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What comes to mind when you think about the thought leaders you admire the most? Is it book tours, massive stages, TED Talks, keynote appearances, or even YouTube accounts and Instagram profiles? There is no shortage of distinct insights and perspectives in the modern digital world; yet, even if someone expresses their beliefs online eloquently only sometimes qualify them as a thought leader. The distinct qualities of a thought leader make them stand out from others.

So, Who Is a Thought Leader?

Highly respected, a thought leader is an individual with expertise and innovative ideas in a particular field, the one everyone looks to for guidance and inspiration. Known for their ability to think creatively and develop fresh perspectives and solutions to problems, they may be researchers, educators, executives, or other professionals who can effectively communicate their ideas, inspire others to think differently, and consider new possibilities.

What Does a Thought Leader Do?

So, what does a thought leader do? Well, thought leaders are pioneers and innovators at the forefront of new developments and trends, known for their knowledge and expertise in areas of focus. They consistently seek further information to expand their understanding. Besides sharing ideas and insights through various mediums, thought leaders may also hold other responsibilities, such as teaching, researching, or leading an organization.

Characteristics of a Thought Leader

When an individual backs up their words with their actions, and others believe what they say, that person gains credibility, respect, and a thought leadership position. Here are some key characteristics of a thought leader and what sets these individuals apart as true thought leaders in their field:

(1) Deep Knowledge and Expertise 

One of the critical characteristics of a thought leader is their deep knowledge and expertise in their area of focus-thoroughly understanding the subject and staying current with the latest research and developments in the field. Thought leaders constantly learn and seek new information to expand their knowledge and stay ahead of the curve.

(2) Ability to Communicate Ideas Effectively

Another characteristic of a thought leader is their ability to communicate their ideas effectively. Including being able to articulate complex concepts clearly and concisely, having strong writing skills, and the ability to engage an audience. Generally, thought leaders use a variety of mediums, such as writing articles, giving talks, or using social media, to share ideas and insights.

(3) Creative and Innovative Thinking

In addition to their knowledge and communication skills, thought leaders are also known for their creativity and innovative thinking. Nearly all thought leaders think outside the box and come up with fresh perspectives and solutions to problems. They are fearless in challenging the status quo and propose new ideas, even controversial or unconventional ones.

(4) Vision and Strategic Thinking

Thought leaders have a crystal clear picture of the future and can think strategically about how to accomplish the objectives that they have set for themselves. They take in the whole situation and consider how their choices will affect the greater picture in the long run while outlining a path to achievement and motivating others to follow it to achieve ultimate success.

(5) Strong Leadership Skills

As the name suggests, thought leaders inspire and encourage individuals to succeed. They can establish a productive and cooperative working atmosphere that encourages creative and innovative thinking. They can successfully delegate responsibilities to others, which allows them to develop trust and credibility within the team and the stakeholders.

(6) Ability to Build Relationships

Those considered thought leaders can cultivate robust ties and extensive networks within their respective fields. They can form connections with other individuals and work together on various projects and activities. They can leverage their networks to get information and insights and keep up with the most recent advances in their industry, allowing them to remain updated.

(7) Dedication and Passion

Thought leaders are fully devoted to their area and highly enthusiastic about their job. They are motivated by a strong sense of purpose and the desire to have a good influence on the world. They are also committed to putting in the long hours and showing the devotion necessary to accomplish their objectives and positively impact their respective field.

(8) Ethical and Values-Driven

Strong ethical principles and a dedication to always acting in the most morally commendable manner are other characteristics common among thought leaders. Dedicated to fostering a bright and sustaintainable future, they make their choices in a way open to scrutiny and actively seek improvements. Also, they balance the company’s requirements and duties toward society and the environment.

(9) Adaptability and Resilience

Thought leaders are resilient in the face of adversity and can adjust their approach to new situations effectively. They can draw valuable lessons from their mistakes and turn them into chances for personal development and advancement for themselves and others. Thought leaders concentrate on their objectives and keep moving ahead despite fundamental challenges.

(10) Authenticity and Humility

Thought leaders always maintain a high level of authenticity and sincerity in their interactions with others while earning respect and credibility from those around them. They are confident in who they are and don’t have any issues with being themselves in public. Finally, they are modest leaders who acknowledge the contributions of others and make an effort to learn from whoever comes across them.

