Do you ever wonder how your competition landed an employee-bylined article in an industry trade publication that’s read by your customers and prospects? I used to think, “Why didn’t I think of that,” until I learned earlier in my career to master the same tactic.
These articles are instant credibility and brand builders for your company, which are most of the time, free to place. This is the world of marketing your employee experts or thought leadership, a strategy that showcases the brilliance and industry insights of your employees that in turn reflects favorably on your brand.
The approach of featuring employee experts as a marketing strategy has been employed by IBM, Boeing, and BP when the companies wanted to promote global leadership in fields like Big Data, aerospace, and alternative energy. They did it by featuring the CVs of exceptional engineers and scientists through network television advertising.
But, showcasing your top employees as a marketing strategy and thought leadership isn’t just for global companies spending millions on advertising. Small and midsize B2B companies can play the game, too.
Every company has at least one employee just waiting to be “discovered.” These unsung heroes aren’t singers, dancers or musicians, but experts in a field or niche that can bring added gravitas to your firm. They are your thought leaders.
When you showcase your employee experts, you also market and promote the expertise and capabilities of your company.
Here are a few guidelines on how to get started:
Identify your company’s experts
Find a small number of your best and brightest technical experts (1-5 to begin with) to spotlight as your public facing experts. These individuals are often your subject matter experts (SME) in an industry niche and should have at least 10 years or more experience and unassailable credentials. A logistics company, for example, could have employees who are experts in ocean-going vessels or transporting over-sized equipment. Or a manufacturing firm’s engineers who have perfected new materials and processes that have helped the company leapfrog the competition.
Create a short biography
Write a short bio for the individual that describes his or her professional background, areas of expertise, years of experience, inventions, and patents (if applicable), what are they working on now (if applicable), and education.
You can also add an optional second paragraph with personal information that humanizes your expert. Hobbies and other interests are sometimes noted. Whether or not you include the personal information is a factor of your company’s brand: formal, casual, button-downed, fun, etc. Make sure you include a professional portrait of the individual.
Kurt Jones, Operations Director
Kurt has more than 15 years experience in the supply chain industry. Every day he works with dozens of Rapid Response customers to make sure their supply chain needs are being met. He holds a B.S. in Supply Chain Science from the University of Wisconsin—Madison.
When Kurt isn’t delivering remarkable experiences for customers, you’ll find him coaching basketball or spending time with his family.
Where to promote your employee experts and thought leaders
Industry trade press: As noted in this article’s introduction, the trade press (print and online) is a great place to start for featuring your employee experts (thought leaders). Many industry trade magazines accept articles submitted by companies as long as they comply with the publication’s editorial standards. Write your articles to a particular word count (e.g. 650–800 words). Note, articles should NOT be self-promotional. Editors don’t like publishing 650-word brochures.
A publication will also provide you with a list of topics it likes to cover; and, make sure you download the publication’s editorial calendar from its website. The calendar contains article due dates, which typically run four to six months in advance.
Before the above steps take place, you’ll want to call the managing editor or publisher to introduce yourself and your company. I recommend old-school telephone conversations in addition to email communication.
Unless you have an employee who writes well and has time, someone in your marketing, PR or communications group will most likely ghostwrite the article for the expert. I did this when I worked for Unisys/Lockheed Martin and now do the same for some of my clients as a consultant/writer.
Industry conferences: Conferences or trade shows are great platforms for featuring your experts and SMEs. Many conferences have a “call for papers” in advance—usually six or eight months—in which you can propose a presentation or paper idea.
Blog articles: Your company blog is the perfect place to feature rising stars in the business. Strategically, it’s much better to attribute blog posts to experts and SMEs rather than faceless “admin” and “corporate” posts. Since few of your experts have time to develop 650-word articles, have an internal writer or contractor interview the SME and write the piece.
White papers: Research articles and white papers can be produced using the same techniques explained above. However, consider showcasing two or three different SMEs as the authors of your white paper instead of a single contributor.
According to thought leadership agency First Page Sage, “Thought Leadership marketing is the art of positioning your company as a leader in its field through best-in-class content.” Get started with one or two of the tactics I’ve discussed here.
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