What do Jack Welch, Stephen R. Covey, and Richard Branson all have in common? Well, besides being some of the best-known business leaders in the world, they’ve all used ghostwriters. Hmmm…could there be a connection between those two things? Almost certainly. Why? Because executives have a lot on their plate, and to stay ahead and run competitive companies, they need to stay at the 100,000-foot level. This elevated perspective often makes executives great thinkers, but poor writers. And that’s OK. In fact, it’s expected. As many as 60% of nonfiction books are supported by ghostwriters. Ghostwriters articulate the grand ideas of thought leaders. So what does a ghostwriter do for you and how can executives use a ghostwriter? Consider these 3 reasons every CEO needs a ghostwriter.

CEOs: Publish or Perish

It used to be that only academics were expected to publish ideas and CEOs were exempt from that expectation, today, CEOs truly need a ghostwriter to fulfill content expectations. Despite the dearth of content out there, stakeholders from your board, investors, and even customers expect CEOs to lead, and part of leadership today is sharing original thoughts. Now, notice, this does not mean that you must post on Instagram every day, and it doesn’t even mean you need to post on LinkedIn every day. It does mean that you must create thoughtful, original content regularly. Good news, a ghostwriter can help you with that. Ghostwriters have two very particular skills: listening and extracting. In order for ghostwriters to be successful, they sometimes need to ask probing questions and to articulate the idea in the originator’s voice. So help your ghostwriter help you. Sit down with them and just share ideas, let them see inside your point of view, and your ghostwriter will come up with a consistent stream of ideas from a few hours together.

Watch What You Say: Platform and PR

As a thought leader, publish your ideas consistently. Sometimes that may be on a platform you can control – like your corporate website, or even Medium. Which platform you choose will depend on your thought leadership strategy. For example, if the CEO’s job is to secure investment, then Medium.com is a great place to publish, it’s still a Silicon Valley content darling, even after all these years. But if the executive wants to be seen as hip but accessible, perhaps as part of a larger corporate branding initiative, then a Substack newsletter might be more appropriate. If the CEO is creating commentary on something currently in the news, then a contribution to an industry vertical or a national newspaper could be in order. It’s important that the platform strategy be part of the ghostwriter’s process so they can take into account not only the CEO’s voice, but the culturally accepted tone within the platform or outlet. A ghostwriter can help a CEO decide platform and tone – just another reason every CEO needs a ghostwriter.

 

Fill Up the Trust Bucket

It’s no secret that CEOs have a spotlight on them like never, as do their companies, this a truly compelling reason why an executive should use a ghostwriter. Over the years, we’ve seen thousands of CEO apologies on almost as many platforms. Not all apologies are created equally and not all crisis responses are the same, each situation is truly different. But, for a CEO who is comfortable with a ghostwriter, an apology can be a much easier, and faster process. Like anything, when there is a relationship, the ghostwriter can be a critical partner to the CEO, and the PR agency tasked with developing a response or apology. Having a trusted ghostwriter not only helps in a crisis, but they may also help reduced the severity of the crisis because the CEO’s thought leadership has lead to increased trust in the CEO and the brand. And nowhere is trust more important than an unpredicted crisis.

 

At Avaans PR, we offer thought leadership programs as part of our bespoke PR programs, but also as a stand-alone option with our thought leadership PR program. We offer this as a stand-alone program because we know every CEO needs a ghostwriter and a strong PR strategy for thought leadership.

What is a Purpose-driven strategy? It’s the natural evolution of four converging cultural changes, the first is when social, cultural, and environmental issues became more visible and urgent, followed by consumers who expect brands to connect with nonprofits or social impact, driven by a lack of confidence in government to solve big problems, and finally, institutional investors evaluating environmental, social governance (ESG). Purpose puts a movement and impact first. Purpose-driven companies understand when society, the environment, and our collective well-being are doing well—businesses do better too.

Purpose-Driven Strategies have Three Key Pillars:

Employee and Systemic Engagement, Externally Virtuous, Meaty Measurable. 

