By Sarah Johns
A strong strategy to build executive visibility starts with a good understanding of the current turbulent state of the communications industry.
As PR professionals, we know how fast our industry changes. In early September, Marie Claire UK announced its decision to cease print publication. It joined a growing club now operating solely online, including NME and Now. But that’s not the full picture, of course. In the B2B market, we’ve seen Incisive Media close IT magazine V3.co.uk, while the commercial finance publication Bridging and Commercial launched in print. And that’s all happened within the span of a year!
In short, PR professionals must be ready for anything, and so do our execs. So, based on the current media landscape, what’s the best course of action?
Decide how you will be successful
It may seem obvious, but before embarking on building executive visibility you should re-visit your company strategy, short- and long-term goals, and the audience you want to target. Update your list of top and tier-one media and identify opportunities in the press that best allows you to build visibility in the right places. Achieving a full page of coverage in a national business supplement won’t be easy, especially if you’re not from a FTSE company. But your C-Suite will still expect you to aim high.
Prepare the executive
Involve the executive from the start. If they haven’t had much previous experience with the press, it’s vital to get them media trained. Be clear on what you need from them and what they need from you, be it a list of topics they would never want to comment on or access to their calendar to arrange a media briefing at the drop of a hat. Let your executive know they can trust you not to put them forward for opportunities that aren’t quite the right fit for them or aren’t the right audience for their message and be clear about what the right ones would look like. This helps avoid wasting time on the wrong opportunities and maximises time on the right ones.
Foster a thought leader
Encourage your spokesperson to build a voice of their own first on owned channels. Whether it’s having them write a blog post once a month or ensuring they regularly post on their LinkedIn profile, having your exec develop content will put your team in a better position to sell them to media. Blogs can be repurposed and placed as bylines, videos of the executive speaking at a company event can be used to pitch the exec for a seat on a roundtable and comments on news articles can be material for an issues hijack.
Be clear on what not to do
Bear in mind that to get the best traction, executive content should be unique but on-brand. Remember that saying the same thing as everyone else isn’t going to grab headlines but being too provocative can undermine credibility and land you in trouble. In today’s digital-first world, it only takes one tweet to ruin a reputation that took years to build.
Done right, building executive visibility can help develop great brand awareness, authority on topics your company wants to be known for and ultimately boost sales. However, executing it seamlessly requires a plan, preparation, and a story.
Sarah Johns is a senior account executive in Allison+Partners’ London office.