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Duncan Hopwood

How to break into a new market using the power of thought leadership

February 21, 2019

How do you build your firm’s PR profile, raise awareness and develop a reputation in a sector where you have yet to make your mark? Or how about if you do have a track record in a sector but your customers won’t let you talk about the projects you’ve done for them?

These are common public relations challenges for many firms in the property and construction sector. So we have worked hard to find ways to overcome them. One of the most effective of these is the op ed.

In case you haven’t come across that acronym before, it’s an American journalistic term for opinion and editorial articles. These are typically longer, feature-length pieces where the author gives his or her opinion on a particular subject.

That gives you the opportunity to talk about a subject in your target sector without having to mention any customer names or even having a track record in that sector at all.

With our background in journalism and our knowledge of the property and construction sector, we believe we are better placed than many agencies to provide thought-provoking, insightful articles on behalf of our clients. These go down well with editors of print and online media, leading to media coverage of your brand. They’re also valuable on your website because Google gives a higher rating to sites with authoritative, in-depth content.

Rather than showing off your projects, op eds allow you to demonstrate your expertise. Readers who are attracted by the subject matter of your article should form the opinion: “Here is someone who knows what they’re talking about. Perhaps we should be talking to him or her.”

Sounds like a lot of work? If you do it yourself, it is, and because of other commitments, it might not get done at all. You may simply not have the skills in-house to produce this kind of work to the level that will satisfy the media and the search engines. For these reasons alone, it makes sense to outsource to an agency such as ourselves.

If you like, you can provide notes or even a draft article for us to edit, but the most effective way we think is for us to interview you, augment that with some research of our own and draft the article for you to approve. What might have taken hours of your time with no promise of a decent result will now only require half an hour of your time with the confidence that the finished piece will be journalistic quality and ready for publication in print and online media, and it will be Google-friendly too.

Furthermore, we have extensive databases of media, allowing us to target op eds at the titles and journalists who are most likely to use them. We monitor planned features so that we can see when particular media are planning to feature particular subjects, and pitch to them. And we look out for media enquiries on your behalf so that when journalists contact us looking for someone to write an article for them in one of your target sectors, we respond on your behalf. That, in our experience, is one of the best ways of generating high profile national newspaper coverage, the holy grail for many would-be PR stars.

Let’s look at an example. Our clients, Maber Architects, were looking to develop their reputation in the airports sector. In areas where they Maber has a higher profile reputation, such as education and housing, we would generate news releases about projects, case studies, client interviews and other content that demonstrated their track record.

For airports, that wasn’t an option because it was a relatively new market for them and one where customer confidentiality prevented them talking about the work they had done within it. Nonetheless it was an area that Maber still wanted to build profile.

We had been talking to them about doing more op ed pieces and had already had some success. So we brought this idea to the airports challenge and produced a piece about the future design of airports. It couldn’t draw on their track record in airports for the reasons mentioned but it did draw on their knowledge of design and their experience in the hospitality and leisure sector. In particular, the article drew strong parallels with the hotel sector, encouraging airport planners and management to think about customer care in the way that the best hoteliers do.

Chris Radcliffe, Maber’s head of interiors, provided us with his thought, and we turned these into a feature piece quoting him, thereby establishing not only Maber’s thought leadership in the field but also the fact that they employ relevant experts.

We distributed the feature to our contacts database. We also reviewed planned forward features, looking for publications planning to write about airports and airport design in particular. The results were excellent.

The piece was widely published, including in Airport World. In common with several other online publications, Airport World included a link to the Maber website, which is valuable for search engine visibility as Airport World has a healthy domain ranking of 48. Maber was also able to publish the article on their website, and link to it across social media, driving visitors to their website and reinforcing the implied third-party endorsement of reputable media channels that had featured the release.

The keys to success were Maber’s ability to talk intelligently about the subject, the strength of our media databases and research, and our ability, based on a quality journalistic pedigree, to deliver authoritative, in-depth content, relevant to the media concerned and their target audiences.

Is there a market where you want to build your profile and reputation? Could we do something similar for you or help in another way? Find out now. Please contact us for a no obligation discussion.