Tag Archives: Stefanie Hoffman

Five Top Ways Contributed Articles Can Drive Thought Leadership – Part II

Part I of this piece can be found here 

English novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton coined the phrase “the pen is mightier than the sword” – an adage still relevant today. Contributed articles can go a long way to increase your visibility and expand your share of voice that can give you edge over your competitors.

In Part I, we discussed how contributed articles can help you stake a claim, identify trends and boost credibility. Here are a few more ways in which contributed articles can be leveraged to help you emerge ahead of the pack as a thought leader.

Provoke Thought or Undermine Status Quo
Good enough is usually never good enough. Customers are always looking for something faster, stronger, more efficient – or a whole new way of doing things.

That said, people don’t know what they don’t know. Where you will shine the brightest as a thought leader is when you introduce ideas that no one has even considered. This might mean you throw some (well warranted) shade at some industry behemoths or question an established industry trend – one that is pretty much accepted by everyone.

For example, an article with the headline “Is Digital Transformation Killing Your Entrepreneurial Spirit?” will likely get some backlash. But it will also get page views — a lot more than an article titled “The Pros and Cons of Digital Transformation.” It will also inspire conversation and new ways of thinking.

Contributed articles allow you to ask the really tough questions – even ones that make readers a little uncomfortable – in order to move the industry from its resting place and galvanize change. Even if you get some flack from readers, contributed articles be the vehicle to turn the status quo on its head by challenging previously held beliefs and make things better.

Point Out Industry Gaps and Shortfalls
No one likes to confront their shortcomings up close and personal. So, it can be challenging to get people, companies or industries to take a hard look at what isn’t working and own it. Among the many reasons is that once they become aware of their shortcomings, they will be responsible for making necessary changes.

Yet, as difficult as it can be, it’s often necessary in order for a paradigm shift or any meaningful change to occur. And it has to start somewhere. Contributed articles can be the spark that sets that kind of comprehensive change in motion. They can be used to shed light on a problem that has been hidden or covered up. They can expose gaping holes in management, technology, processes, strategy or ways of thinking that many have known about for a long time but were too afraid to articulate.

(For example, why HAVE healthcare organizations kept regulations in place that prevent them from updating security defenses. Or why do organizations continue to entrust third parties with critical data without oversight?)

It can be harder still to get them to take responsibility and outline a roadmap for change. But no system, technology or industry has changed without someone illuminating its flaws and where it could do better, beforehand.

Thought leaders can use contributed articles to point out that the emperor indeed has no clothes by identifying gaps and failings. But more than that, contributed articles can also be used to thoughtfully present solutions and push an industry in a new direction that will be ultimately be required for an even greater paradigm shift to occur down the road.

By Stefanie Hoffman 

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Five Ways Your Contributed Article Can Drive Thought Leadership- Part I

Contributed articles are a mainstay of any successful PR program. They increase visibility. They drive credibility in your industry. They enable you to articulate your message precisely the way you want.

And above all else – they allow you to boost thought leadership. From the moment you sign with a PR agency – like 10Fold – you hear how a consistent and robust contributed article program will position you as a thought leader in your market.

Now the definition of a thought leader varies, depending on who you talk to. Though relatively subjective, Wikipedia defines thought leader as “an individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded.”

For our clients, that means that the companies that they are building and the cutting edge technology that they are offering today will be used as a platform for leading, growing and articulating the trajectory of an entire industry tomorrow.

So how can you leverage contributed content to expand your share of voice and emerge ahead of the pack as an industry thought leader? While there is neither a simple formula nor straight trajectory that leads directly to thought leadership, here are a few ways your contributed articles can be used to help put you on that path.

Stake a Claim Without Apology
One major hallmark of a leader – or thought leader – is that they drive forward with confidence. The same standards apply to your contributed article.

By definition, industry leaders charter their own path, invoke new ways of thinking and inspire new ideas – even if those ideas aren’t ready to be fully accepted in the marketplace. The contributed article is your mouthpiece for driving home revolutionary new ideas that hold the potential to spark an industry paradigm shift.

What does that look like? For example, the security industry might never defeat ransomware. Next-generation anything might already be obsolete. Certain enterprise platforms might be going the way of the dodo. It’s likely your assertions might make some uncomfortable – and that’s okay.

So — as long as you can factually support your claims — don’t be afraid to put a stake in the ground and take a few risks.

Bolster Credibility (With Strong Research)
Anyone can make a claim – that’s the easy part. But what will ultimately drive credibility and boost your esteem in the industry are claims that hold up to a lot of outside criticism – a LOT.

