Why is your personal brand important and how can a thought leadership marketing strategy help you create new business development opportunities? Every CEO must create a personal brand strategy today. I was recently a guest on Power Lunch Live Show with Rhett Powers. During this hour-long discussion with Forbes writer Rhett Powers, we cover a CEO’s PR digital transformation and share branding secrets of how to build your personal brand on social media marketing platforms. Listen to this episode to learn what every CEO needs to know about branding. What is personal branding in business and why do you need to learn how to master it?
During the podcast, we discussed:
- Business press releases: Still necessary or a waste of time?
- How to develop an executive visibility plan
- CEO thought leadership marketing 101
- How to increase thought leadership marketing as a CEO
- How to build your brand through digital PR
- How to create a thought leadership program
- Social media thought leadership best practices
Listen to the full C-Suite Thought Leadership episode here:
What is Thought Leadership Marketing?
Thought leadership marketing is a way to build subject matter expertise as a leading expert and authority in your industry through content marketing, public relations, and social media marketing tactics.
Business thought leaders:
- Frequently display industry advice or strong opinions
- Post the latest thinking on emerging trends within their industry
- Are known as trusted advisors
- Have a strong online presence
Why are founders and executives investing in thought leadership marketing services?
Why is thought leadership important? For starters, if you want to be positioned as a subject matter expert as a business leader, you need to develop your brand story and key messaging points. Developing your online presence and personal brand as an entrepreneur will pay dividends in the long run, from helping you close more deals to securing new business opportunities and even increasing inbound requests for public speaking. Thought leadership content marketing impacts buying decisions. It isn’t a fluff line item on your marketing budget: it is a requirement.
How do some companies establish themselves at a dominant position in their industry?
Some brands establish themselves as a dominant player in their industry in the media, on search engine results, and at offline conferences, while others don’t. So, what is the difference? Is it strategic marketing?
The difference between a household brand and a brand that gets little to no visibility is that the content is coming directly from the leader. Brands that try to outsource their thought leadership content marketing strategies ultimately fail. There is a difference between writing your own content and having someone else edit it versus asking someone else to come up with those ideas for you.
After working with hundreds of brands for thirteen years, the key difference between brands with dominant search engine result placement is: are they writing their own thought leadership content or are they trying to outsource it to someone else?
If you try to outsource thought leadership content marketing, you are not a true thought leader. You can outsource editing, PR, SEO, or anything around the content that you are writing, but subject matter expertise cannot be outsourced.
That is the difference between a winning brand and a losing one.
Results-Driven Thought Leadership Marketing
The truth is, while some components of a thought leadership marketing strategy are tangible, other parts are intangible. Thought leadership content marketing builds trust. As a business leader or consultant, you want to be positioned as a leading expert. Customers, patients, or prospects need to trust you in order to buy from you or choose you as a provider.
If you ask someone why they chose you, they may not say:
- Because I have followed all of your posts on LinkedIn for the past year and it built trust
- Because I read that article you were quoted in
- Because I saw your TV segment
But intuitively and instinctively, they chose you because you became a trusted advisor through your content marketing, PR, and social media.
Have you ever asked your partner, why did you choose me over the other people you could have been with? And they said because I trusted you.
Trust is built. It is not one action. It is not a single blog post. A Facebook post. Or a podcast episode. It is not a singular KPI or metric that can be quantified in that way. And yet, it is the most important metric of all, because all of those actions together build trust in the most important decision: choosing you over every other option.
Is self-promotion a necessity to rank on search engines in today’s digital economy? Keep reading to find out.
Corporate Brand Building In The Digital Era
Transcript of Power Lunch Live Show: Podcast Interview with Kris Ruby and Rhett Power
Rhett Power: Welcome to the Power Lunch Live show on LinkedIn. I’m Rhett Power your host. We do this program every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 12 noon, Eastern Standard Time. The point of the program is to talk to today’s thought leaders, best-selling authors, CEOs, people who are doing amazing work in the world that we can learn from. Today, I have Kristen Ruby on the show. She’s the CEO of the Ruby Media Group. She runs a full-service PR and social media agency based in New York City. Now, I consider Kris a social media guru, someone we should all listen to and watch out for. She’s on Fox, CNBC. She’s been on Good Morning America, The Today Show, she is actually everywhere these days. Kristen Ruby, welcome to the show.
Kris Ruby: Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Rhett Power: You’ve been someone I wanted to talk to for a while. I want to talk about the importance of CEOs and founders having a PR strategy to promote themselves. I know some people consider that sort of a dirty word: self-promotion. But I think it’s essential today to do it right. You have to have a public relations and personal branding strategy. Can you talk about that?
Personal Branding Vs. Company Branding
Kris Ruby: People want to know who they’re doing business with today. The old days are behind us of a stodgy corporate branding strategy where you have a bunch of marketers and publicists in a room who are creating a strategy for an executive. Because of the rise of social media marketing platforms, the CEO now has a microphone to be able to put out messages directly to the media. That’s a blessing and also a curse because if you don’t have a PR strategy, you can shoot yourself in the foot with the content you put out.
People want to hear from people instead of brands. They want to know, who is the person behind the brand?
Why Your CEO Is Critical For Your Thought Leadership Public Relations Strategy
We develop brand positioning strategies around leveraging the CEO’s thought leadership to secure press coverage as opposed to making the story about the company. That shift of corporate branding to thought leadership marketing has fundamentally changed a lot and so to your point, I agree that you need a CEO who is going to be the face of the brand, and that will, in turn, help the CEO to generate more press coverage and media exposure for their company.
For example, “said so and so of x company,” and in a nutshell, that’s what we specialize in doing as a NY PR firm. Plugging in experts and corporate executives to be that spokesperson for their business and offering those experts as sources to the media.
Rhett Power: To me, it seems like if I’m the CEO or the co-founder or one of the leaders, building my personal brand can actually help the company too.
How to Develop Your Thought Leadership Marketing Strategy
Kris Ruby: I work with a lot of experts and entrepreneurs. There’s an old way of doing PR where a company would say, “We want PR for our business,” and then you would build a traditional PR strategy around their business.
Today, if someone comes to my PR firm and says, “We want PR for our company,” I ask:
- Who is the CEO and how available are they for media opportunities?
- Is the CEO media trained?
