Offended? Screw you.
I recently was invited to speak at the PR Roundtable, a group of senior PR executives in the Bay Area that meet for a monthly luncheon and invite a "thought leader" to speak to the audience about their point of view.
Of course, I was intimidated. What the hell was I going to say to a bunch of PR leaders about PR that they didn't already know?
I decided to just tell them my story (a story is always a great start) and organize it around some thought leadership principles that have made Traction successful in our PR efforts. After all, in the past two years, we've had dozens of bylines featured in industry publications like Forbes, Ad Age, Digiday, Mediapost and iMedia; we've won awards or been recognized as one of the top agencies in the country from Ad Age, iMedia, Clutch.co and Forrester; and, most importantly, we've seen our work win awards and get recognized in these and other publications as well. I was even named an OMMA All-Star, an award given to the three most influential digital creatives in the U.S. each year. How'd that happen?
Well, we have a POV on PR. And it starts with having an opinion. Some of the most successful articles I've written have been the ones that have taken a strong stance that some people take issue with. It's those stories that are most polarizing (and intelligently backed up) that people connect with passionately.
Yes, some disagreed with the points I made in every one of these. This is what controversy is all about... but having balls works.
John Grabowski, who runs PR for the Peninsula Symphony, One of the audience members at the PR Roundtable just emailed me to tell me he took my advice and it worked. "What advice?" I asked.
"Offend (some) people (in blog posts). Be partisan. I did that and the post went viral."
He wrote a post called "Advertising Sucks; Here's How to Fix it," on LinkedIn. Within days he had 22,000 views and over 100 comments (John's previous posts averaged about 72 views, so that's about a zillion X increase in readership).
(Great story, John! Thanks for the shout-out!)
So, that's how to be a thought leader. Have an opinion. Challenge the status quo. Be brash. Offend somebody.
And if you don't like it, screw you.