These pillars of purpose require a company to be engaged in a systemic way, are independent of sales, and the impact should be both audacious and measurable. While purpose-driven strategies may give way to recruiting advantages, brand valuation, and competitive advantages, those are not the driving outcomes behind purpose. Purpose-driven PR is not the driving motivation behind purpose-driven implementations. The defining commitment of purpose is when it takes precedence over profitswhen internal culture is SO strong, so empowered, that decisions at all levels are made with a purpose in mind.

These Purpose Driven Strategy distinctions are important—because consumers—AND Investors are savvier than ever: They see through cause marketing campaigns with little authenticity. They’re alert to saying one thing, but doing another -greenwashing is so common it had a name.  Distrust in governments continued to decrease, while expectations of businesses continued to increase.

Purpose-driven strategies differ from the historical ways brands engaged with movements and nonprofits.

The Difference Between Purpose-Driven and Social Impact

Although used interchangeably sometimes, purpose and social impact are different. What exactly is purpose-driven strategy? It’s a deep, sustained engagement for change by which the company recognizes its own impact, including internally, at the corporate level. Social impact is 100% external and very often involves inspiring a stakeholder community, like customers, to work together for a sustained period. For this reason, businesses usually engage in social impact in partnership with nonprofits.

The Difference Between Purpose Driven Strategies and Philanthropy

The difference between purpose-driven strategies and philanthropy is based on the level of engagement the company commits to. Traditionally philanthropy was a broad term used to describe when a business contributed to a cause – anything from a social nonprofit to fundinga building or a program at a college. This type of giving required very little else from the company outside of the donation. Companies often used philanthropy to attract other monied investors or achive other strategic goals, but on the surface, having a philanthropic donation very often align with a marketing campaign or a PR campaign. Philanthropy also usually had very little to do with employees and customer activism or interests.

The Difference Between Purpose Driven Strategies and Corporate Giving

That gave way to CORPORATE GIVING –programs. The United Way is an outstanding example of corporate giving, this is when an organization encourages its employees to unite behind a single cause to create a greater donation scale. At this stage, companies get more involved as multiple departments such as PR, or HR to create systems and messaging around corporate giving. Companies whose employees give a lot receive recognition in the community. Corporate giving gave employees the opportunity to easily give to an organization; some corporate giving programs allow employees to choose a cause that was important to them, but in the most traditional sense, the executive team partnered with a nonprofit to create a corporate giving program.

The Difference Between Purpose Driven Strategies and Cause Marketing

CAUSE MARKETING are initiatives that tied sales to a corporate donation  – started in 1983 when Amex donated a penny to restoring the Statue of Liberty every time someone used their card—cardholders grew 45% and card usage increased by 28%. By 2013, 76% of consumers thought it was OK for brands to support good causes and make money at the same time. Before we knew it, there was a cause marketing campaign everywhere we looked, from pink ribbons to yogurt lids. Enterprises like Hersheys even had internal positions that combined marketing & corporate social responsibility.

If you’re interested in implementing purpose-driven strategies at your company, check out our free guide to implementing purpose. 

Today’s brands are looking for ways to differentiate. Brand storytelling trends for businesses and especially emerging industries or hyper-growth brands are an important strategy, especially those in competitive industries. Brand storytelling is an outstanding way to separate from the pack and it’s likely your competition hasn’t even tapped into this data.  Macro-trends for 2022 can provide insight into the brand stories you tell, what purpose to highlight, and even what platforms and channels you advertise on.

Fast-growing companies and industries in their infancy (drones and cannabis, for example) especially need to tap into these trends. Brand storytelling makes all the difference in public perception and brand superiority, especially for early movers who need to expand upon their advantages.

Whenever we’re looking to help our clients differentiate in PR, especially for fast-growing companies, one place we turn is Trend Hunter to see where brand values, initiatives, and ideals fit in with the trends of now. Regardless of pandemic status in 2022, the world is in flux. Where your customers and clients fall on these post-pandemic tensions may be a differentiator or a way to increase loyalty through your brand storytelling.

Now is really the time to think through your brand storytelling strategy for 2022, because effective storytelling is multi-faceted and requires commitment from the inside out.