A Note on CEO Thought Leadership

CEO thought leadership is a specific form of thought leadership that occurs at the highest levels of an organization. As far as the definition is concerned, a CEO thought leader is an executive who not only has a deep understanding of their particular industry and company but also can inspire and motivate others to achieve success. These individuals can effectively communicate their vision and strategy to the team and stakeholders and build buy-in and support for their ideas.

In addition to their role within their organization, CEO thought leaders also often have a broader impact on their industry and society. They may be called upon to speak at conferences or be featured in media outlets, and their ideas and insights are often highly sought after.

CEO thought leadership requires a combination of knowledge, communication skills, strategic thinking, and leadership abilities to create a positive, collaborative work environment that fosters innovation and progress. Simply put, CEO thought leaders significantly impact their organization and industry and are an invaluable asset to any company—and we couldn’t agree more.

How to Become a Thought Leader?

Here are a few steps you can take to become a thought leader in your respective field:

  • Identify your area of expertise: To become a thought leader, you must deeply understand a particular subject. Identify the areas in which you have the most knowledge and expertise.
  • Build your credibility: To be seen as a thought leader, you must establish yourself as a credible source of information. This can be done through speaking engagements, writing articles or books, and sharing your expertise through social media or other online platforms.
  • Engage with your audience: Thought leaders are experts and thought starters. Thus, to become one, you must engage with your audience by asking and answering questions, starting conversations, and seeking opportunities to share your expertise with others.
  • Network and collaborate with other thought leaders: Thought leaders are often part of a larger community of experts. Build relationships with other thought leaders in your field and collaborate with them on projects or initiatives. You can also connect with them on LinkedIn.
  • Stay current: Thought leaders constantly learn about the latest developments in their field. Continually educate yourself and stay current on the latest trends and research.

By following these steps, you can establish yourself as a respected expert and have the opportunity to shape public opinion, influence decision-making, and positively impact your field.

Famous Thought Leaders to Follow

Each of these thought leaders is an expert in their fields, but they have also used the PR tools at their disposal to become industry or household names.

  • Malcolm Gladwell: Malcolm Timothy Gladwell is a best-selling author and Canadian journalist who writes about the social sciences, psychology, and human behavior.
  • Simon Sinek: Simon Oliver Sinek is a British-born American motivational speaker and author known for his work on leadership and organizational behavior and multiple best-sellers.
  • Brené Brown: Casandra Brené Brown is a researcher, professor, lecturer, author, speaker, and Podcast host, who focuses on topics such as vulnerability, shame, and empathy.
  • Tim Ferriss: Timothy Ferriss is an American investor, entrepreneur, podcaster, lifestyle guru, and author who writes about productivity, time management, and self-improvement.
  • Seth Godin: Seth W. Godin is an American entrepreneur, former dot com business executive, speaker, and author who writes about marketing, branding, and business strategy.
  • Maria Popova: Popova is a Bulgarian-born, American-based essayist, writer, and editor who curates and comments on interesting articles, books, and other media on her blog.
  • Daniel Kahneman: Kahneman is an Israeli-American notable Nobel laureate and psychologist known for his work on decision-making, behavioral economics, and cognitive psychology.
  • Jim Collins: James C. “Jim” Collins is an American researcher, speaker, author, and business consultant known for his corporate strategy and leadership work in the corporate sector.

The Future of Thought Leadership

It is difficult to predict the future of thought leadership, as various factors, including technological advances, societal changes, and shifts in industries and markets, influence it. However, the role of thought leadership will likely continue to evolve and expand in the coming years. One potential trend is increased technology and social media use in thought leadership.

As more people turn to the internet for information and connection, thought leaders may find new ways to use online platforms to share ideas and engage with their audience. This may include using social media websites like YouTube or Facebook, blogging platforms, or creating online courses, Podcasts, or webinars. Another trend may be the rise of diverse and inclusive thought leadership.

As society becomes more diverse and globalized, there will likely be greater demand for thought leaders from various backgrounds and experiences, including thought leaders from underrepresented groups. Overall, the future of thought leadership will continue to be shaped by society’s changing needs, and thought leadership will play a crucial role in addressing these challenges and finding innovative solutions. It will continue to be a driving force for progress and change.

Final Thoughts

As you probably know by now, a well-rounded individual who is not bothered by being the focus of attention among the public is a thought leader. Believe it or not, it’s not a role for everyone, so before you pursue thought leadership status, be sure you’ve found the appropriate individual with all the characteristics of a thought leader to set your business on the right track toward success.

