Achieving the big idea is no easy task. It takes time, discipline, resources and long-term commitment.
But framing your PR program around a big idea allows you to achieve a level of thought leadership and recognition for your brand that simply isn't attainable otherwise. Here are a few things I’ve learned about how to develop and refine that big idea.
Think about ideas that aren't shackled by the constraints of geographic or demographic borders. For B2B tech companies, this means thinking about things not only from your buyer’s perspective. Consider the end consumer, too. By definition, if your idea only speaks to a niche audience, then it probably isn't a big idea quite yet.
For example, if your company or client sells infrastructure to telecommunications service providers, think about how that service takes shape when it’s rolled out to end-user businesses and consumers. Then, think beyond the consumer’s service experience. What broader needs and desires have they connected to their broadband service and how can you address them?
Start by writing your dream headline and subhead using a business press news article as a guidepost. Then, work backwards in your thought process to craft the strategy for making that headline a reality. For example, if your perfect story is a Wall Street Journal feature with this headline, "X Company is Improving the Quality of the Drinking Water for Families Living in Third World Countries," write that down then work backwards on an approach to making that idea come to life. You might be surprised to find how easy it is to get people on board with your goal, especially once you have it all mapped out.
Attack the Root Cause of an Industry-wide Problem
Do you notice a common hindrance of a software technology that your company and many other companies make and sell? Maybe the real inhibitor isn't the vendor competition or the lack of IT funds from customers. Perhaps there isn't widespread adoption because of a lack of common industry standards or guidelines. Maybe lack of sufficient training and education are the real reasons people aren't making the leap. Take a break from face-palming about something you can't fix and get a big idea off the ground that might actually solve the root cause of the problem.
To address this challenge, consider forming an industry-wide coalition, rallying all vendors together to develop standards and training practices that will make adoption easier. This type of industry association can lend itself well to an online community for discussing best practices. It may even lead to annual face-to-face conferences where industry members can have conversations about new standards and run performance tests of multi-vendor software to showcase interoperability. Leading this sort of effort will allow your company to be a technology leader who speaks to the technology ecosystem and the criticality of being "frenemies" in an industry where doing right by the customer hasn't always been the case.
Get Your Feet Wet
While it's called a "big" idea, sometimes the key to creativity is in starting with a small idea or event—one with a powerful or thought provoking message. Many times in my career I have been challenged to create thought leadership ideas with very little resources or funding. One of the best approaches I have used to tackle that challenge is in creating intimate, unrehearsed events with a very diverse speaker panel.
For example, by bringing together an industry analyst, a member of the media, a business customer, an end-consumer, an author and an academic to wax lyrical about a contentious technology industry topic, you can grab the attention of a rather broad and influential audience. This works especially well when executed flawlessly and with no marketing veneer whatsoever. Letting smart people with opinions speak their minds without boundaries creates organic thought leadership. It’s also a great way to test the waters before investing in a large-scale idea.
Without question, developing big ideas can super-charge a bland PR & social program. Even if the ideas don’t always get approved for execution, striving for the big idea on a day-to-day basis can help keep your thinking fresh and your job more interesting. Be sure to carve out time in your schedule to strive for the big idea, and involve key members of your team to come up with ideas that stretch the imagination. Good luck!