The key to success in marketing and especially PR is what I call burnishing the brand. The spotlight here is on leveraging the insatiable appetite for roundups — periodic postings regarding market and/or thought leaders, along with expert commentary.
Roundups take many forms. Industry and financial analyst firms, for example, tend to release summaries of their detailed research as publicly available roundups on their own websites or through various media outlets. They are written as summaries because the actual detailed analyses are sold as a premium service. Information portals love third-party roundups and those based on internal surveys and interviews. There is a very good reason for this: roundups generate outsized numbers of page views. Let’s face it — everyone wants to know where they and their competitors stand in the eyes of trustworthy experts. Free and at-a-glance access is sufficient.
Nevertheless, roundups can be double-edged swords. Good market and/or thought leadership recognition pleases stakeholders like customers, investors, partners, and employees. Being left out or ending up with poor positioning can have a profoundly negative impact. For example, think about the impact of landing in the dreaded lower left quadrant of a Gartner Magic Quadrant or not being included at all, versus placement in the coveted upper right quadrant.
In short, the rewards can be great. The risks, however, must not be ignored. That’s why relying on skilled public relations professionals is critical. PR should know the who, what, when, where, why, and how details about roundups to help ensure that the information is properly utilized as part of overall brand stewardship efforts.
Round them up and head them out.
For content providers — assuming analysts or editorial have established boundaries between them and the business side to eliminate conflicts of interest — roundups are analogous to cowboys herding cattle and heading them out. For cattle call subjects it is much more complicated. Business realities and objectives are overriding concerns. Indeed, all of the variables affecting company readiness for public evaluation must be considered in judging whether to answer the call to join the herd for evaluation or not.
Getting the most out of a decision to participate in a roundup — or roundups — is a process that involves significant strategy and execution. My PR agency has done many successful roundup placements for clients. Below are a few tips I’d like to share based on years of experience doing roundups.
I’m ready for my close-up.
From PR’s perspective, it all starts with a full appreciation of the importance to clients of being recognized, regardless of their stage of maturation. This should facilitate a frank and informed discussion as to the costs and benefits of pursuing specific roundup inclusion opportunities. For instance, a client may feel unimportant to people in the sector if they don’t make a certain list. That said, if the criteria for evaluation is certain to cast a poor light on the company, private hurt feelings are preferable to public disparagement.
The upside to roundups is significant. In most instances, they should carry significant weight in your PR efforts. That said, knowing roundup deadlines and rules is vital. Missing one of these can put you in an uncomfortable place with your clients. Many of the things to consider may seem basic, but they are important. Sweating the details is key.
Checklist items should include:
- Will the roundup declare a winner or be neutral?
- If declaring a winner is part of the roundup, significant homework is required. Questions to be answered include:
- Has this roundup been done before? If so, who won and why?
- Do your product, history for innovation and management team stack up?
- Can deficiencies be explained satisfactorily?
- Will there be testing, and will it be done by third parties?
Next on the list are the details for playing and having a plan to make the client “judging friendly.” Start with an obvious question: do I have a reviewer’s guide that walks the reviewer/writer through my best features?
If you don’t already have a reviewer’s guide, you will need to develop one. Tips on creating reviewer’s guides include:
- Write a reviewer’s guide tailored to specific reviewers (if he or she is that important). The more insights about the reviewer, the better.
- Anticipate questions and concerns using previous reviews for guidance.
- If possible, provide your own validated and repeatable test results from a trusted resource.
- Assign a team to personally handle your reviewer. They should:
- Identify and appoint internal experts to answer questions and monitor their interactions.
- If appropriate or requested, have a satisfied customer prepared and available to talk to your reviewer.
What if the roundup does not declare a winner or possibly leaves out rankings?
If the roundup you choose is neutral, have answers ready for these questions:
- What makes us stand out?
- What makes us memorable?
- What exciting images, videos, slide decks or thumbnails can be offered to the reviewers?
Increasing the chance of a favorable review obviously starts with having confidence that your product or service is one the market wants. Other factors include demonstrated success or a unique, current and future-oriented approach that stands out. But it all starts with knowing what makes sense for your company/client at any given time.
Roundups can be great ways to burnish a brand. Just be sure to employ careful consideration to mitigate the risks of being tarnished. A well-thought-out and executed strategy for dealing with the entire landscape of roundup opportunities, as part of overall brand stewardship, should be on your must-do list.
This article first appeared in Forbes.