Stop Stealing Thought Leadership. Make Your Own.

Stop Stealing Thought Leadership. Make Your Own.

If your product or service is truly one-of-a-kind and in demand, congratulations. For you, the name of the game is to practice mistake-free marketing. If, on the other hand, your offer is only slightly differentiated – especially within a crowded market – it can be a never-ending challenge to stand out.

Retweeting, liking and referencing the thoughts of others, especially those who command massive online audiences, isn’t a bad start. But it’s not thought leadership. True thought leadership is available in only a few flavors including original insights (notice I didn’t say content, because that isn’t, ipso facto, valuable), “relatable stories” and strong arguments made boldly and publicly. There may be others, but let’s focus on these three.

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PR – Journalism Style

In public relations, we are all infused with an inherent sense of the classic newsroom spirit.

I can say this firsthand, having spent years as a news and business reporter. I know that newsrooms work as a trinity – they function quickly, they function as efficiently as possible, and they are ever-changing. Yet the one thing all newsrooms have in common is that they all operate under the direction of the ever-crucial deadline.

When I had a story to write, I was always working against the clock, never for it. Rarely do reporters have the opportunity to breathe and actually plot out what they’re doing or think far enough ahead that they can get a jump on projects. In the process, I would receive countless emails and calls from PR professionals trying to sell me on a story they felt was spectacular. Unfortunately, most never took the time to research my beat or areas of focus. That’s why their emails would be deleted and their phone calls would last less than 10 seconds.

Being immersed in journalism taught me to work fast and ultimately develop an innate sense of what would make a good story versus what sounded flashy but realistically had no substance. If a PR representative could make their client sound fun, relevant and innovative, I was usually sold, especially as I was trying to cross items off my journalistic agendas as the minutes ticked by. I’ve since learned that in PR, we must do the opposite – work for the clock to better engage reporters and pique their interests on whatever event, topic or client innovation we send their way in a thorough yet succinct email or phone call.

In a newsroom, you learn to write more to the point and in a language understandable by “those with an eighth grade education” as my editorial superiors used to say. In my case, these same skills have transferred over to the world of PR. You want to tout a client in as simple a manner as possible, while making sure not to detract from the qualities that make them newsworthy.

Working in PR, I also think like a newsroom, i.e. be as proactive as possible from the time I get to the office until the time I leave several hours later. I am always attuned to the news cycle and monitor for shifts in breaking news and trends of the day. If I’m positioning a client as a thought leader, I need to see what’s being written in real-time that would be a complementary fit for both the client and the reporter. Once this is achieved, the window of opportunity slowly opens up but the crack it leaves behind may be suddenly closed if the client is not positioned properly.

I’ve also learned to cast a wide distribution net when reaching out to reporters, all the while trying to garner their interest in my clients. Where one might ignore me completely, there’s usually another whose eyebrow darts up and thinks, “That could be interesting.” My job is then to develop and cultivate a relationship with that writer or editor on behalf of my client which hopefully results in immediate—and future—coverage.

The bottom line is this. In order to appeal to reporters we in PR need to think like reporters. We need to know the beats they cover, the tone of their pieces, and what ultimately interests them in terms of topics. We have a head start if we ourselves first came from the world of print or broadcast journalism given that we used to be on the receiving line of frequent PR inquiries day after day. But even if we didn’t start out in this field, it’s our imperative to shape a client’s messaging in such a way that it sounds like it’s coming from someone who did.

Time is of the essence in public relations. We all must adhere to deadlines all to better assist our clients with media strategy. The more adept we become at thinking ahead and anticipating next steps, the better we will ultimately be at having reporters pay attention to us more often than not.

Ira Kantor is an Account Supervisor at Greenough. Follow him on Twitter: @ira_kantor

Maria Kucinski

Maria is an account supervisor at Greenough where she manages media strategy and relations for a variety of mission-driven organizations. Her clients include American Student Assistance, The Museum of World War II, WBUR, and the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, among others.

Maria joined Greenough after a successful career entrenched in New York City’s art scene. She executed national media campaigns for a roster of high-profile museum clients at Resnicow and Associates; managed the careers of contemporary artists at the Cristin Tierney Gallery; oversaw the final tour of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company; and conducted fundraising for Robert Wilson’s avant-garde theater residency program, The Watermill Center. Maria is a graduate of New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. 

Educating the Next Generation of Marketers

The newest member of our integrated marketing team, Renée Herendeen, VP Marketing, traveled to Rhode Island earlier this week to speak about advertising and marketing at the University of Rhode Island.

For the past three years, Renée has partnered with the Advertising Educational Foundation ( to speak at local schools and colleges.  Quite often, professors work hard in their classrooms to bridge the gap between theoretical teachings and the realities of the workplace. The AEF created the “Inside Advertising Speakers Program” to connect some of the advertising and marketing industry’s most accomplished professionals with students who are pursuing a degree within the industry. Bringing in industry professionals provides students with the rare opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge of the ins and outs of advertising and marketing.  