Finally, this brings us to the end of this blog; now it’s time to hear from you. Any questions or comments? Or maybe there’s something we missed? Either way, feel free to leave a comment below.

Are you wondering, “what is thought leadership?” Read on to find everything you need to know about the concept and its best practices!
Thought leadership is one of the words that rile up the buzzword police more than almost any other term. Joel Kurtzman, the founding editor-in-chief of “Strategy & Business” magazine, was the first to use the term in 1994 to refer to an individual who has an in-depth knowledge of a company marketplace, a comprehension of the customer’s requirements, as well as innovative and distinctive ideas and points of view. However, what does “thought leadership” mean in the 21st century?

What Is Thought Leadership?

Thought leadership is the dissemination of original and authentic information that draws on the author’s knowledge, perspective, and experience to impart some of that wisdom to other individuals. The three essential components of thought leadership are taking a position, adding to your knowledge, and creating value.

Some individuals believe that thought leadership should be presented in written material. This may require taking a public stance on the business’s contentious problem. Others argue that thought leadership is holding the position of a subject matter expert and using that status to influence a particular field or endeavor.

Thought leadership is a combination of the two. It’s disseminating information that is thought-provoking and based on research to propel change and provide educational value. However, it is not a destination in and of itself. The only way for thought leaders to create a meaningful business impact, which many economic indicators can show, is via the consistent and long-term execution of their ideas.

Who Are Thought Leaders?

Individuals considered knowledgeable opinion leaders and the go-to sources in their respective fields (in an industry, niche, or across an entire ecosystem) are known as thought leaders. They are the reliable sources that motivate others and inspire them with new ideas; convert those ideas into reality; and know how to reproduce the success and teach others how to do so.

Amanda Nguyen of Rise, Sara Blakely of Spanx, and Ron Finley, the co-founder of Green Grounds, who dresses up himself as the “Guerrilla Gardener” to encourage people in Los Angeles to cultivate gardens in deprived neighborhoods, are examples of thought leaders we admire. What makes them all unique? They are changing the world while encouraging others to join in.

Although thought leaders come in many shapes and sizes, they can come from any background or community. Yet, thought leadership is something that only some can achieve. Experts in their respective fields are often considered the most influential thought leaders. These specialists may be CEOs, writers, consultants, coaches, or enterprises (B2C and B2B).

Thought Leadership Best Practices for 2023 and Beyond

Whether you’re new to thought leadership or an experienced practitioner, this section has everything you need to know. So, continue reading to discover a step-by-step guide on designing, creating, and carrying out a thought leadership strategy like executive visibility with integrated communications, followed by best practices for 2023 and beyond.

Step 1: Outline Your Unique Goals
The first thing you need to do is figure out what you want to accomplish by putting yourself in a thought leadership position. To do this, review your current marketing objectives and think about how thought leadership may assist you in achieving each one, assuming it can do so. Suppose increasing business awareness is one of your PR objectives. In that case, writing a post on accessibility challenges that customers in your sector face may help you grab individuals’ attention.

Step 2: Assess Present Thought Leadership
Now is the time to study and investigate the different thought leadership currently present in your industry through online forums, commercial periodicals, academic journals, company blogs, and more. This entails researching yourself as well as your competitors. By acquiring a deeper understanding of the latest concepts and trends in thought leadership (from both your side and your competitor’s side), you’ll better comprehend the primary problems plaguing your sector.

Step 3: Identify Your Thought Leaders
Building a roster of thought leaders is the most brilliant move if you’re planning on discussing a wide range of subjects through your brand. Consider the essential specialists employed by or affiliated with the company firm. According to the feedback received from professionals in the relevant field from one of the studies, thought leader role models often have the following five characteristics:

  • Alignment with your company/brand and its ultimate mission and values
  • A thirst for conveying strong opinions, innovative ideas, and concepts
  • Both knowledgeable and passionate about the relevant industry/sector
  • Experienced in sharing real-life experiences publically with the audience
  • A loyal following (not only on social media but among the team members)

Now that you know how to identify thought leaders, the next step is to determine where they fall on an organizational level. For example, what does your company specialize in doing the best? Where do you put most of your focus? Think about the more prominent brand narrative and ideals you uphold. This way, it will be much easier to shortlist the most authentic thought leaders.

