Newsroom staffs have continued to dwindle over the last few years while the demand for breaking news and 'round the clock coverage has skyrocketed. This has put tremendous stress on the remaining reporters and their editors, who have to weed through hundreds and possibly thousands of pitches and news announcements on a daily basis. They have to determine what is critical to cover immediately, what stories are interested but can wait, and those they just don't have the time or interest in. Reporters now typically have to submit a few and sometimes dozens of stories daily. They aren't able to truly deep-dive into many stories or passion projects.
To help relieve this pressure from their staffs, editors started opening up contributor networks, giving outside, non-staff experts the opportunity to share their perspective on timely topics, while helping add more content to their sites.
This was well-received for quite some time, what seemed to be a win-win for media and brands alike. Media got the supply of content needed to fill the demand requested by readers, while thought leaders, executives and brands were able to share their specific perspectives on the news of the day.
But recently there has been some backlash. Media outlets like TechCrunch have rescinded their contributed network offers, citing the amount of articles they receive that they "strongly suspected where ghost-written by PR or really had no business being given the platform."
While I'm not a fan of blaming the entire quality issue on PR, I understand the delicate balance outlets are trying to achieve. As a result, these outlets and probably many more will overcorrect and severely limit or completely eliminate their contributed content programs. In turn, businesses and their leaders will need to find different and some possibly new avenues to consider as part of their PR and thought leadership programs.
No need for much concern though. There are more platforms than ever before for people to publish and share their viewpoints beyond traditional media outlets and blogs -- LinkedIn, Medium, to name a few.
Some may few these platforms as the "easy way" to get content published and out into the public sphere, believing that this isn't "real coverage". True. Media coverage in traditional outlets will now mostly pertain to news.
But if you are wanting to focus on thought leadership, publishing on these alternative platforms and having a well executed socialization plan in place can make your readership and impact as strong as a what you may have hoped to achieved with a previous guest post on a traditional blog.
Today's post comes from ROAM Communications network partner, Rory J. O'Connor, Chief Storyteller at San Francisco-based Morcopy Communications. He is an award-winning former journalist and long-time senior PR executive, who provides executive communications consulting and writing services to corporate clients.
There's hardly a corporate communications program that doesn't include a "thought leadership" component, whether the goal is to increase the visibility of a key executive, position a brand to stand apart from its competitors, or influence the direction of an industry or public issue.
Unfortunately, few of those programs succeed as well in practice as they do on paper. What often gets in the way of success is fear of risk.
Being a true thought leader is inherently risky. It requires an individual or a brand to be bold, to take a stand on something important, or point with confidence to a vision of the future. But taking a stand means choosing sides, and predicting the future means you might be wrong. The stronger the stand, the more risk there is of opposition; the bolder the vision, the greater the risk it won't come to pass.
The temptation is to back away from that risk -- but that also saps a thought leadership campaign of vitality and effectiveness. You wind up with speeches that don't excite audiences, op-eds that don't entice editors, and blog posts that don't ignite conversations.
Don't run away from those risks: Embrace them instead, and then build your campaign around these five key principles:
Finally, even if you follow these principles, a thought leadership campaign rarely succeeds overnight. It takes time to earn a following and respect with a target audience. One of the most successful thought leadership campaigns of my career, which a colleague and I developed for a major global technology brand, developed quite gradually over 18 months. We were fortunate to have a CEO who both embraced the risk and was willing to invest the right level of time and resources. Setting expectations at the outset will help ensure the campaign has the opportunity to deliver its full value.
Welcome to ROAMings, a compilation of thoughts and musings about the PR and media industries. This is an opportunity to discuss the “here and now” of the industry, interesting events or case studies, pivotal moments that affect how we approach PR, etc. It isn’t about brand loyalties or preferences -- and we will not be publishing self-promotional materials or talk about our clients in this setting -- but how those brands, individuals and events are leveraging (or in some cases abandoning) PR.