One of the most powerful tools that we have used to help educate and engage stakeholders is an article. We often write articles for our clients – about their organization, about successes and challenges (and how they overcome the challenges to achieve success), and even about new products and services. We distribute the piece to traditional and online media for use – free of charge. We use it on the organization’s website, in industry association or other relevant newsletters, and we often share links to the article with a range of stakeholders. We’ve had great success in this area.
One of our key assets is that we have several people on our crew that come from the journalism world. Another is that we write the articles in an editorial style. It is researched, balanced and well written.
As simple as it sounds, there are times when we have to explain why we take an editorial approach and why it matters. When organizations are used to using marketing or sales copy, it can be a challenge for them to embrace a more balanced, authentic way of telling their story. They just aren’t used to it. For some organizations it is a culture shift.
When we explain to clients why it is crucial for article to be written this way, if it is going to be picked up by traditional media or make a connection with their target audience, there is always this “aha” moment. This is when they begin to realize the value and importance of communicating this way and begin to move away from the old information out paradigm. When we show the benefit of sharing information this way and what it means for their organization’s reputation and their relationships with their target market, a subtle shift happens in how they view this type of communication. It doesn’t mean that the brochures, ads and other sales and marketing pieces aren’t useful; they just don’t work in this context.
When we develop an article for a client, the story idea goes through much the same process as it would if we were a magazine or newspaper. We clearly identify the target audience, do the research, develop a story idea and pitch it to the AHA crew. During our story meeting, we discuss how relevant, timely and of value it is to the stakeholder. The ideas gets questioned and kicked around, it gets reviewed and revised until we have a piece that is good enough to be published in traditional or online media. Once the client has approved it our focus turns to distribution, which is just as important as the piece itself. Getting it out to the right people at the right time means that there will be interest in the piece, that the value we want to provide is timely and relevant, that people will read the piece and, if moved, they will take action based on the information found in the article.
Well researched, balanced articles can be a valuable tool in a communicator’s tool kit.