Step 4: Generate Your Distinct Thought-Leadership Content

When it comes to the process of content creation, writing articles as part of your thought leadership strategy is a smart place to begin since it demonstrates your expertise in your field. Once you believe you have a sound system for creating articles, try different mediums such as videos, podcasts, webinars, and eBooks. Before designing the material, you must first decide what themes you want to address. To do so, start with the following crucial steps:

  • Research topics by observing the latest trends in your niche and learning from others.
  • Map out the content production process by assigning duties to particular employees.
  • Finally, stay fluid in terms of publishing calendars to adjust to emerging new trends.

 

Be aware that as you publish material demonstrating thought leadership, you’ll also collect additional data on the returns of this content. By disclosing this information to your team leaders, you can inform them of how successful the plan is and the forms that will best connect with your audience.

Step 5: Dispense and Market Your Content

You may write the most engaging, helpful, and thought-provoking content possible, but if no one can discover it online, it won’t accomplish much. Thus, the essential part of any thought leadership campaign is the development of strategies for distributing and promoting the material. Read on to discover some effective marketing strategies to promote your thought-leadership content.

  • Start by promoting the content on external and internal company channels.
  • Pitch your content to publications, journalists, and other industry influencers.
  • Collaborate with non-competing brands via joint thought leadership content.
  • Reach out for contributions from relevant influencers and opinion leaders.
  • Analyze content creators in your industry to get new, unique insights.
  • Consider adding sponsored content by increasing your marketing budget.
  • Creating a dialogue is an essential component of thought leadership. Therefore, ensure that you follow through and directly connect with the communities, leaders, and influencers. If you run a more prominent company, hire reputation management experts to take care of this. However, if your company is smaller, your thought leader may need to take on a more active role.

Step 6: Measure the Outcome

It is crucial to monitor the success of your thought leadership marketing, just as it is necessary to measure the performance of any other strategy, to determine whether you are achieving your objectives. You may use several content metrics to measure performance and sales results. The following are the primary outcomes that may be generated through thought leadership content:

  • Backlinks
  • Organic Traffic
  • Media Mentions
  • Email Subscribers
  • Total Leads/Sales
  • Social Engagement

Consider experimenting with different ways of measuring progress. For example, you can regularly host thought leadership webinars and provide rating-based questionnaires to all registrants after each session. In addition, you may monitor to determine whether your webinar has attracted the target audience. It may be hard to believe, but this indicator is far more important than the registered individuals.

Best Practices to Follow in 2023 and Beyond

The ultimate goal of a thought leader is to make sure that their specialized skills and knowledge are shared with others to contribute to the expansion and success of the business. The essence of thought leadership is assisting other individuals in gaining a deeper awareness of themselves, identifying their unique contributions to the world, and positioning themselves for sustained success. So, how do we pave the path for thought leadership that works wonders?

Recognize the Area of Expertise
First things first, a thought leader must have a solid understanding of the topic, ensuring that they communicate their expertise straightforwardly and consistently. This contributes to the credibility that is established in the sector. In addition, thought leaders must be responsible for remaining focused on their areas of expertise while simultaneously disseminating information.
Be an Industry Expert
As soon as the thought leaders have determined their area of expertise in the field, it is time for them to become an authority in that particular area. To begin, aspiring thought leaders must ensure that they are continually present on what is occurring in the industry, what is new, what is effective, and what is not. The idea is to educate oneself first before attempting to teach other individuals.
Identify the Approach
This is an essential practice to follow. First, make an effort to comprehend the intended audience, then determine what they expect, and last, investigate potential solutions to guarantee that the appropriate data is sent. If the leaders do not have a clear aim and objective in mind, they simply won’t be adding to the noise, as the audience wouldn’t be able to take any value from it.
Use the Latest Technology
It is essential to carefully plan out content from the beginning to be an influential thought leader, and this goal may accomplish by using the latest technology. It gives groups and leaders the ability to devise improved tactics, which in turn makes thought leadership more effective. Not only that, but leaders may also use a content management system to store vital data and then distribute it.

Never Stop Learning
We’re all human, and we’re always learning. Therefore, those in thought leadership positions must realize that they should constantly be eager to learn new ideas and be open to criticism. In point of fact, gaining information and understanding through the real-life experiences and perspectives of others is the most effective method to do either. However, always remember; you do you.