- Who is going to be the face of the brand?
Give me a senior executive to work with that I can put out on behalf of the company to get quoted in different media outlets.
Mistakes CEOs Make with Personal Branding
Are you self-promoting or aggressively posting on social media ten times a day? That can hurt you in the long run if there is no thought-leadership marketing strategy behind the content you put out. I’d rather see a CEO put out three great pieces of content per month as opposed to something every single day and kill their engagement with low-quality content. You need to create a social media marketing strategy that ties into a holistic inbound content marketing strategy.
Before you click post, you must be able to answer:
- Why are you putting this message out?
You also need to understand who you’re talking to when you’re posting on social media.
THOUGHT LEADERSHIP MARKETING: HOW TO BUILD A PERSONAL BRAND AS A CEO
Rhett Power: You talked about how you’d rather see somebody put out really good content two times a month as opposed to every day. What does that mean? If I’m the CEO or the person that hired you to come in and help me build my brand and my thought leadership marketing strategy, what does that look like? Is it video?
Kris Ruby: It depends on how that CEO shines. If they are great on video, then they should be doing video marketing as part of their thought leadership public relations strategy. But if they are not good on camera in live media interviews, then long-form content makes more sense as part of a B2B content marketing strategy. So, you should do whatever medium is best for you and what you’re most comfortable with.
My PR secret is that it’s not just about checking off a box every day and saying, “I clicked post today and did social media for the day,” because a social media expert told me I have to do this every day. That doesn’t achieve your high-level strategic marketing and PR goals as a business thought leader.
Checking off a box is not the same as doing something with strategic intent.
What I want senior executives to think about before they post on social media is:
If I could write a message right now to the five prospects I’m going after, what would that message say? What do I want them to know? If prospects are ignoring my emails, what do I want them to see?
And that’s the part that I think 90% of people just skip out on; they skip past it completely.
If executives just spent a few more minutes thinking about that, they could be writing content that is actually helpful and educates their end-user and reaches the people they are trying to reach. I think that is a critical part of figuring out what your personal branding and digital PR strategy is. It’s not just saying I did social media to do it.
HOW DO YOU RAISE YOUR MEDIA PROFILE AS A CEO?
Take the time to figure out:
- Who am I trying to talk to?
- What am I trying to say?
- Where can I find those people on digital platforms?
LINKEDIN THOUGHT LEADERSHIP
Rhett Power: You hear a lot about authenticity or being authentic. What does that mean? I mean, because I see a lot of people who talk about being authentic, but it always seemed very contrived to me.
Kris Ruby: There is a funny Twitter account that is a spoof on LinkedIn authenticity called “The State of LinkedIn.” They take these long drawn out narratives and monologues that people write on LinkedIn where they’re supposedly being authentic and call them out because it’s literally saying this is not authentic. So, what happens is, it’s the opposite of authenticity, and people can tell, and then they call them out on Twitter.
If you’re trying really hard to be authentic, you’re not being authentic.
“I’m now unemployed…
But here’s my car” pic.twitter.com/zhfd3bejcs
— The State of LinkedIn (@StateOfLinkedIn) February 5, 2020
PERSONAL BRANDING AND CONTRIVED THOUGHT LEADERSHIP: FAKE AUTHENTICITY
The real sign of vulnerability or authenticity is when you write something and you think, oh, maybe I should delete that because I feel raw and maybe that was too personal.
That’s when you know you are truly being authentic and people can tell the difference.
Rhett Power: I was thinking about this the other day and I was trying to write an article about it and I got kind of stuck on it. But to me, it seems like if you’re genuinely trying to help solve a problem, then that, to me, is authentic. I don’t think it has to be that you have to tell your life story and all your trials and troubles to be authentic. I think it’s when you’re trying to use your experience and your knowledge to help someone. When you talked about writing your content to those five customers, or their six customers or ten customers that you really want to reach? That to me is the answer.
WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE
CREATING A THOUGHT LEADERSHIP MARKETING STRATEGY
Kris Ruby: Most people forget the problem they’re trying to solve when they hire a public relations agency. When you’ve been doing something for it a long time and you ask someone, what problem are you trying to solve? They just give you a blank stare, because they actually may not know anymore because when they started their company, the business problem they tried to solve then may not be the problem they’re trying to solve now. You need to take a step back and look at core business challenges before starting a PR engagement or creating a thought leadership marketing strategy.
When a prospect says, “I’m interested in PR services,” and I go, what problem are you trying to solve? A lot of times, they don’t have an answer. I say, well, you called me, you must have an underlying business problem to solve using PR as a tactic.
If there’s not a specific problem, no one from the client-side is going to be motivated to follow through on any of the work they are hiring you to do as a PR firm.
PR takes a lot of work. It is not just an investment of resources: it is also an investment of your time.
There must be buy-in from both the client and agency to make it work.
That means: collaboration, co-motivation and shared responsibilities on writing content that is being pitched to the media. If the client doesn’t have a real business problem when they hire you, the excitement will quickly fizzle and they will not be motivated to contribute the required time that is necessary to generate organic media exposure.
This is the problem when business owners view PR as a luxury instead of a necessity.
To compete in a Google-driven digital economy, PR is a necessity for building E-A-T: Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
Rhett Power: You can’t do anything if there’s not a problem, right? You can’t. You don’t have a job if there’s not a problem.
Kris Ruby: Correct. I always say ego-driven PR is not a sustainable thought leadership PR strategy. Because sometimes people say, I saw so and so on TV. So, I want to be on TV, or this other person or my competitor is doing this. So, therefore, I want to do it too. But what is the problem? I mean, let’s dissect the problem there. I’m not sure that there is a problem.
Rhett Power: But they’re not on TV. That’s the problem.
Kris Ruby: Yeah, but it’s not a real problem with a deep enough business challenge that can be solved through PR. Let’s turn it around from your perspective here which I find fascinating. So, let’s talk about good PR pitches versus bad PR pitches and tell me what you think. You deal with a lot of PR companies all the time and you’re always getting pitched by PR consultants.
PITCHING MISTAKES PR FIRMS MAKE
What do writers really want from PR pitches?
