Perhaps my most important responsibility as the head of a boutique
public relations consultancy is to anticipate client needs and challenges. Like all small businesses, we bet our
investment capital, professional development efforts and staff recruitment
plans on these projections.
Accordingly, I spend a lot of time speaking with corporate marketing and
PR/communications decision-makers. Where
do they plan on investing resources?
What obstacles will they face executing lead generation and branding
programs? And (most important) how will
their performance be measured?
For the past six months the story from the executive marketing suite has
been all about content. Companies
typically have lots of it, from highly technical white papers and product
slicks to more sales-oriented presentations and advertisements. The questions corporate marketing and PR
leaders must address include:
How to identify, collect
and evaluate the content that already exists?
How to best create new
content that is in-strategy and action-oriented?
How to package and deliver
content to audiences in creative ways?
This content conundrum has grown in significance with the adoption of
social media by corporate marketing organizations. Blogs, podcasts, social networks, Web-based
video, etc. are predominantly content-driven communications vehicles.
Recently, I penned an article about the “3Es”
of public relations – education, engagement and entertainment (http://attheroundtable.com/blog_post_view.aspx?BlogPostID=7af347d3cb514770b38a01e9aa47bcc0). While I stand by my assertion
that content must embody these characteristics, I neglected to address one
critical issue: credibility.
Credibility is simply saying what you mean and doing what you say. Following through on words and actions
establishes a track record of believability.
Yet, in a business context the issue of credibility becomes a bit
murky. Consider the following statements
often incorporated into public relations, marketing and sales content:
Company X is a leading
Company Y offers award-winning
Company Z has long been
recognized as an innovator in…
While these statements may be technically true, their credibility and
impact is debatable. Customers,
partners, investors and employees have become appropriately skeptical and often
demand third-party validation of such grand claims. It is incumbent on PR professionals to rise
to this challenge to instill a higher level of confidence in the company they
Here are a few ideas to help your company address the credibility
question when developing content:
1. Back it up with numbers. BearingPoint has done a good job of this by
citing an extensive portfolio of customer relationships when making a vertical
market leadership statement.
2. Quote third parties. This can include customer statements,
industry analyst commentary or earned media.
The more credible the source (i.e. an article in the business media
versus an industry blog), the greater the impact.
3. Make meaningful
comparisons. A few years ago I attended
a presentation from Cisco CEO John Chambers at the FOSE government IT
conference. He supported a claim of
industry leadership by explaining that Cisco’s market valuation was greater
than the combined worth of its competitors.
4. Review your writing through a
skeptical lens. Are there any statements
that an external audience might question?
Are these comments hard to justify?
If so, strike them from the text and focus on what is supportable.