Final Thoughts

Creating space for an effective thought leadership approach may result in several positive outcomes. Although it might be difficult and time-consuming, the rewards that will accrue to all those who want to or now hold the position of thought leader make it worthwhile.
At the end of the day, we can only hope that individuals around the world will be able to have a deeper understanding of thought leadership. They must make more informed choices by adhering to these best practices for 2023 and beyond.

Therefore, CEOs need to understand who their ideal customers are, and then they can choose the channel that would bring them the most success. CEO Thought Leadership is important for most of the decision-making process.
Finally, this brings us to the end of this blog; now it’s time to hear from you. Any questions or comments? Or maybe there’s something we missed? Either way, feel free to connect with us regarding our Thought Leadership Program, especially for busy executives.

If you’re a DTC company or work in a highly visable emerging industry, you’ve no doubt seen headlines about cyber breaches like malware and hacks that demand millions of bitcoin. In fact, 46% of all cyber breaches impact businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees (source). As the world becomes more digitized and cybercrime increases, the need for cyber insurance is something businesses should not overlook. If your company sells online, handles, transmits, or stores sensitive data, you need to know about these 3 types of cyber insurance.

Cyber insurance protects businesses from the monetary and reputational losses arising from a cyber incident that could jeopardize their future. It covers financial losses caused by events such as data breaches, cyber theft, ransomware, rogue employees, and simple mistakes and it covers crisis PR, up to a point.

Since most businesses often lack the resources or budgets of big corporations, cyber insurance can provide critical financial protection in the event of a cyberattack, helping them recover quickly.

Although insurers may have their own specific classifications, cyber insurance can be divided into three broad categories:

Cybertheft insurance

With more and more businesses storing sensitive data online, the risk of cyber theft is more prominent than ever. As a result, adequate insurance against this growing threat is critical. Cybertheft insurance protects businesses from financial losses caused by digital theft. This type of insurance can cover a variety of cybertheft scenarios, including first-party cybertheft, embezzlement scams, payroll redirection, and gift card scams.

Businesses of all sizes can be victims of cybertheft, and no business is too small to need cyber theft insurance.  Cyber incidents are so common, it’s not a matter of if, but when, your company will experience an incident. What will you do if your data or digital assets will be stolen? That’s why cyber theft insurance is so important for your business.

Cyber liability insurance

Cyber liability insurance includes third-party coverage for damages and losses, data breaches, regulatory penalties, credit monitoring, and lawsuits. This is an important type of insurance if you’re a DTC or e-commerce brand.

Cyber liability insurance is a vital tool for small businesses like yours because the financial ramifications of a cybersecurity breach can be more severe than you can handle. This does not mean you should panic right now; it simply means that having cyber liability insurance can help your business recover and move forward, even after a breach, without being stunted.

Planning is critical for reducing your data and brand liability with a security breach.

Cyber extortion insurance/ransomware insurance

Cyber extortion insurance protects businesses against ransomware attacks. Cyber extortion attacks often come with a clicking clock, so it’s important to have a plan. This type of insurance can help cover the cost of ransom payments, recovery expenses, business interruptions, and more. It can also provide access to a team of experts who can help with cyber extortion negotiations and forensics.

Keep in mind that an attack could still succeed even with the right cybersecurity solutions in place to protect your business. That’s why it’s critical to have cyber extortion insurance. It can help you recover from a ransomware attack and reduce the financial impact.

While you’re looking, keep these types of cyber insurance in mind. Cyber insurance is a complicated and ever-changing industry. Many factors can influence whether you qualify for a payout in the event of a cyberattack, and trying to remain compliant with your insurance policy can be difficult. Working with an IT service provider can help you better understand your options and ensure that you have adequate security in place, increasing your chances of receiving complete coverage.

Cyber insurance provides critical peace of mind, but you will still need to be prepared in case of an incident in order to have a successful claim. That’s why we’ve teamed up with Ignite Solutions to provide you with a risk analysis and cyber attack plan that ensures you get through the first 48 hours. Our cyber incident planning service protects your data AND your brand. 

 

What Should You Really Be Look For In A PR Firm?

Whenever I talk to someone hiring a PR firm, I really have empathy. We know, hiring a PR firm can be daunting. With increasing frequency, we’re hearing stories from clients who have experienced “bad PR.”  We hate to hear that, because we know it’s important for our entire professional to provide exceptional services. More importantly, we know it’s important to you when making a PR investment. What should you ask before hiring a modern PR firm?

