On day two of Spectra, the online conference that focuses on reputation management, Jonathan Adashek, IBM’s chief communications officer, spoke about how good content impacts public relations.
Adashek’s talk focused on three premises focused on content:
1. A great content strategy
“As we align our company’s efforts for strategy, we need to look for interesting ways to deliver the message. We don’t create content to tell stories just for the sake of it, we have to create content consistently to communicate our efforts, and our narrative, over time,” said Adashek.
He then spoke about the power of employees to narrate a brand’s message. “We tap into our 3,50,000 employees – 90,000 of whom are in India – and use them as ambassadors of the message. We have also tapped into a large, diverse ecosystem of employees, developers, partners, clients, and social influencers to help us tell the story. However, I would like to see us make our clients stand out more in our stories, something we’re working on to improve,” said Adashek.
2. An effective content strategy
Adashek believes that an effective content strategy “fires on all fronts, the message, medium, platforms and ecosystem”. And that they all work together to drive the story influencing the media and other stakeholders. “It’s not just what we write, it’s where we publish it, what format we use, and who tells our story. To grab the attention of the media, content needs to inspire, provide something new and unique. I regularly ask myself: is what we are writing about any different than what’s out there today?” he said.
Further, businesses need to let people be the heroes of their stories to garner attention and relatability. Good content is a medium to ‘show’, and not ‘tell’ how companies are differentiated. And that means finding the client and end-users to demonstrate value, he said. Finally, Adashek also believes that companies need to “find a purpose that’s bigger than the bottom-line”.
He also spoke about picking the right medium to tell your story and how to use each.
“We need to know what’s good and bad about each format. Print, for example, is good for complex stories with lots of data. It lets you make long-form arguments and can be consumed over time. Video can be used to tell a visual story. It’s easy, it’s comfortable, and it draws people in. Infographics communicate data simply and quickly. Photography can set a tone or mood. To meet our audience where they live, we need to go deeper. We have to define our ecosystem, who are the social media influencers who care about our products. They might be different each time, but we can find those people and they can help us find end-users who better tell our story. Our employees can also be our most powerful advocates. I believe we are failing from the start if we don’t focus on our employees and arm them with the right messages and assets,” he said.
He added about the importance of a brand’s own content that has immense value. He explained, “Many of us may not consider our own content as valuable as media coverage. But at IBM, we found that with the right own content, it has led to higher value coverage in outlets that may or may never have considered IBM. What we see work well is when we use our own content for situations that are not business as usual.”
3. Powerful content shows, doesn’t tell
Content has the power to show people what a company is and not just what it does, Adashek said. This can help with a positive impact on the business’ reputation and, in turn, public relations.
On how one could achieve it, he explained, “We strive to be hyper-aware of what’s going on in the external environment, whether it’s our competition, a pandemic, or gender equality. As communicators, it’s our job to help our companies respond in a way that aligns to our values. This year, we revamped our program to focus on COVID-19. These actions generate good PR, resonate with broad audiences and carry our narratives forward. We work with the business to find the right partners such as schools, governments and NGOs to endorse, support and collaborate on our efforts. And they help us tell a story in a meaningful way in the context of societal offers,” he said.