The opportunity to create one last publicity grab at the end of the year through a prediction, or group of forecasts, is a shiny wrench in a tech company’s Snap-On toolbox. But is this seemingly intelligent year end play a good fit for every communications program? It might be, if you can contribute to the conversation, not the chatter.
The easiest path to publicity is to insert your company’s spokesperson into one of the many media roundups that are published for the general and trade industry press. These can take the form of paid (you buy your space) or earned (your ideas are good enough to have perceived value) media placements. For example, a piece on Big Data predictions for 2020 just appeared on datanami, and featured no less than 16 different (I lost count) quotes and company citations. It’s hard to stand out in a crowded piece like this, however the number of players on the field means that marketing managers at each company will be circulating this content widely, helping all participants with additional exposure.
Inclusion in roundup articles provides several marketing opportunities, including a link back to a corporate website, keyword searchability, third party validation and social network and direct marketing fodder. Source these opportunities in advance by finding last year’s roundup pieces and approaching an editor with an opinion on the subject, or subscribe to HARO, a service that sends daily editorial queries to your inbox.
Another path for exposure involves developing an opinion and pushing it out across multiple channels as a self-published piece. This content can be rolled out as a blog post on a corporate website, a Linkedin group post, a direct marketing piece or a press release, utilizing a wire service and a media list. Propagating across all channels as well as scoring a media placement, like Bloomberg Technology, provides the maximum level of exposure. But before any of this can happen, you’ll need to honestly answer one fundamental question: does anyone care about what I have to say?
Don’t be a lemming
The tech industry is full of buzzwords and retread subjects that filter into all forms of content, slowly morphing (oops – an old buzzword), into a spaghetti salad about as interesting watching pudding congeal. The overuse has become so endemic that a google search for “most hated technology buzzwords,” yields a list that should be familiar to all, and was captured in this pithy TrustRadius (no they aren’t paying for this) post. When developing a cluster of observations or opinions the first question to ask is simple: am I commenting on new territory? A good indication of the most commonly addressed themes can be found in annual analyst predictions, like this press release issued by Forrester in January 2019 that covers everything from AI to Blockchain, IoT and robotic talent management (yes, it’s a thing). Take pains to make sure that the themes you address aren’t the same as everyone else’s, unless you want to be one to be of the three million citations to a google search on “AI in 2020.”
If you don’t know it, don’t blow it.
What’s an industry expert? Someone who has an opinion based on observations, interactions, personal and customer experiences within a field in which he or she has been professionally and actively participating. Knowledge of an industry through first-hand experience yields the most authentic, passionate and useful observations. An expert will speak to the common experience within an industry and is in a strong position to posit interest contrarian viewpoints and provocative material. The most salient observations are grounded in references and data points, and unless your name is Kurzweil or Gates, avoid shooting from the hip. Don’t try to fake expertise for the sake of glomming onto a year end trend for a few inbound clicks, it doesn’t take much of a breeze to blow away a smoke screen.
The plain cardboard box gets opened last
Your opinions may be utterly unique and spot on, but if the packaging fails, you may as well pack up the soapbox and go home. The delivery of your message is as important as the message itself. Start with your headline: is it sexy, does it stand out, does it touch an industry nerve, would your coworkers share it? Your opening paragraph needs to immediately state your position and communicate a timely and compelling narrative that instantly resonates with your target audience. Focus on a few trends/issues that are relational and avoid painting too broad a canvas that leads to a meandering story line. Present facts, don’t preach, use clear, simple, bold language and drive the focus of the content around your key message points. You’re not writing a white paper, technical brief or dissertation, so find a voice that is approachable, has a bit of humor and speaks from the gut of experience. And avoid buzzwords – there are plenty of other words available to tell your story.