We truly believe many of these stories are due to client and agency being a mismatch, rather than a “bad PR firm.” Taking a deeper look at PR before hiring them can save you money, but time.  We can attribute much of this to the vast distinctions between how PR agencies operate and handle their clients. The intention of this piece is to provide you with questions we would be asking OUR PR firm before we hired them, and why those questions are important. Also, consider these “6 great questions you can ask us before hiring Avvans PR”

6 Questions to Ask Before Hiring Your Next PR Firm

Do You Understand Our Product?

Ask yourself how important a baseline understanding of your product or industry is to your overall communications. We’ve heard story after story of people unhappy with their PR firm because their PR firm doesn’t understand an emerging industry’s regulations or a technology. Understanding the industry isn’t just important from a regulatory and technical perspective, it’s also the ability to monitor relevant news, understand what’s relevant (and what isn’t) and move quickly. Now, that’s not to say that a beauty PR can’t handle B2B PR for the industry, but expect to educate your firm.

What tradeshows and conferences has your team attended?
Does your PR firm understand what makes your product distinct within your industry?
What publications are writing about your vertical?

Before Hiring a PR Firm, Establish Clearly Defined Ways of Measuring Success for PR

Most companies today want consistent placement, strategic oversight, and outstanding communication. But what else? In a mature, less regulated industry, a PR firm typically works with multiple other firms from branding to experiential to an ad agency.

PR is THE leading brand trust and awareness tool.

In addition to earned media, companies should be looking at additional metrics for PR such as SEO value. Website traffic, brand mentions, brand name reach, and even share of voice are all KPIs that are relevant, depending on the overall strategy. Your PR firm should be ready and able to provide those kinds of metrics to you on a monthly basis. Changes in public perception or decreased sales cycle are also metrics with which PR can support. If you’re measuring your PR firm against KPIs like this, work with your PR firm to set a baseline and a reasonable timeframe.

Is the Fee Structure Fair & Does It Make Sense?

Most PR firms work on a retainer, so make sure you have an understanding of what’s included in your retainer?

Does the firm charge for wire releases?
Is branded content included, and if so, does that extend to graphic design?
Is there a markup on expenses incurred by the PR agency and if so, what is it?
Are off-site activations included?
How are hours tracked?

There’s no single way to manage a retainer, so asking questions like this upfront will give you a deeper understanding. Be fearless about asking these questions, after all, you’re the client. You should expect a rationale that isn’t arbitrary. While you may view this as a negotiation opportunity, be wary of cutting the budget to the point where your brand isn’t on the radar daily. You want your PR firm engaged with your brand on a daily basis – make sure you’re getting that because the alternative often provides unsatisfactory results. A great PR firm will be transparent about their billing methods.  Financial terms form the foundation of your relationship with your PR firm. Get that right and find a balance that works for you and your PR firm.

Look for Good Personal Chemistry in Your PR Firm

While this one is tough to put on a spreadsheet, asking some tough questions will often reveal the quality of the chemistry. As an engaged client, you should be working with your cannabis PR experts regularly and you REALLY want that process to be enjoyable. Make sure your company culture meshes well with your cannabis PR firm’s value system.  Teams who like one another, work better together. If you’re not gelling with someone in the first call, chances are, that’s not going to change.

Compatability breeds productivity and results.

Before Hiring Your Next PR Firm, Consider: Location, Location, Location

Before you start narrowing down your PR firms, decide how important location is to you. We think having account presence in major journalism markets, like Los Angeles and New York is a priority, but if you’re the person who needs to meet face-to-face once a week, acknowledge that and find a firm close to your base of operations and hire a PR firm that’s near by.

Flexibility AND Systems

Pay close attention to the systems your PR firm uses and also take notice of their flexibility.

For starters, there should also be a clearly defined exit clause in the contract.

Who owns content?
How will the PR firm handle future press inquires when/if the engagement ends?
What is the cancelation agreement?