Renée spoke to two senior-level classes. For the first class, Strategic Marketing Management, she focused on Strategic Media Planning and Buying. Prior to the presentation, she asked students to research brands that currently have an integrated multi-channel advertising approach and provide examples. Renée took the class through the strategic planning process and how to buy media effectively based on goals. She asked students to reflect on the campaigns they researched to help them understand the process from start to finish.

For the second class, Social Media Marketing, Renée spoke about targeting and the importance of understanding the customer journey. She asked the students to find a recent social media campaign that they have engaged with and consider whether it was targeted appropriately. She emphasized that understanding who your target audience is and their behaviors are integral pieces of the marketing planning process. Mapping out a customer journey truly allows for marketers to target customers throughout the entire buyer decision process.

For more information on the ‘Inside Advertisers Program’ visit

5 Steps to Applying Stimulus/Response Thinking to Social Marketing

How many of our Twitter followers are real buyers? What percentage of our tweets do followers actually see? Are those new Facebook likes really valuable over time? Certainly you’ve posed similar questions to your marketing team or agency. Getting answers to questions like these is challenging work—and well worth the effort. But even with access to so much data, we can still tell very little about customers and prospects by observing their relatively passive social network participation. To really understand behavior, we must rely on a concept that is both so simple yet so poorly applied in social marketing that it borders on stupidity: stimulus and response.

Most classically-trained marketers understand the concept of introducing an offer (stimulus) and waiting for a response. And over the years we’ve learned to not just measure uptake, but also to understand more about why and when a prospect actually becomes a real marketing-qualified lead. Significant investment is made in refining this process, but I hear too many stories about this discipline not finding its way into social engagement.

Before I go into five discipline-building tips, I must offer one strong caveat: I’m not saying that you should simply treat social networks like any other channel – these are venues for strategic brand storytelling, not lead gen repurposing. So, with that said, I offer five steps for bringing stimulus/response into your social marketing strategy:

  • Listen first. Take the time to understand your audience before engaging them – it’s okay to listen for a while. Don’t even think about promotion until you’re sure you understand the community’s vibe.
  • Earn your way in. Don’t think offer first. That will probably deliver new followers, friends, members and circle joiners who are undoubtedly there for the wrong reasons. Share, help and tell stories before you even think of asking for something.
  • Tailor, don’t generalize. Why not segment your followers, friends, members, etc., for more targeted, relevant campaigns. Sure, it takes more time, but you’d be surprised at how much more lift you get when you really understand what makes different segments unique. Generalize and you’ll just be another marketer to your audience.
  • Stimulate in bites, not batches. A campaign within social networks needn’t always be a fully-integrated, highly-structured program that relies on aggregated metrics alone. This is especially true in B2B marketing where five well-nurtured social contacts could actually make a salesperson’s quarter. Try to understand a few prospects better through bites of engagement and tailored offers and see what that yields.
  • Study responses by hand. If you’ve listened, earned your way in, tailored your campaign and taken the extra effort to engage in bites, you likely have a good idea of who’s who in your strategically-expanding social ecosystem. Look at who they are, study commonalities and refine your content strategy to match your ideal prospects. Don’t simply generalize anymore.

We love data at Greenough. We pore over it daily, but we also understand that social marketing isn’t driven by data alone. Yes, stimulus and response works well with highly-structured data analysis, and you should have a plan for that too, but don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and use it like a conversation instead of simply a scientific probe.

Scott Bauman is executive vice president at Greenough.

Greenough’s Evolution Continues

Today, as we enter our “teens” as a company, we formally announced a new organization structure and the leaders to guide the agency. The changes - detailed on our recently relaunched web site - are really an evolution, another milestone on a journey started in 1999. To be sure, Brand Storytelling, our unique approach to helping clients break through the clutter to engage key constituents, remains the core of our marketing services. Yet as the marketing landscape changes, we continue to evolve how Brand Storytelling manifests in client programs. And that is where our new team structure makes all the difference.

Today we bring a laser focus to research, planning, strategy, messaging, social media, media relations, content development, social CRM and measurement. The focus comes from leaders who are experts in their domains: media, content, social marketing and client service. We’re not asking our team members to be all things to everyone. An inch deep and mile wide won’t get it done, so we flipped that one on its head. Our media is singularly focused on media. 24/7. Ditto for content. Social media. Research. Social CRM. And so on.

At the same time, as the only agency to formally and systematically measure client satisfaction from the day it opened its doors, Greenough continues to put the most emphasis on client service, planning and results. Our measurement system is second to none. And our goal to keep our clients for a lifetime is further strengthened by the leadership and experience of the Client Services team and their counterparts and partners on the Creative Services team.

The combination of focus, skills, experience and leadership is unprecedented for us—and may be in the marketing services business as well. Our structure demands accountability from one another so we can deliver on our commitments. Maybe not much has changed after all. For more detail on our reorganization, click here.

Phil Greenough is president of Greenough. He can be reached via email at or follow him on twitter @philgreenough.