Rhett Power: I’ll say this, I think I probably get ten PR pitches a day and I get them in two different ways. I get them for the show or I get them for Forbes or INC or one of the other publications I write for. Or I get pitches because I have influence, “Will you buy this or will you test this or will you write about that?” I get a lot of people that want to be on those platforms and they want me to write about them on those platforms. And it’s often a cold outreach. There’s been no effort to build a relationship with me. And often I can tell it’s an email they sent to fifty other people probably. And so, with no idea- is this content that I write about? So, 90% of them go out the window, because it’s not something I write about. I don’t write about cars. I don’t write about food products. There are a lot of things that don’t interest me, so I don’t write about them.
Kris Ruby: And these are emails from PR firms?
Rhett Power: From PR firms or from individuals.
Kris Ruby: That’s cringe-worthy by the way that a PR firm would be sending you that because it’s their job to research what you write about.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOOD AND BAD MEDIA PITCHES
Rhett Power: Yeah. But you know, somebody said to some junior associate, get the client placed in Forbes, right? Yeah. And so, they’re going to every Forbes contributor and sending an email because they have to do it yesterday hoping somebody is going to bite on this pitch.
So that’s that but then the other thing is then you’ll get somebody who might catch my attention and the story is interesting, but again, why would I do somebody a favor?
Why would I work with somebody when even if their story is compelling, they haven’t done anything to help facilitate a relationship?
That’s the other thing. You and I have been working together on some other clients for a while. And you clearly knew who I was targeting and who my audience was and so your pitches were compelling and interesting and your guests were good. So, anytime I got a pitch from you now, I would certainly look at it because you’ve done it. You did your homework and you did really well putting guests in front of me that were appropriate for the audience.
And so, to me, I’d rather work with somebody that’s focused on the relationship and build a relationship.
I had somebody that was a really good pitch that reached out in December. I finally talked to her yesterday because of the holidays, I was gone. And we talked and just like you, they provided a couple of guests that were spot on. So, I am happy to listen to those kinds of PR pitches. The other thing I think is important is understanding, Rhett does a show, he also writes for these publications, maybe if, because we know that those shows need guests. Maybe if I ask if you’ll take this person on as a guest, then maybe he’ll write an article about them if that’s our angle, right? We want an INC. placement or we want a Forbes placement. But let me get him on the show because that’s probably an easier pitch to Rhett because he needs guests on that daily show.
So just kind of understanding how all this works is really key to at least getting through to me and I know other contributors I talked to say the same thing.
Very, very few people get it right.
Kris Ruby: Really. That’s a powerful statement.
Rhett Power: Yeah, I think very few people pitch me the right way that have ever gotten through.
Kris Ruby: What does that say about the PR industry?
Rhett Power: Well, I’ll tell you what it says from my experience on the other side of it, which is hiring someone to do it. When I was running my toy company and the gift company we paid for a lot of PR that if I had known what I know now, I wouldn’t have bothered because I could have hired somebody, taught them how to do this and gotten the same story placements in the same ad placements and the same stuff that I got by hiring an expensive PR firm. I know that now, but we wasted a lot of money on stuff that I think we shouldn’t have wasted money on.
Kris Ruby: So, then what’s the difference of what is good when you are spending money on PR. What would you say is a good use of resources versus a waste?
Rhett Power: I’m all for it because I think that there is a lot of value in having somebody like yourself or an industry-specific PR firm help you and guide you and help you create the strategy and understand the market and get better placement. There is a value in that.
But if you don’t know that and if you don’t understand what you need, and I think a lot of times entrepreneurs, at least the ones I work with and coach are like what you said, they don’t understand the problem. They don’t understand what they need. And they’re relying on a firm that maybe they didn’t ask all the right questions. I think that happens a lot.
“You hire somebody and you just sort of check out, right? Oh, they’re going to handle the PR, they’re going to handle the strategy. And I think that’s what happens, right? Or they’re in charge of the PR. Yeah, they’re going to get any social media, they’re going to help me become an influencer. And that’s just not how it happens.” -Rhett Powers
Kris Ruby: I think that’s one of the biggest mistakes I see people make. They say, “I didn’t know how much time this is going to be. This is so time-intensive. You didn’t tell me.” There are many misconceptions about public relations. Who did you think was going to write the content? You’re the expert. That expertise is not transferable. A lot of people say, what obligations are going to be placed on me and how much time is required?
To get the most out of your public relations campaign, at least one hour of your time a day is required. I always say we can’t make you famous either. You have that subject matter expertise. As public relations practitioners, it is our job to help shine a light on you and put that expertise in the right places online. But we can’t create that for you, you have to have already created that on your own. That’s an essential piece of PR entrepreneurs to understand before hiring a PR firm.
PR GENERALISTS VS. INDUSTRY SPECIALISTS
What is a PR specialist?
Having expertise within a niche in PR is very important. And yes, there’s a difference between a PR consultant who is a generalist versus a specialist. And if you’re in the tech space, you probably want someone who specializes in tech PR and the same thing with entrepreneurship.
Is it better to be a PR specialist or a PR generalist?
I specialize in PR for entrepreneurs and PR for doctors. I have 12 plus years’ experience in each of those areas. So, if someone comes to me and says, I want you to do PR for my insurance company, I am not an expert in that area and I may not be the best fit because I don’t have those trade publication media relationships. And I think the onus is on public relations professionals to say that and not just take on any new business opportunity because someone approaches them, but instead to take on the things that they know they can do well and get great media results in.
As far as the story of our pitches or working with you, it’s funny because it’s really just organic. I didn’t set out to do anything. I like to connect the experts I have with reporters or producers who are working on a story and have a current need with a story or segment they are already doing. It’s the difference between proactive versus reactive PR. At the time, you were working on something, and I thought, I have an expert that I can plug into this where they would be a good person for that story. And then after I said that, I thought, this is an interesting angle and he could make for a good guest on his show. Literally, that’s how that happened. It wasn’t that I set out to write a pitch and figure out how I could maneuver my way in to get someone on your show or in your story. There is a difference. One is a contrived PR strategy to meet a quota every month, the other is adding value to a reporter’s story.
When you’re focused on how can I help this person that is critical for PR success. Give the media the expert they need or the source they need or the quote that they want versus thinking about: how can I achieve my client’s agenda, regardless of the agenda of that reporter? And I think people can tell the difference.
Rhett Power: Absolutely. You nailed it. Because yours was a totally different approach. Instead of, “Hey, I want,” I mean, it drives me crazy. The opening line is, “Hey, we want our guy in Forbes. Will you do it?”