Your PR should have systems and processes in place, but those systems and processes should also be nimble enough to manage the PR world. For example, getting a press release right is exceptionally important, but it shouldn’t take your PR firm a week to write it. You should be able to review the first draft within hours on an emergency or breaking news circumstance. On the other hand, there should be a consistent drum beat and strategy behind media relations.  Which bring us to:

A Strategic Approach That Makes Sense

Before hiring, your  PR firm should be able to articulate an approach and strategy that makes sense to you. While credible PR firms won’t reveal details about clients, they should be able to articulate some case studies of  PR strategies and why they worked. For example, provide an experience that required a decision to respond to industry news. When, where, and how you respond to breaking industry news is determined by your brand strategy, BUT your PR should be able to articulate a strategy and when/why it worked. Your PR firm should have some strategic storylines and outlines in mind for your brand, which proves they’ve done a little research. Even if they aren’t perfectly on-brand, at least you’re starting with a strategy that is better than starting from zero. Avaans takes a slightly different approach by providing strategic research and competitive analysis before you even work with us.

What exactly IS brand trust and how do we measure it?

Brand trust is measured in many ways, sometimes we use a metric like a net promoter score. Sometimes the value of a brand is incorporated into EBITA, and we infer higher brand-value equals trust.

But really, what IS brand trust?  In a global environment where, according to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, trust in institutions and media is at an all-time low, it’s more important than ever for brands of all sizes to keep ahead of the trust curve.

Neuroscientists have been researching the effects of our brains on trust with interesting results.  Neuroscientists have been researching the effects of our brains on trust with interesting results. In the book Brand Seduction-How Neuroscience Can Help Marketers Build Memorable Brands, Daryl Weber reveals how the unconscious mind is constantly picking up cues from our environment, including cues from brands, most of us don’t even realize our brain is doing this monitoring on our behalf. What this means though, is that every single subtle brand cue sends a message.

So how should we interpret trust in everyday execution and metrics analysis?

THE BRAIN ON FEAR

Think about the last time something you saw on social media enraged you. Chance are, just reliving that moment has your blood pressure spiking.  “Flight or fight” response, makes our brain neurons fire like mad. This, in turn, creates an emotional response. In contrast, our brain on trust is relaxed, open, I compare this state to homeostasis in the body. It’s the place our brain WANTS to be, but it’s also the place where triggers are not as emotional.

What this means is that emotional responses may NOT be positive for a brand trust. Take, for example, Facebook reactions. Content that triggers the most “viral” response is often content that creates anger, fear or other negative sentiments. But social media platforms (and their algorithms) aren’t yet evolved enough to understand that highly emotional reactions may not mean a piece of content is valuable for trust.The most viral content may do nothing to enhance trust. This does not mean that good never goes viral, but it DOES mean that computers don’t yet really grasp the difference,  even if humans (subconsciously) do.  But, humans are imperfect, and we’re often not even aware of our own reactions to messages.

This is to say, that in trust building, messages or ads that are viewed, but without huge emotional responses may actually be better for building trust. If you track reactions or sentiment on social, it might be disappointing at times to see that trust messages or messages built with trust intentions don’t get a lot of “lift.” But I would argue, that is exactly what you want from trust messaging.

LOW RESPONSE BUT MORE OF IT?

Imagine you’re making a special chocolate cake.
You create the first layer and ad the frosting.
It’s a good cake. It will taste good.
But it isn’t very impactful. So you add another layer. And another.
And before you know it, you have this impactful cake with layers of goodness inside. And when you finally EAT the cake, you enjoy it, even more, knowing there are multiple layers of goodness.  Trust is like that. The first layer of trust is good. It’s acceptable. But multiple layers of trust are better. Multiple layers of trust take time. The emotional response to trust is not “at the moment,” trust building is a front-loaded proposition. The payoff comes at the end. The payoff comes when the brand’s experience matches the anticipated trust. The brain remembers THAT satisfaction. Perhaps more subtly than an outraged response. But the brain DOES remember it at buying time. When you ate your beautiful chocolate cake, you enjoyed it. The next time you make a cake you’re more likely to make a chocolate cake over say, vanilla. This is how brand trust works.

The thing is, you need to reinforce that positive experience and positive response over and over. The subtle cues build up over time. But they can be replaced by constantly good experiences of vanilla cake too – because, you know, vanilla is equally yummy. Consistency is the key.