As your visibility and thought leadership expands, it’s likely you will find yourself under increased scrutiny by competitors and others intent on removing you from your leadership pedestal. And you need to be prepared. Making claims that are factually incorrect or arguments that are full of holes will swiftly and surely diminish your credibility and make it that much more difficult for the industry to realize your vision.

Contributed articles enable you to bolster market standing – while also extinguishing outside criticism — by giving you a palette to present rational, factually sound arguments supporting your claims. At the very least, you’ll have the ability to leverage statistics, research and forecasts from credible sources to shake off the naysayers. If you’re citing your own original research, you can rely on industry analysts and researchers that will underscore why it was important.

In any case, you can expect that your message will increasingly be placed under the microscope– especially as your share of voice increases. The real thought leaders will be able to weather the storm of scrutiny that will only intensify as they gain an edge over your competition.

Identify Trends First
If you’re discussing a trend mid-cycle, it’s likely that the most critical wave has already passed or is about to. Among other things, leaders are visionaries – and that means they’re looking two, five or ten steps ahead.

Customers and readers alike want to know where to go next, whether it’s the next technology investment, enterprise infrastructure implementation or cool new gadget. They want to know where to invest their money and resources. And they want to be the first

Contributed articles give you a way to thoroughly articulate what the industry can expect from the VC community or whether their startup should invest in cryptocurrency – not just now, but five years from now. Essentially, your article is your vehicle for mapping new directions for the industry, and then driving them there.

Find part II of this piece here.

By Stefanie Hoffman 

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Reaching the High Bar: What Business Press Want From Their Sources

Placement in business press is the gold standard by which your PR efforts are measured. Publications like Forbes, Fortune, Wall Street Journal and others represent a high bar because of their prestige, influence and broad reach. When our clients get a feature in Bloomberg or New York times, it’s usually framed and hung in the office foyer or otherwise worthy of front and center placement on the home page of the company web site.

However, for most clients — especially smaller start-ups – it seems that business press is all but out of reach for anyone not included on the Fortune 500. And there’s a grain of truth to that. For one, unless your name is Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook or the like, there’s little chance that business press will cover any straight product announcements. Meanwhile, business publications – congruent with the media industry in general – are dealing with shrinking staffs that have little time to address the hundreds of pitches they see in their inboxes on a daily basis.

For many of the same reasons, funding coverage – once eagerly sought by business press reporters – is also diminishing. For the last several years, VCs have invested liberally in the start-up community, and as a result, many funding announcements are often deprioritized or ignored altogether by reporters. And while VCs have only recently started to pull back, reporters now seldom cover announcements less than $25M.

So what are business press reporters actually looking for?

They’re looking to tell a story.
A company and/or product by themselves are not interesting. But when placed in the context of a broader trend or story, stand-alone products have the potential garner attention from even the most scrutinizing tier one reporters. When crafting the announcement, ask yourself, what does this mean for the industry? Customers? Is this part an ongoing or more significant story that is unfolding? Could this be a catalyst for change? The release of a cloud storage platform, for example, might actually capture their attention when put in the context of a story on how niche life science firms are adjusting to both storing significantly more data and adhering to new compliance regulations aimed at protecting it. Viewing your story from the lens of a reporter will give you the ability to pre-emptively address their objections while also crafting a narrative that they’ll actually want to write.

They’re looking for simple explanations.
Business press are catering to a broad audience, with the majority of their readers in the business community. While readership may include some technology experts, most will only have a laymen’s understanding of technology industry concepts. Therefore, don’t assume the reporter knows as much as you do about your subject (chances are they don’t). Provide simple and clear narratives, with minimal use of industry jargon. Queue up an elevator pitch that can easily illustrate what your company does in one to two sentences. Break down explanations – even if the journalist has the press release or you think they’re familiar with the topic (simplified explanations will often make the best quotes.) And during the interview, do provide the reporter real-world examples or scenarios that allow them to “see” what you’re explaining. This could be a description of how a security threat halts operations of critical infrastructure that your solution can remediate, or depiction of video systems for sporting events that generate petabytes of data to be stored and secured by your platform. Bolstering your assertions with these kinds of descriptions will ultimately help reporters understand how your product or service will affect the lives of their readers.

They’re looking to build a relationship.
Business press reporters are bombarded with hundreds of pitches every day – the vast majority of which end up deleted because the PR professionals failed to do their due diligence ahead of time. Most pitches are untargeted and blasted out to hundreds of journalists all at once, with little knowledge about, or relevance to, the reporter’s audience. Instead, take the time to get to know a reporter by regularly reading and commenting on their stories, following them on Twitter and LinkedIn, and connecting at tradeshows and events (that’s where 10Fold shines). This up-front investment will soon pay off, even if a story isn’t generated from every interaction. By keeping up this steady cadence, reporters will eventually trust you enough to come to you for a comment or with a story idea. And those relationships are the ones that will last.