Kris Ruby: I mean, why would you do it? Why would you care what they want? It doesn’t make any sense. I was a columnist for a digital publication for almost two years. I’ve been on both sides of this and I received so many bad PR pitches. I would think to myself, these people are paying PR companies and this is the quality of what they’re sending me? I was mortified. As a PR consultant on the other side, I couldn’t believe it and I’d respond, and then they would ghost me. And I would think, I’m actually going to include you in the story. Have you ever had that happen when you actually get back to a source and you’re going to include them? And then they’re gone. Has that ever happened to you?
Rhett Power: Yeah. Oh, yeah.
Kris Ruby: You don’t know if it’s the PR firms’ fault or if it’s their client’s fault, but then you’re like, what?
PROFESSIONAL AND CORPORATE PR GHOSTING
Rhett Power: I had a guest booked last week. We booked it two months ago, a month a half ago. I reached out a week before nothing. A couple of days before nothing. It’s like you spent all that time getting me to book your guy. And… nothing.
Kris Ruby: Wait, they ghosted you?
Rhett Power: They ghosted me.
Kris Ruby: The PR firm ghosted you?
Rhett Power: Oh, yeah.
Kris Ruby: And then nothing and you just never heard from them again? But you booked the person and they were just gone?
Rhett Power: Yeah. Gone.
Kris Ruby: I think you’re going to hear from them six months from now when they have another client and they will have a burning desire to get that story placed. And this is why PR gets a bad reputation because of things like this.
— SecretLifeofaPRGirl (@PRGirlSecrets) February 4, 2020
Rhett Power: I want to go back to something you said; I did appreciate it. I had a great experience after the first couple of people that we hired, we did finally figure out our thick heads that going with somebody industry-specific was the best way. And that did change and the results out of that were just spectacular and gave us a much better understanding of where we needed to advertise and where we need to place our money. And I mean, it was before social media blew up like it is now and I think that would have complicated it a little bit more. But you know, I think industry-specific is smart.
Kris Ruby: I want to talk about your audience and PR strategies. We had a guest and there was a topic and so one of the things I did was a lot of background research on that topic and shared with you what I found. Did you find that helpful? Is that something that you would want other PR consultants to do? Do you like that approach?
Rhett Power: Those were useful. I tend to on this program, because we end up having 45-minute conversations and it’s not a one or two question and be done. And we have a chance to go really pretty deep into things. I tend to do a fairly deep dive into that person and I always discover something else I want to ask. There are always some surprises that come out of that research, but I think it’s a starting point and particularly if they have a book or they have something going on that’s new and has to be talked about that’s very helpful. I’ve had some guests that even had questions that they wanted to send me and that’s fine. But any of that kind of stuff is helpful, particularly if there’s something that they want to say if they have a really specific message. That’s always a good guide.
HOW TO PROMOTE YOUR CEO ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Rhett Power: What platforms do you think are working today social media-wise?
Kris Ruby: You mean for public relations?
Rhett Power: Yeah, for professionals like a corporate leader or co-founder.
Kris Ruby: I think all CEOs need to be on Twitter if you’re doing a public relations campaign. And that’s the number one social media platform that no one ever thinks about 100%. Because, for example, if a CEO is doing a media interview, I need to make sure that they’re sharing that interview on all of the other major social media platforms. And most journalists are active on Twitter, first and foremost, and so I want to make sure that the journalist is getting visibility for their writing if they are interviewing my client. It’s important that clients create a presence on each of the main social media channels so they can leverage them if they hire a public relations firm as part of a larger thought leadership marketing strategy.
SOCIAL MEDIA THOUGHT LEADERSHIP: HOW TO BUILD YOUR CEO BRAND ON FACEBOOK, LINKEDIN, AND TWITTER
Having a presence on LinkedIn, Twitter and a Facebook fan page for your executive brand is critical for branding. Long-form content on your personal branding website under the owned media umbrella is important for you to have from an SEO perspective and also from a thought leadership perspective.
If you work with a PR firm and as you look at all the press coverage you get, but the content that you’re putting out doesn’t match the amount of press that you’re getting, that’s a storm ready to brew and a major problem. Because what that looks like is that you’re just getting a lot of press, but you don’t actually have the expertise and the thought leadership behind that press coverage to sustain it.
Earned media must be in direct correlation with owned media.
What I want people to understand is press coverage is great, but you need to be doing your part to put out thought leadership content that supports the amount of press coverage that you’re getting, or else it just looks like you have a PR firm that did a great job of getting you press mentions. But are you an actual thought leader in this space? You want to see both things going up together, rather than just a lot of press but your thought leadership is nowhere.
The best way you can do that is through podcasting or putting out your own long-form content through. I think most people don’t do that and it’s this area they skip. And it’s very obvious because if you look at their website, you’ll see that they do media interviews, but they’re not putting as much time into their own thought leadership content in the owned media bucket. Reporters or journalists or producers want to see that versus looking at other interviews that they’ve done. Ideally, they want to see a mixture of both. This helps confirm your credibility as an expert source. Other media doesn’t back that up; thought leadership content that you are the author of does.
People forget that thought leadership starts with actual leadership in a field before the media is involved. It doesn’t work the other way. Thought leadership and industry expertise first. Media coverage second.
Rhett Power: Really, because I am looking at my own stuff and that makes me think, okay, I’ve been writing for INC and Forbes for five or six, seven years, I’ve probably got 600 or 700 articles on INC alone. That doesn’t translate though into bookings for TV. Why is that?
Kris Ruby: So you’re asking how come your content isn’t translating to bookings for TV? Well, probably because no one’s pitching you for TV. In order for your writing to translate to bookings for TV, you need a publicist who is pitching you all the time to producers. And you have to be writing about things that are topical news stories like Iran. Are you writing about Trump? I don’t think you are. Are you writing about Meghan Markel?
Rhett Power: No, but I write about leadership and I write about all those things. I’m not writing about pop news or news like that. I write about leadership and yesterday, for example, I wrote a story on Patagonia and Coca-Cola and a couple of other companies that are doing really well. You know, they just opened that new store in Denver for all of their second-hand clothes. People turn in their old Patagonia pullover and they get credit for a new one. Business is what I write about.