Have you ever known a brand one way than seen an ad that completely shifts the message? It’s jarring. Just today I was watching a conversation about a brand whose messaging, packing, product and ads were all luxury-level classy. Then they ran an ad showing a woman in panties with a pretty vulgar statement written on the panties. WOW! It got the attention of everyone, but overwhelmingly, their current customers were outraged, they thought they “knew” the brand, in some cases, people actually expressed betrayal.  These customers related to what they thought the brand was, a luxury-level classy product.  The brand’s trust has been shattered in the eyes of some. This particular ad may get high virality, but will the sentiment be overwhelmingly positive? And even it works, with what I call “a sugar spike” of sales, will those new customers be as loyal as the old ones? Will the old ones stick around?

Consistency is key. In branding trust, slow and steady wins the race. Look for consistently growing results, not “sugar spikes.” Sugar spikes mean you’re appealing to a specific audience over a short period of time, but not building any loyalty. That’s an even more expensive proposition than branding.

 

HOW DOES THE BRAIN BUILD TRUST?

We’re conditioned to trust our tribes.  Our brains attribute trust to brands who our tribe use. That’s why influencer marketing and customer reviews are so powerful. The person doesn’t even have to comment about using the product, they simply have to be seen using it.

One of the more brilliant examples of this is Jennifer Aniston’s water. This campaign works for two reasons: I KNOW Jennifer Aniston’s face already AND it’s consistent.  If you read any of the “celebrity” publications at all, you have seen Jennifer Aniston leaving the gym, getting out of her car or shopping with a bottle of water in her hand. SmartWater (and it’s parent company Coca-Cola) tapped into the inherent trust that Jennifer Aniston brings and then they gave her enough water to last a lifetime. Yes, Jennifer Aniston also appears in ads for this water, but the most memorable (to me, at least) are the pictures of her going throughout her daily life using the water. Every single time I open a magazine and there is a picture of Jennifer Aniston going about her daily life, she has SmartWater. This has been going on since 2015. Every single time I’m at the airport, I grab SmartWater, and I’m not even a particularly huge fan of hers, but somewhere in my brain I say “if it’s good enough for Jennifer Aniston, it’s good enough for me.” It’s not a conscious thought – it’s the brain operating and choosing based on those many layers. My hand just reaches for SmartWater, I don’t even really think about it. That’s what I mean by trust being a front-loaded proposition.

Zappos is another great example of brand trust. When Tony Hsieh started Zappos, he didn’t double down on ads, he doubled down on customer service. When the company was acquired by Amazon for $1.2 billion, 75% of its customers were returning customers.

 

BRAND ACTIONS OUTWEIGH ALL OTHER MESSAGES

If your water brand hires Jennifer Aniston and does all the same things as SmartWater did, but if it’s revealed that the water isn’t what it says it is, none of this will matter. Experience trumps all in trust. Worse, trust takes a long time to build, but it’s easily shattered. If you’re going to invest in trust, you must invest in an authentic way.

Above when I mentioned the jarring change of tone from classy to trashy, this also indicates that the brand isn’t clear on who it is and creates questions about the brand. “What other brand values are negotiable?” asks the brain. If this brand has built up trust with its existing customers, those customers now (even if subconsciously) question that trust.

An example of brand trust that does work is Red Bull. They’ve built their entire brand around adrenaline-fueled messaging. They went so far as to sponsor Felix Baumgartner when he jumped from space in 2012.  While this kind of stunt is absolutely designed to attract your attention, it’s also building brand trust – Red Bull’s customers know exactly what Red Bull stands for and they love it. Brand trust doesn’t have to be boring. 

IS BRAND TRUST WORTH THE INVESTMENT?

I suppose that depends on whether you’re in it for the long haul or not. Brand trust makes it easier for your customer to buy, creates triggers at the exact buying moment and that’s huge. But what else? Brand trust actually adds value to your company, makes it easier to attract talent and decreases costs because the product is easier for salespeople to sell. In the long run, brand trust saves money by also retaining customers.

In the end, brand trust is accessible to businesses of all sizes, but it takes commitment and consistency and yes, authenticity. You don’t need to be the biggest player on the block, just the most trusted.

In a world where trust in organizations is diminishing, building trust can be your most valuable asset – and because suspicion is so high for known brands, smaller niche brands who really do what they say and are consistent about it, have lots of room to develop that trust.

So what can you expect when you invest in brand trust? You might not see “sugar spikes,” and huge social media shares, instead you should see brand value reflected by consistent sales, repeat customers and even a stronger valuation that you’d have without it.

If you’re ready to invest in your brand, we are here to help you develop and execute your vision with aggressive elegance, contact us today.