By Stefanie Hoffman 

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Top Five Elements of a Good Contributed Article

Contributed articles are a by far one the handiest tools in the client’s arsenal. Among other things, they’re a way for clients to position themselves as industry experts and thought leaders, achieve credibility among peers, reach desired audiences and truly get their message across exactly the way they want.

These days, it’s becoming increasingly easier to get contributed articles placed – even in top tier publications. Major technology shifts in the media industry have driven numerous publications to cut costs by slashing reporting staffs, and force media outlets to do more with less. That means now more than ever, editors are relying on – and even soliciting – contributed content from industry experts to fill in the gaps.

For clients, it’s an enormous and growing opportunity. However, editors still have pretty tough editorial standards for the written material that appears on their pages. And no doubt competition for that real estate is only going to become more fierce between industry peers.

So what makes for a great contributed article – one that will stand out yet satisfy even the most scrutinizing of editors? Here are five top guidelines:

Keep it (Vendor) Neutral
This is usually a pre-requisite for any publication that accepts contributed content – largely because they cannot openly promote one vendor’s products or services above another. That means, depending on the publication, you might not be able to even mention your genre of technology, let alone your product.

That said, your article can speak volumes about your company, your vision and your position in the market without ever specifically mentioning a product or what you do. Contributed articles provide fertile ground to develop thought leadership, analyze trends or discuss relevant issues. If you have a next-generation security solution, talk about threats and new malware that your product addresses. Launching a networking product? Discuss the causes of latency and bottlenecks that are driving organizations to find new ways to accelerate productivity and avoid disruptions.

Being seen as industry experts and market leaders for your ideas will go a lot farther to raise awareness and establish credibility with desired audiences than openly promoting your product.

Take a Stand
It’s natural to err on the side of caution, especially when trying not to step on customers’ toes or say anything that could be deemed controversial. However, the most compelling and interesting content often takes a stand on a topic – even if it’s to assert why you think that subject is important.

For example, you might think that some industries are inherently bad about adhering to and enforcing compliance regulations. Or that the industry push for organizations to adopt AI and machine learning technologies lacks focus and direction. Good content also provokes discussion, even if it means that some might disagree.

And that’s a good thing. Industry thought leaders – by definition – incite new ways of thinking. They often defy convention. They introduce new ideas – many of which are rejected, resisted or haven’t even been considered. That is, until they become accepted.

So – as long as your assertions can be backed up with facts – don’t be afraid to be bold and take a few risks.

Put Ideas in a Broader Context
In your role as thought leader, you see the big picture. While talking about a new technology or concept can be exciting, both your audience and editors alike need to see what it will ultimately mean for them. A new ransomware attack? A perfect opportunity to discuss how cybercriminals are changing their tactics and how organizations need will need to change their defenses. New cloud storage technology? A great segue into how and why data storage capacities are changing and what organizations can do to rein in their data.

Placing new ideas into the context of a broader trend not only highlights your expertise, but it shows foresight and big-picture thinking, as well as your comprehensive understanding of the entire industry. And, of course, it goes a long way with editors.

Clean, Concise Writing is Key
With contributed articles, few things can compensate for good writing. If the most exciting and innovative technology concepts are poorly written, you’ll lose your audience (not to mention your editor if it even gets accepted in the first place).  Conversely, strong writing can compensate for topics that have the potential to be very dry or uninteresting.

Grammar and spelling, of course, need to be solid. However, strong pieces of writing also need to articulate concepts and ideas cleanly. Ideas need to be broken down and organized in way that is digestible to readers – especially if the article is technologically dense. Avoid clichés. And while use of industry terms is expected to some degree, try to use buzz words and jargon sparingly (really, a little goes a long way).

Create a Visual
Safe to say that many contributed articles contain a lot of concepts – some of which are pretty abstract.

With the exception of the most tech-savvy audiences, relying too heavily on abstractions without introducing a concrete use case will ultimately lose the very people you’re trying to reach. Good articles illustrate these concepts with a real-world visual. This could be as simple as writing an anecdote showcasing an adaptive marketing technology that tailors personal ads to you on airport billboards or a vulnerability in connected IoT home devices that people use every day.

In short, readers like to know how technology applies to them – how it makes their lives easier, better and more efficient. Because ultimately, that’s why they read.

By Stefanie Hoffman 

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