Kris Ruby: If you were looking to get on TV, we’d take that and translate it to what’s happening in the news right now and position you as an expert who’s available for commentary and then I’d include relevant links, but we’d have to tweak some of what you’ve written to work with the angles or the narrative that is in the news.
Rhett Power: Because I do tweet when I post something on LinkedIn or INC or Forbes, that all gets tweeted. But I get more play out of that on LinkedIn when I retweet or when I post those on LinkedIn versus any mileage I get out of it on Twitter. You know, when INC retweets it or Forbes tweets it, then they get, you know, they’ve got a million followers or so, so they get some mileage. I haven’t seen as much benefit out of Twitter for me but I understand what you’re saying. You’re saying it’s a different audience, right? I should be focusing on LinkedIn with the business audience, Twitter go after the media with that content.
Kris Ruby: If you are writing about Prince Harry’s leadership right now or something like that, and I was doing PR, I would say, okay, give me this link. And then not only would you tweet it, but I’d also be sending that link to producers. I wouldn’t just rely on Twitter. That’s just one portal, but I’d also make sure producers are getting it directly. So, I would do both. You know, it’s all of these things working together holistically. That’s where the PR strategy component comes in.
Rhett Power: One of the things I think in working with my clients in coaching and consulting is to make people understand that this is sort of a long game too, isn’t it? You’re not going to build thought leadership. You’re not going to build that kind of credibility. You know, you’re not going to just go on Fox and Friends or Fox Business or CNN.
“You’re not going to go on one time, and all of a sudden, you know, life’s gonna change.”- Rhett Powers
Kris Ruby: Exactly. I’ve been on national news shows over 100 times and I keep showing up. If they ask me to come on, I always say yes. I love it. That’s what I try and explain to people: you have to say yes and be willing to make yourself available. I started out doing local TV on Sunday mornings upstate. I’d wake up at 3 am and do that for five years before I ever appeared on a national show. I think people need to understand that.
You don’t just show up to a national TV station and say, I’ve arrived, book me. It doesn’t work that way.
Unless you have the most amazing publicist, but even then, I just think that’s not the world that we’re in. You have to cut your teeth in these local markets and/or produce your own content online. And I think the world has really changed even from when I started 10 or 12 years ago. There’s a lot of opportunities right now with podcasts and digital streaming channels. So, for example, let’s say you could do a TV segment or you could do a radio segment, you may not get links from either so you’re going to have to hire a media monitoring company to get you copies of what you’re doing versus something like this what you and I are doing right now which will live forever online. So, if that’s what you’re looking for, podcasting is a great portal to do that.
That’s where I think new media has a real advantage today over traditional forms of media.
Rhett Power: Well, I think it also gives people practice, right? It gives you practice for the big stage. As you said, you did local, local, local. I don’t know how many podcasts I’ve done. I don’t know how many radio shows I’ve done, gazillions. It gets you comfortable doing it.
Kris Ruby: It does. I would also say it’s very different. There are some people that love doing TV interviews because they are two to three minutes. But doing a podcast is not like that when you are speaking for an hour. You have to really stay focused. It’s a very different type of interview, and some people love podcasts but wouldn’t want to do TV and vice versa.
Rhett Power: Fair enough. I think both are helpful. Is TV the way to really catapult your brand still? Or is it new media or is TV really still really where you can catapult your visibility?
THOUGHT LEADERSHIP MARKETING TIPS & TACTICS
Kris Ruby: TV is a great way to catapult your visibility. I write about this as well about this notion of CEO activism. And should CEOs get involved in politics right now is that the right move for their company and if you want to be on TV, politics is going to be a part of that conversation. Nine out of 10 times, so you need to make that corporate PR strategy internally before you decide if you want to do TV. Ten years ago, I was on the couch of a national TV show talking about optical illusions on a Saturday morning on national TV and that’s not going to happen now. It’s just not the world that we live in anymore. Everything is hard news and it’s politically driven all the time. So, if you’re okay with politics as part of your thought leadership marketing strategy, then sure, do it and it will catapult your brand if you’re open to it.
Rhett Powers: Is it smart to take a political bet on a business today?
Kris Ruby: Is it smart? It really depends. CEO Activism is a very hot topic today and it is one that is widely debated between PR pros, brand marketers and CMO’s. If you run a company where everyone is behind you in that political point of view, and when you say that you are speaking on behalf of your employees it’s a unified point of view, then sure, that’s an accurate statement. But if you are saying we all are in alignment when your employees are not in alignment with your corporate social responsibility stance, and then your employees feel uncomfortable working for you because you’ve just said something they don’t agree with, then no, that’s not smart. I think it’s a divided world out there.
Rhett Power: Well, I just wonder if the reason I asked you that is I wonder if the politics of today. When I first started a company, my mother in law, a long-time small business person said never, in a small town, I will never ever put a political yard sign in my yard. I’ll never ever put a sign in my shop window one way or the other. I think everybody in town knew where she stood. But she never broadcast it for her business. And I wonder if today the political climate hasn’t shifted in such a way that it almost forces people to take a side. What do you think?
Kris Ruby: It does force people to take a side and I think the other thing that’s problematic when we’re working with a CEO or trying to build their personal brand is that a lot of times they think, I’m putting this content on a private Facebook or personal Facebook, and no one can see it. Well, that’s just simply not true. There are ways to see it. Because if you have 800 friends, one friend could always screenshot it or share it. So, nothing is truly private anymore. But I also think that whether you agree with this or not, unfortunately, we live in a world where journalists or reporters have their own political preferences and political bias. So, if I’m pitching a reporter, or if I’m working on trying to pitch an expert, and then a reporter looks at that person’s Twitter and sees that maybe they have political beliefs that are the opposite of what theirs are, that’s going to impact their opinion on if they want to write back to me.
Rhett Power: Sure.
Kris Ruby: And I don’t think people really think about that. If you hire a PR firm, and you’re working hard and spending money to try and get out there, and then you’re also putting out these strongly worded political statements. I think it can hurt what you’re trying to do unless you just want to be super polarizing, one way or the other. And if you are okay with that and that is the type of media coverage you want, then that makes sense.
