained by a good story!

“If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” – Isaac Newton

Storytelling Meets Technology

As history progressed, humans took and improved upon the stories written by the generations before them. The ways and types, along with the manner of telling stories became numerous. Shakespeare captured the imagination of the masses with his plays. In 1556 the first newspaper was published in Venice, covering the economic, political and military happenings of the time. Improvements in printing press technology and the spread of community theater allowed a wider circulation of stories and ideas. Then the 20th century arrived bringing the radio, movies, and TV. These media opened up a whole new world of ways to tell and share stories, removing any barriers that lack of education and an inability to read previously put forth. Then, of course, came the Internet and the digital age of storytelling and idea sharing.

While the complexity, styles, manners, and themes have changed over history, storytelling has been around since the first prehistoric humans were able to point and grunt. Whether they’re creating a culture and unifying a nation or lulling a child to sleep, never underestimate the power of a well-told story.

Want some help telling your story? We can help!

Meet Rob Dietrich

Greetings! I’m the newest addition to the O’Keeffe tribe. My 14-year PR career has been primarily focused on B2B clients- from massive industrial processes to minute imaging devices. I’ve spent time in a mix of corporate and agency positions, gaining experience in a wide range of industries and applications. I’m fascinated with learning the stories behind these products and processes and communicating them to the world.

O’Keeffe is an incredibly gifted and versatile agency, which attracted me from the start with its “do anything” attitude. The culture teems with creativity and a supportive tribe mentality that makes me want to contribute my very best work.

Why did you choose this industry?   

PR chose me! I believe I descended from a long line of oral historians, as our family gatherings involve retelling every embarrassing story from years past. I’ve always enjoyed writing creatively and finding the interesting bits in every application- so PR seemed a natural fit.

What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the industry?  

Treat every client like they’re your top client. Also, tell the truth. It isn’t a “vertical transportation device”- it’s a ladder. But it’s a perfect ladder and here’s why.

If you could tell our clients one thing, what would it be?

These people genuinely care about your success. They take ownership of their work and contribute their best, day after day.

What’s the last book you read?

Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food by Anthony Bourdain.

Favorite word?

Gemütlichkeit

Least favorite word?

Literally. Like literally.

What profession other than PR would you like to attempt?

There’s so much that interests me. Maybe author/ historian? National park ranger? Pilot? Astronomer? I could go on.

What’s the best thing about our line of work?

No matter how many years you work in this industry, there are always so many new things to learn. Every day is new and different and weird in all the right ways. I also enjoy the feeling when a story I’ve crafted catches on and spreads like wildfire.

Tell me two truths and a lie.

I’ve climbed two different mountains on the Appalachian Trail. I appeared as an extra in the movie Milk Money. I can play guitar, bass, banjo, drums, and piano.