The Big Box vs Local Trend in Brand Storytelling

One post-pandemic tension Trend Hunter touches on is the new push-pull between Big Box and Local shopping. Big Box includes huge online sites like Amazon, by the way, at least in the mind of the consumer. During the pandemic, many Americans woke up to realize the importance of supporting local restaurants and retail. Meanwhile, thousands upon thousands of small businesses populate Amazon. If you’re in the retail space, be thinking about this tension and how you will incorporate this consumer choice into your brand storytelling. Emerging industries and fast-growing brands seeking VC funding should absolutely tap into this trend, as it’s likely to be a defining trend for some time.

Big Box vs. Local reflects another macro-trend, and that’s a distinct distrust of the 1%, and especially the .05%. The pandemic only highlighted the enormous differences between the haves and the have-nots. While one portion of the U.S. population worried about keeping the heat on and long-term unemployment, another portion of the population was buying second homes, and banking the savings staying at home afforded them, and got on a plane to a remote island vacation at the first opportunity. This has led to a deepening sense of distrust for the super-rich.

Where are your customers on this tension and how can your storytelling reflect their current frame of mind on this issue? If you’re in the travel industry, you probably want to appeal to the portion of the country that’s feeling flush, unless, of course, you’re a discount brand. In either case, a humble origin story could be a well-placed media and advertising strategy.

 

The Robots vs. People Storytelling Trend

This one has been brewing for a while, but it’s really coming to a head as AI becomes more integrated and the country confronts global supply chain issues. This is an interesting trend because there are so many stories to be told on both sides of the equation. Even technology companies can tell stories about people, so now is a great time to think about how the technology trend is affecting your customers and where your brand storytelling can tap into this trend.

A brand storytelling trend for businesses subtrend is  “Made in America” may take on higher importance from a branding perspective. The issue, with the “Made in America” storyline, is authenticity. Most products have at least a component or two imported from elsewhere. Ironically, if you’re a foreign company operating in the U.S. you can incorporate both these trends by highlighting your commitment to people. But if you’re a U.S. brand, this story, tread lightly about how you use this trend in your brand storytelling.

 

How Big Media vs. Creators will Affect Storytelling

This is a trend started by influencers, but today’s influencers, at least the big ones now have agents and are more closely associated with the elite than your neighbor. Naturally, for every rule there are exceptions, but today’s consumer looks at an Instagram influencer with 10 million followers and imagines they live very different lives; there is an aspirational value to that, so by all means, brand accordingly because luxury marketing is still incredibly relevant.

Meanwhile, influencers aren’t the only creators in today’s global marketplace. Illustrators, artists, and writers are all finding places to hone and monetize their craft. For example, Substack made a brilliant play by tapping into BOTH these trends. On one hand, Substack contracted with content creators and creatives who are well-known or famous because of their associations with major brands. For example, journalists who write for huge publishing companies, but have their own following, have found Substack can be a fruitful side hustle (in 2020, the top 12 subscriptions averaged over $160K). Meanwhile, all these famous names exposed readers to fresh voices as well.

You can think about this push-pull as you consider ad buys as well. Are your consumers more responsive on big platforms like Facebook or in the niche communities of TikTok?

 

Monitor these 3 trends and others as you think through your 2022 brand storytelling for businesses. Tapping into the macro trends helps you understand whether you should “zig” or “zag.” Brand storytelling trends for emerging industries or hyper-growth brands requires a particularly deft touch and emotional intelligence. Do your research to be sure you’re using these trends in ways your customers can relate to them.

Ways for Startups  & Hypergrowth Companies to Inspire Radical Employee Loyalty

This presentation will take you less than 5 minutes to get through but will make you re-think your startup marketing efforts permanently.

In today’s world where disruption is everywhere, it’s never been more important for hyper-growth companies and their executives to think holistically about their marketing and PR – inside and outside.

Leaders at even the fastest growing companies can create empowered, full-filled employee advocates that supercharges every single business goal. 

How can CEOs of today’s fastest growing companies create thriving cultures where employees are your best advocates?