HIRING A PR FIRM: THE PROCESS
Rhett Power: Fair enough. I don’t disagree. What is the process people should go through to hire a publicist? What questions should they ask? What would I be looking for? Is it connections? Is it somebody that gets what you’re trying to do? In terms of your clients, why did they hire you?
Kris Ruby: I think the old way is about connections. Today, it is about: do you have the ability to make new connections that makes sense in that client’s vertical. The old way is a publicist sitting there with some magic Rolodex and going through it and calling reporters- that doesn’t exist anymore. Similarly, I didn’t have a connection with you and we built that connection over time organically and then it just happened to work out that I had experts that worked with what you working on. Can that person ebb and flow and can they move in where you need them to move to where it makes sense? Having that skill set is probably the most important skillset in digital PR. Can they plug in a CEO’s thought leadership expertise into the media conversation? If you have that ability, then that trumps all.
If I was looking to hire a NY PR firm, the first question I would ask is, are you a generalist or are you a specialist? If you’re a PR specialist, what do you specialize in? And then, is there a sub-specialty within that? And next, I would say, can I see examples of other press placements you have secured for your other clients? I wouldn’t necessarily ask to see references because I think the best reference is all over the press you have secured. They don’t need to call other people that you’ve worked with. That to me is more opinion based than factually driven. Did I drive results for this person and what does my portfolio and body of work look like that you can find online or that I can put together for you where you can see all of the press coverage I secured? I’m a firm believer that it’s not my client’s job to sell for me, they’re busy, and I don’t want to give out their personal information. I feel like there are privacy issues around that too. Maybe some other people are okay giving out their client’s information all day long. I personally don’t want to do that.
I would want to see an example of the writing. How does this person write? You have to be a good writer. You have to be able to clearly communicate new ideas and boil it down in a pitch letter.
Let me see a pitch. Most publicists still say, “You can’t see my pitch. You can’t see anything I write this is proprietary.” And I say, why? I believe that is part of a work for hire if it is stipulated clearly in your contract. If I have a client and they just want to steal my media connections or take my pitches, then what I’m doing isn’t valuable enough because I believe PR is so much more than that. If my clients want to try and reach out to you, are you going to write back to them? Probably not, right? Because our relationship is stronger than that, go ahead, try. If they try, I have a strong enough relationship with the media that they would most likely just forward that email to me. This business is based on trust. And the truth is what are they going to do pitch themselves? The whole thing would just be a bad look.
It’s always better to have a PR consultant pitch you to the media than pitch yourself to the media.
Most people don’t know the nuances of how to write pitches for the media or how to boil things down in a way that makes sense and can be helpful or useful for a story or segment. Or they want to send every single idea that comes up or something that’s super trade publication focused. And it’s not necessarily what your audience is going to be interested in. But there’s a skill to understanding the difference in navigating that. This is where a PR consultant or personal branding expert can be extremely valuable.
Rhett Power: Knowing what you know, I mean, you get updates on what people are looking for at a specific moment, right? And that’s how you end up doing a lot of what that producer is looking for and whether you have a fit for it. I mean you’re not pitching a producer something that you know isn’t going to work. So, you’re not going to waste your capital on that.
Kris Ruby: Correct. I also think that as publicists, we need to push back on ideas that are presented to us.
PRESS RELEASE DISTRIBUTION SERVICES: A GOOD USE OF MONEY FOR A NEW BUSINESS OR A WASTE?
Kris Ruby: Not everything is worthy of a press release. In fact, I think almost nothing is worthy of a press release.
I can’t remember the last time I wrote a press release. I mean, do you do anything with press releases? Nothing, right?
Rhett Power: No.
Kris Ruby: When people ask, “Can we write a press release on this?” I say, why?
The Press Release Is Dead
Rhett Power: I haven’t done a press release in 15 years.
Kris Ruby: And what do you do with press releases when you receive them? Throw them out?
Rhett Power: I don’t even look at them.
Kris Ruby: You don’t even look at press releases anymore? Exactly. So, this is my point. If you have a client that says I want you to write a press release on this, don’t just say yes, push back and say no, because reporters aren’t even reading them anymore and they are a waste of time. I call it actually malpractice within public relations, where people don’t understand what the field of PR is, and publicists want to keep clients happy. They get these ridiculous requests thrown at them and they say yes because they want to keep the client happy and give good customer service.
My number one priority is keeping the media happy. If I can keep the media happy, I will be able to always keep clients happy because I will always have new media opportunities for them. Clients come and go, but your media relationships won’t if you burn through them because of client requests like this. If you start doing ridiculous amateur, rookie things that a client asks of you, which is why it’s very important that you don’t have an entry-level account coordinator or intern pitching the media, because unfortunately, they are green and often don’t know the difference. And they’ll do those things because the client asked them to and then the agency’s media relationships will deteriorate.
Rhett Power: Right.
Kris Ruby: Which is exactly what I think you were saying before that you get these things because someone asked them to do it and you’re like, why am I receiving this?
Rhett Power: Well, because they didn’t want to be bothered to make the pitches themselves and really understand. Instead of sending out five pitches and really tailor it to the audience you know, let me just broadcast it to my mailing list.
PR PITCHING: IS IT A DIRTY WORD?
Kris Ruby: I’m probably the only person in PR that thinks the word pitch is dirty because I don’t think about it as a pitch. What I sent you, was that really a pitch? I don’t know, just an idea for you that I thought would work and I didn’t give it to anyone else. Is that a pitch? This notion of a pitch is so sales driven. It feels sleazy to me like it’s something that goes to a list and to all these people. I think we should replace the word pitch with a personalized idea that makes sense for someone.
Rhett Power: The way it came across to me, in all of our correspondence was, hey, I’ve got somebody that’s going to be good for you. You guys will connect. Right? And Thomas and I do you know, we hit it off, you know? Great, you know. It didn’t come across as a pitch. Hey, friend, I’ve got somebody you might want to have on the show.
Kris Ruby: That’s why we need to replace this notion of a traditional PR pitch with what you’re referring to where it actually is better and makes sense because, again, that’s not a “pitch” that goes out to ten other people. It’s an idea that makes sense for you. That’s a relationship and an expert that you can use. And that’s what I think PR needs to evolve to if it’s going to survive.
Rhett Power: How do you set client expectations on what they’re going to get for PR services? Because the way I’ve been pitched before I remember and thinking of it, when I was a CEO, thinking of it this way. I’ve got a hat for the retainer that I’m paying you. I had some arbitrary thing in my mind of how many placements I wanted a month. I mean, how do you handle that?
