Strategic Thought Leadership Doesn’t Come in “Plain Vanilla”

Part of our job as an integrated marketing communications firm is helping B2B companies find newsworthy stories in their everyday transactions and relationships. A good case study often has a lot of legs and can make a strong contribution to a public relations and marketing strategy: it lets a financial services or professional services firm really show its thought leadership with a fine helping of client endorsement on the side.

Too often, though, people fail to see how what they’re doing for or with a client is different or clever or related to an ongoing story in the media. We hear a lot of, “There was nothing special in that case. It was plain vanilla.”

Let me tell you about vanilla. It’s the most popular flavor out there. And when I scooped ice cream at a sundae shop, I had to rattle off a list of six different types of “plain vanilla,” from French to bean, low-fat to no-sugar-added. Plus yogurt. People love vanilla, and there is rarely anything plain about it.

Vanilla twist

Pretty much every media story is about something that has happened before. It’s news now because a reporter or other news driver thought very conscientiously about what circumstances, outcomes or players were different this time.

You can be in an industry where you do almost the same thing for almost the same people almost every day. You can be vanilla with vanilla clients. But don’t let that fool you into thinking you’re plain.

When working on a transaction or a long-term project for an ongoing client, ask yourself (because we’re going to ask you):

  • What am I doing within this client relationship that I do better than or differently from others?
  • What relationships have grown out of this transaction for either my company or the client?
  • How did the timing compare to other transactions? If it went slower than usual, why? (Don’t shy away from less-than-perfect stories: If external factors played a part, say so and show your expertise in navigating tricky variables.)
  • Did I take advantage of external circumstances like new legislation? Technology? The weather?

A scoop for media, a taste for potential clients

Be proactive about finding stories in your everyday work. (We also recommend being predictive, prescriptive or provocative, but always prudent.) In thinking not just about what you do, but what you do differently, you’ll be better prepared to talk up your differentiations to potential clients, and your company will have more—and stronger —case studies to share.

Connect with Liz:

Phone: 212-584-5477
Twitter: @LizDeForest
LinkedIn: Liz DeForest