 

Download the presentation here:

Employee Advocacy for the Startup for Hypergrowth CEO

 

Plan for public relations success with these critical 3 tips

A little advance planning can make all the difference between public relations success and public relations frustration.  Public relations is increasingly important for companies and there’s nothing like a new year to give your brand and company a fresh image. PR firms are here to be your partners in success. As you pull levers for world domination next year, lean on your  PR firm so that together you’re on the same page about how you mutually define success. Here are 3 tips for working with a PR firm or formulating your in-house PR plan.

1.Determine Your Measurable PR Goals for Public Relations Success

PR success comes when there’s absolute clarity about goals. Your PR goals should match your business goals; make sure your PR firm knows how you’re REALLY defining success. Don’t hide your perspective from your PR firm and expect that the results you want will magically appear.  Make sure your  PR goals align and support your activations, product launches, and partnerships.

PR and marketing goals and KPIs should be:

  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant

The two most important considerations when defining your goals is ensuring that they are measurable and ambitious enough to be significant, but attainable with your budgets and efforts.

Measuring your PR and marketing efforts should include a baseline so you can track improvement. If you don’t have a baseline, you may need to evaluate how you will measure success and it may require something like an industry average or an industry survey. At Avaans, we include a number of KPIs during our monthly reviews, these KPIs are tracked the same way every month, so over time, we can really pinpoint what works and what doesn’t for each brand. We’re completely transparent with our clients about how we came to those KPIs and why they’re important for us to track internally for cannabis PR success.

Attainability is an important KPI. If you’re shooting for the stars, make sure all your assets are in place to support that goal. Assets also include time and brainpower.

There should be KPIs for marketing and KPIs for PR that have crossover. For example, new website visitors, inbound links to your website, both of those metrics will be impacted by both PR and marketing initiatives.  Sometimes we hear people say that they don’t want to give PR and Marketing joint KPIs because they feel it reduces responsibility, but when your KPIs are aligned with your overall business goals that encourages your PR firm and marketing agency to work together to accomplish the company’s mission-ultimately it’s not about pitting one set of KPIs against one another, it’s about achieving success and measuring respective impact.

2. Define Your Target Audiences

As a PR firm who works with highly ambitious brands, we often hear goals like “We want to be featured in XYZ publication.

When a single piece of press helps secure millions of dollars in funding, throwing all your efforts at securing that press is worth almost any PR and activations fees. That’s a great goal, so consider who your ultimate audience really is for any given publication so you can set yourself up for  public relations success. Many times, public relations  success is defined by share of voice within a specific audience.

Your audiences may be in the B2B space, they may be  consumers, they may be investors or partners. Be clear on who you’re trying to reach with each KPI and objectives-share your objectives with your PR firm, so they’re clear on where you REALLY want to be.

Sometimes earning national press even when you’re only in a few markets is strategic as the audience is potential investors or industry partners who like knowing that the brands they’re partnering with have enough clout to secure national coverage.  Alternatively, you may want to show that your brand is well received by multiple consumer types, in which case you may wish to have press in particular interest verticals.

3. Plan for Public Relations Success and Budget Your Activities

Public relations is an incredibly broad level to pull. Within your budget, you should be allocating events, sponsorships, social media, media relations, and asset/owned media development.

Chances are, in order to reach your pr and cannabis marketing goals, you’ll need to execute on some initiatives.

And, you’ll need a corresponding budget for these activities. A good marketing and public relations firm can help you allocate your budget to match your objectives.

At the very least they can tell you how to best allocate an over-all budget or at least inform you of best practices and first steps. A great example of this is events – events can be held for all sorts of objectives, from customer appreciation to media awareness. While both of those objectives MIGHT turn into earned media, it’s important you consider what it will take to earn press coverage on an event, before you spend the money on an event. Sponsorships are another area where the activation is an important marketing objective, but PR may be able to help you define some ways to use your sponsorship in a way that improves your industry image or earns you media coverage.

Need Some More Direction? Give Us a Call

Telling your company story is imperative and corporate storytelling is as much of an art form as writing a novel.

Yes, a PR company can help, but in order to be effective AS a story, it needs to be told and re-told, which means everyone has to be able and willing to tell the story. Additionally, your story will influence your company culture, the way your customers relate to you, everything. It’s important to get the story right.