HOW DO YOU EVALUATE PR? WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR WHEN HIRING A PR FIRM?
Kris Ruby: It’s a great question. I’m very clear. In my first conversation with a new client I ask:
How are you going to measure the success of the Public Relations campaign?
- Is it by the number of books sold?
- Is it the number of press placements?
- Or is it increasing website traffic?
- What metrics will you use to evaluate?
PR EXPECTATION SETTING: MEDIA COVERAGE EXPECTATIONS FOR PR RESULTS.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE HIRING A PR AGENCY
If they respond with marketing-driven analytics, then I know what they need is marketing and not PR, but if they want to measure what I’m doing by the number of placements, then sure, that makes sense. An increase in brand awareness? I can deliver on that. I tell them, “I can typically secure around three to four press placements a month, but that’s not guaranteed you could have a month I guess, maybe it was zero. Luckily, I haven’t delivered that. But technically, you could because I can’t promise that a journalist is going to write about you. I can do my best to make it happen. But if something is going on in the world or the news cycle that trumps whatever I’m pitching, that will impact your PR campaign.
HOW DO I GET A FORBES ARTICLE WRITTEN ABOUT ME?
Also, we have a real industry-wide problem right now where people are sending out sales sheets, as you mentioned saying for x thousand dollars, you can get written in XYZ publication. This hurts the perception of PR and expectations around what is and isn’t realistic. Brands are trying to buy their way into media outlets.
Rhett Power: Yes, a lot of that.
Kris Ruby: And I just think this is not journalism, this is not PR. And certainly, if you’re working with me, I’m very clear that you can’t be doing that on the side. Because I don’t believe in it ethically, I think it is not okay.
Rhett Power: I get that stuff all the time. And even firms reaching out saying, “Hey, we’ll pay you to do,” I mean, like, there’s no way. I’m not a journalist by any means. Technically I’m a columnist, but that’s just awful.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO BE FEATURED IN FORBES?
Zero dollars. You should never pay someone a set price to get you featured in digital publications. Media awareness is earned, not bought! Anyone selling these articles is most likely running a scam!
Kris Ruby: That’s how I feel too. I do PR by the book in an old school way, at least in that regard, where that’s not part of the conversation. And it can’t be that you work with a publicist that practices like I do, but then you want to do that other stuff on the side because your SEO firm told you to. This is the other problem where, at this point, I’m demanding exclusivity with PR and marketing services in this area for precisely this reason. Because what you have now is people hiring multiple firms at a time, or you have people hiring a PR firm, and then a marketing firm, but then the marketing firm or an SEO side is telling him do this and that can hurt what you’re doing from a public relations standpoint. Let’s say they do that. And then someone blasts them. Well, there goes your PR campaign up in flames because you decided that this great advice from another consultant told you to do. That’s going to be your PR, when you Google your personal brand, that will be the story about you.
So, this is why it’s hard when you have so many cooks in the kitchen from a PR and marketing perspective. And I see that happening more and more now as the agency landscape changes. When I started out in this industry, my PR contract was about two pages. Now I think it’s twelve. And people say, “Why do you need such a long contract? Well, I will tell you why. Because most people don’t understand what services they are getting when hiring a PR firm. I have a new section now that says client responsibilities and lays out what your obligations are. For example, failure of delivery on the client-side, meaning you have to participate in this process. We’re not held responsible if you choose to hire a firm and then ghost us as a PR firm- that’s on you. It’s not on us. It is very clear and upfront that you have to participate in this process when you engage our agency for PR services. You have to work with us and you have to give us material and requested assets for this to work and be a successful engagement. More PR firms should follow suit in that precedent that I’m trying to set with that. That way people aren’t surprised. Fewer surprises mean happier clients. People don’t like surprises when they hire professional service providers. We have expectations clearly written out and a scope of work attached to it. We have a timeline and deliverables included. I think more of that should be included so people know what they’re getting.
PR VS. MARKETING: WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?
Rhett Power: What’s the difference? I think that you brought that up, and I want to be very clear about what that difference is. PR versus the marketing firm. Because I think that term is really confusing sometimes to people. I know it is for clients I work with sometimes.
Kris Ruby: Is it the difference between PR and marketing, is that what you’re asking?
Rhett Power: Well, the terms of like, if I’m hiring, you hear marketing PR lumped together quite often. For a small business person or a leader, that’s not a marketing-focused leader. I think sometimes those departments or companies have marketing PR departments. Right? And to me, they’re distinctly different things.
Kris Ruby: Yes they are and I think that’s a mistake sometimes when people confuse the two and think marketing and PR are the same. Everyone thinks it is all going to be the same thing. Now. We’re all going to come together. Really. It’s not. I’m so glad you brought this up because I think there’s such a double standard in this area because as public relations professionals, a lot of times, clients will evaluate our work with marketing metrics, but you never hear of a marketing consultant being asked to evaluate their work by PR metrics. When’s the last time you ever heard someone ask a direct marketer how many national TV hits did you get us? Zero? You never have heard that question. Right? But from a PR- How many new clients did you bring us? How much new website traffic did this generate? How many books did you sell? Those are marketing metrics.
Rhett Power: Right.
Kris Ruby: And you’re asked that all the time as PR a professional, but marketers are never asked to evaluate their work by PR metrics. To answer your question, PR is about brand visibility and Media Relations. It’s very different from marketing. If you want to hire a marketing firm, they’re going to help you start with more boots on the ground. Maybe Pay-Per-Click, digital marketing, digital advertising, maybe some media buying, direct mailers, flyers etc.
Rhett Power: How to sell more stuff.
Kris Ruby: Marketing is interested in how to sell more stuff. As PR, I’m interested in how we can influence more people through third-party recommendations, whereas I think marketing is focused on first-party recommendations and PR is third-party through the media. I think organic media exposure and earned PR is very powerful. But I believe in the PESO model, which is a combination of all of these different media channels including paid media, earned, search, organic, and owned media. Owned media is so important. When you think about owned media, what falls under that is content marketing. Content marketing is the one area that is a combination of PR and marketing if it’s done properly.
