From global reach to inferred trust, 4 reasons you should consider publishing beyond your firm’s website.
When it comes to taking thought leadership to market, I’ve noticed that many firms take a fairly narrow approach to what they do. They only speak at 3rd party events. They only run small client workshops. Or, they only self-publish. That’s not to say that any of these things are bad. (In fact, just a few months back, I made the case for why your professional service firm’s website should be your central publishing asset.)
Rather, it’s simply to say that publishing through one channel is probably not enough if your firm really wants to shape the conversation in the market on an important topic. In fact, in the close of my article on self-publishing I made the point that it’s not an either/or decision as to whether you should be self-publishing or publishing externally. Rather, it’s a yes/and one. Yes, you should do both. The real questions are how much, when, where and on what topics.
In this article, we look at the opposite side of the coin — the reasons why it makes a whole lot of sense to publish your firm’s point of view in external publications. As I see it, there are four big ones:
- Amplify your reach today
- Impose rigor
- Gain authority and trust
- Leverage in sales conversations
#1 – Amplify Your Reach Today
If the biggest benefit of self publishing is activating the long future trail of search engine traffic, then the biggest benefit of external publishing is reaching a much larger and wider audience today than you can likely reach through your own channels.
Over 300k people subscribe to Harvard Business Review, which is widely considered to be one of the most influential business publications on the planet. Its global audience visits the site millions of times per month making it one of the 4,000 most trafficked sites on the web (out of a universe of 1.2 billion). Additionally, its social channels have followings in excess of 13M people — 5.35M on twitter alone. These numbers dwarf just about any professional service firm’s thought leadership marketing efforts.
Now, as we learned at our 2017 Profiting From Thought Leadership event, placing an article in HBR is not easy (but, it’s not impossible either — even for small firms). And, clearly your firm’s point of view won’t be relevant to all those readers and followers. Even if it is, many of them may never see it nor read it. Regardless, the point is simple — a well read business or industry publication can place your firm’s thinking in front of audiences you likely aren’t reaching through your own self-publishing efforts.
#2 – Impose Rigor
Unfortunately, some firms don’t operate with very rigorous editorial standards. Or, while they have standards, they struggle to enforce them for one reason or another. Anyone with an opinion has fairly free reign to publish on the firm’s blog with little oversight or structure as to what’s published or how well it’s written.
Working with a respected publication has the added benefit of imposing rigor in your content development efforts. The best publications will expect an outline. They’ll expect specific examples of your firm’s thinking in action. They’ll expect quality prose, written to a deadline, often within a clearly agreed upon amount of words. Put simply, their editorial standards will you to raise the quality of your thinking while sharpening both your unique point of view and the way you articulate it.
#3 – Gain Authority and Trust
Even if the publication’s audience doesn’t read your article, the next big benefit may render that point moot anyhow. A well respected publication infers authority and trust on what you have to say. A publication, like HBR, is respected because its editors adhere to high quality standards for publishing. Readers know this and take this into consideration when reading the articles they see. In a world drowning with fake news, smart senior client executives do still consider arbiters of quality in determining which advice they choose to provide credence. The respect they have for a publication logically transfers to a firm that authored an article within it. This is true whether the article is published in HBR or an industry journal with high standards.
As it turns out, this is so true that people have built businesses trying to exploit it. A recent article in Wall Street Journal placed the spotlight on a man named Clint Arthur who built a small business running high profile events for financial advisors at Harvard Business School. Mr. Arthur would rent space or sponsor a student club in order to create speaking opportunities for his clients. His clients would pay him to create the speaking opportunities. And, in turn, they would have the authority to (ever so delicately) reference in their firm communications that they “spoke at Harvard.” Mr. Arthur’s “snake oil” is clearly a product designed to draft the reputation of high profile brands so that trust can be inferred down to his clients. His programming simply proves the point that taking thought leadership to market through a trusted brand (even when done the entirely wrong way) will bring authority and trust to the authors (or in this case, speakers).
#4 – Leverage in Sales Conversations
An often overlooked benefit of publishing in external media is the opportunity to leverage those articles in outbound sales efforts. An article, placed in a prestigious journal, can be mailed or emailed to a difficult to reach prospect in order to open a conversation. It can be sent as a “proof point” to validate a firm’s point of view during the arc of the sale. And, it can be used to educate existing clients about overlooked opportunities in their existing business or in their working relationship with your firm.
An article placed in a prestigious publication presents a firm with that rare opportunity to educate potential clients on the big issues that matter to them (the central objective of marketing) while simultaneously doing a little “chest beating” for the firm.
While over the long haul we still feel that a firm’s website is its most critical marketing asset, there is definitely a place for external publishing. I would argue that external publishing can be very valuable whenever a firm is:
- Relatively new to thought leadership marketing and looking to accelerate the success of an initiative.
- Looking to gain buy-in from senior leaders as to the efficacy of thought leadership marketing in general.
- Trying to reach a new audience that it has traditionally found difficult to reach through its own marketing channels.
- Wanting to change the way it’s perceived in the market (become known for more strategic offerings or by a different audience than it usually reaches).