You’ve probably heard that there are only 7 basic stories ever written. Every single story falls into one of these categories – each its own journey:

Overcoming the Monster
Rags to Riches
The Quest
Voyage and Return
Comedy
Tragedy
Rebirth

One of the great modern-day corporate stories is Steve Jobs returning to Apple after his humiliating exit. It’s a “Voyage and Return” story. Look closely at those stories. What’s missing? The motivation, the characters, the setting and/or place. This is where telling your story becomes individualized and authentic. Personally, I believe one of the most compelling story aspects is motivation, but setting/place can also set a compelling stage for the journey and the characters. What makes Steve Jobs return so compelling is the setting/the time. Apple was in trouble. Big trouble. It was his chance to return to his visionary roots and undoubtedly, his time away from Apple contributed to the turn-around.

So let’s look at a few of the OTHER elements that contribute to great corporate storytelling.

The Character

In corporate story-telling, the character can be a founder or the brand. The best brands have personalities all of their own. One of my absolute favorite brands is Coca-Cola. For over 30 years, their brand has been a happy one, spreading joy around the world. I envision Coca-Cola’s brand persona as a group of people from around the world smiling together and laughing together as the life of the party, the center of the action, the group everyone gathers around. Notice how my character is defined by the setting (the world, the party), we’ll get to the setting in a minute. The point is to envision your brand as a persona, who are they? Are they serious or comedic? Are they reserved or wild? Are they old or young? Your brand is as complex as a person, so you can enjoy the multiple aspects of your brand, but the important thing is to choose no more than 1-2 personality elements to focus on. Simplicity creates powerful brands, and multiple personalities muddle them.

Keep in mind, in our example of Steve Jobs,  Steve Jobs doesn’t make the story compelling, Steve Jobs is more compelling (as a character, an icon) because of the story. This is true of all stories – the character is made great by the other elements of the story, not the other way around. Without the other elements in the story, there are no compelling characters.

Motivation and/or Inspiration

Marketers will recognize this is “The Why.”   What’s the compelling motivation behind the main character’s actions? Is it service? Is it retribution? Is it righting a wrong? Is it glory?  Great motivations drive action. Sometimes, in novels or films, a truly compelling character will have conflicting motivations, this can be true in corporate storytelling as well. For example, perhaps the character is driven by both the need to serve and glory. Humans often have conflicting motivations, but for the purposes of corporate story-telling, it’s most effective to emphasis one motivation. In corporate story-telling, we rarely have 1,000 or more pages to develop our character’s motivation. Focus on a single motivation as the driver.

Interestingly, using the above example of Steve Jobs’ motivation, in the corporate story about Jobs’ return, the motivation is left absent. This is brilliant because it leaves us all to wonder and speculate what his motivation really was. Personally, I believe the reason its left out of this corporate story is it’s probably unflattering, but leaving it out makes the motivation as absent even more powerful than if it had been included.

The Setting/Time

In corporate story-telling, the setting and time are often represented as the “ah-ha” moment, which is made richer by what was happening to the character or in the world at that moment. Was the character liberated? Frustrated? Was there an event that triggered the action? Perhaps the setting/time impacted the motivation and most certainly impacted the action.

Take for example the Coca-Cola brand, they started spreading joy at a time when globalism was really first taking hold, also during a time of great cultural upheaval for the United States, 1971. The “I’d like to buy the world a Coke,” is considered the world’s most famous commercial and it’s joy and happiness is in direct contrast to what was happening in the United States at the time. Somehow, the brand of Coke delivered a much-needed smile to America. In fact, the story behind the creation has similar-it happened under frustrating circumstances.   Coca-Cola didn’t hold a mirror up to us, it provided us with an escape. Since then, Coca-Cola has always focused on creating moments of joyous respite, during the best of times and the worst of times.

 

Keep in mind, while you must have all these components in a story, one of these components will be the star in your corporate storytelling. In the Coca-Cola brand example, the star is the setting. In the Steve Jobs story, the star is the journey.

If it’s time to create or reinforce your story, begin with taking stock of these elements, determine where your strength is and be sure to simplify your story so it’s easy to tell. If you’re “stuck” with your story, contact us. We will help you create a story worth telling and even work with you to create content that tells your story.