Rhett Power: And if you’ve got a PR firm and you’ve got a marketing firm or a publicist, what if you’ve got those two entities hired separately? How do you bring them together to be on the same page? Because, you know, you just talked about it is integrated in a lot of ways. How do you integrate it? How do you make sure that those two teams are working hand in hand?
Kris Ruby: You need someone who’s tasked with the responsibility of managing both relationships. If you’re going to hire two respective agencies, and then not be the person that’s managing them or not hire someone, you’re going to have a problem because what you’re going to have is people going in totally opposite directions, and no one is reigning them back in. And to answer your question, it starts with having a creative brief and a strategy and a shared document where people can see, okay, this is what our objectives are, this is the plan. Here’s how PR is going to tackle this and reach these goals. And then here’s how, conversely, marketing is going to tackle these business goals. So, you can all be on the same page and see and you can also learn. There are key insights that I can see, oh, well, this is what they’re doing from a pay-per-click standpoint, that can give me an idea for PR that oh, well, maybe this is really who they want. So why don’t I try something in a trade publication to reach this person? Conversely, I think marketing can probably learn a little bit from PR too. And so that starts with transparency and having conversations of what both divisions are doing and frequent check-ins around that.
LARGE PR FIRMS VS. BOUTIQUE PR FIRMS:
Rhett Power: Big PR firms versus smaller boutique PR firms like yours. What’s the difference in the value of each?
Kris Ruby: I’m not just saying this because I’m a smaller PR firm. I think the value of working with a small firm is you’re always going to get more time and greater value because you’re not paying for someone else’s overhead their fancy new office space and coffee machine because they’re scrappy and they don’t have to pay for those things because it’s a smaller PR firm.
Rhett Power: That 5th Ave office costs a lot of money.
Kris Ruby: Yes, exactly. For the same amount of money, or for less money, you’re going to get someone more experienced. Because what you see with larger PR agencies is this bait and switch sales process, which is, we’re going to take the senior person and work to get your business and take you out, and then we will give you a junior account coordinator that will manage the account. I don’t see the bait and switch with smaller PR firms because the person you’re talking to is the person that usually services your account. There’s a massive value add-in for what you’re paying and the experience you’re getting when you hire a thought leadership PR agency.
Rhett Power: I think you’re going to get more technical experience with a smaller PR firm often.
Kris Ruby: Yes, I agree 100%. So, again, I’m not just saying that because I am a smaller firm, I see more entrepreneurs headed in that direction. More people are hiring virtual agencies and more entrepreneurs are doing business with PR consultants that they’ve never even met and they work with them for years on end. I don’t think you have to meet someone face to face to do a lot of this work anymore. Larger PR firms think that they have some sales advantage because they can wine and dine a client. My personal belief is I shouldn’t have to wine and dine someone. I think my results should speak for themselves. And maybe you think that’s a millennial approach, and you still need to do all these other things that I don’t think so. I think your work should speak for itself. This is probably an interesting debate that we can have about this. I don’t know where you land on it. I personally have hired people that I’ve never met and whether they take me out or not, I don’t really care. I’m hiring them because of what they can do and their capabilities: not where we have lunch.
Rhett Power: Well, I’ll say this. I grew up working for one of my first jobs out of college. I was a radio DJ and then figured out that I was never going to get off the midnight shift. And then I started working in the corporate side of the marketing and sales side of Clear Channel and then I did some agency work after that. I will say twenty or thirty years ago, when I was doing that, the wine and dine was still the model and I grew up in that system, I think. But I wouldn’t disagree with you now. I don’t think that as people get busier and busier, and I would rather when I come to New York, spend time working on- I’m not a client, but I’d rather go out to lunch or dinner with you or other influencers and other people who I know virtually, who I may never have met, who we feed off each other and we help each other on LinkedIn and we help each other on these other platforms. I’d rather spend time doing that than taking a client to lunch or dinner. Because I can’t think of the last time I took a client to lunch or dinner and business hasn’t suffered.
Kris Ruby: Exactly. I’m so glad you said that. I don’t think that’s a knock on us or people that aren’t doing it. Also, by the way, I don’t think most clients have enough time or want to do that. Even if you ask them, would they be like, yes, let’s go? No.
Rhett Power: Yeah.
Kris Ruby: They aren’t dying to go to lunch?
Rhett Power: They are at home.
Kris Ruby: Yes, exactly. They don’t really want to do it. I think this is a move in a positive direction. It’s not this Madman agency world that you’d see in that show when it aired. I think that’s changed. And the reason I mention this on your show is because I think this is a positive thing for entrepreneurs or for anyone who’s graduating who may not have a lot of cash flow in the beginning who is worried about: how can I get business and how can I get new clients if I can’t take them out? There’s hope for you; you don’t have to. Just work on being really good at what you do.
Rhett Power: Yeah, and I think the other side of that is to spend more time. It doesn’t negate the necessity to work on relationships. If you’re going to spend your time, I’d rather spend that hour or two hours a night after work working on key relationships with people that I want to facilitate a relationship with on a platform and so on for me, it’s LinkedIn. Then, in any other activity, I think we still have to work on our relationships. And there’s an art to it when you do that online. That’s a whole lot different than face to face. But I do think we still need to do that. I think that’s essential.
Kris Ruby: Completely agree.
Rhett Power: I know you’ve got to get going and so do I. We’ve been on for about an hour and I do appreciate it. This is the Power Lunch Live show on LinkedIn. Thanks for joining us. Thanks for being with us. Thanks for spending your time with us. Kris, thank you.
WHAT ARE THE TOP THOUGHT LEADERSHIP AGENCIES?
PERSONAL BRANDING SERVICES
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PERSONAL BRANDING CONSULTANT- KRIS RUBY
Kris Ruby is widely recognized as one of the top personal branding experts in the country. Her frequent thought leadership contributions on entrepreneurship, public relations, and social media have distinguished her as a leader in the personal branding industry. Kris is regularly featured on Fox News as a commentator on PR, social media and crisis communications. Kris frequently shares her secrets to personal branding success in eBooks, podcasts and on her website. As a nationally recognized commentator in social media marketing, Kris Ruby is a social media savvy entrepreneur who has a passion for building brands. She has created personal brands for private medical practices, entrepreneurs, lawyers, authors, and digital marketers. Contact Kris Ruby to learn more about personal branding consultant services.
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