What does it mean to have authority? When you speak, do others listen? It’s something much more powerful than awareness. People can be aware of you, but if they don’t respect you and value what you have to say, awareness does you no good.
The same is true for a brand—whether consumer, B2B, or non-profit. Having authority in your industry is key to convincing people to wear your brand, use your technology, or support your cause. As an agency, we’ve been talking a lot about authority lately. About how to build it and maintain it, and how to leverage authority to achieve business goals. So where does authority come from?
One thing authority is not is self-ascribed. No one can simply say they have authority and make it so. It is something others give you, and often something you have to earn. You can earn authority by working in an industry for 40 years or by being the first person or company to achieve a specific feat. But authority primarily comes from third-party validation.
I heard about it on NPR…
In the world of public relations, that third-party validation has typically come from analysts and the media. And validation by one group is usually required before others will count you as credible.
Prior validation serving as a pre-requisite to credibility is a truth in almost every facet of life. For example, I’ve recently taken up running. As I’m further immersed into this world, I clearly see the power of validation. While I’m not planning to run in the Boston Marathon anytime soon, it’s interesting to learn about the qualification process. Due to the popularity of the race, eligibility is based on performance in previous marathons—and only certain races are certified as qualifying events. The Boston Athletic Association requires proof that a runner is fast enough to participate in the race and that proof must come from a reputable source.
This concept has previously been applied to PR in the form of the media relations pyramid. Before a trade publication would cover a brand, they would first talk to the analysts to get their opinion. And regional or tech media would look to the trades for insight on what trends or companies to follow. National media would follow suit, which is why getting a feature story in The New York Times is the Holy Grail of media relations.
This dynamic is still relatively true, but as the news cycle quickens it takes more than just a media mention to earn authority. Especially since most people aren’t seeing the article in which you’re mentioned in the first place. With the rise of “fake news,” readers now don’t know who to trust and traditional media doesn’t carry quite as much weight as it used to.
My co-worker told me about it…
Now, not only does brand authority require third-party validation from the media, but approval by the average person is a pre-requisite to earning influence. More and more, people are turning to friends, family, or strangers online to ask their opinion of a product or service before moving forward in the buyer’s journey. In fact, 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
I see this in my own life as I plan a trip to Seattle. Since I’ll only be there a few days, I want to make every meal and experience count. Which restaurants have the most reviews and highest ratings on Yelp? Does the Airbnb I want to stay at have a certified “Superhost”? How well does that winery tour rank on TripAdvisor? These days, we rely heavily on the opinions of others to make many of our decisions.
This has long been the case in consumer marketing, but it is becoming increasingly more relevant in enterprise technology. Sites like Capterra, Software Advice, GetApp, and G2 Crowd have gained tremendous popularity among those in search of the perfect marketing automation, IT infrastructure or business intelligence tools. And remember those analysts who have historically served as gatekeepers to the media relations pyramid? They’re catching on to the shift in authority. Gartner has been buying up several of the review sites previously mentioned and has created their own proprietary review site, Gartner Peer Insights.
It worked for my competitors…
Like consumer brands have been doing for years, B2B marketers need to be levering third-party validation from their existing customers to attract new users. While that might seem daunting, there are several steps that can help kickstart a customer advocacy program:
But you shouldn’t stop there. Once those advocates have been identified, why not ask them to provide a testimonial that can be published on your website? Better yet, record a customer interview and produce a quick video testimonial for greater impact and engagement.
Authority—credibility, leadership, influence, whatever you want to call it—has been around since the dawn of creation. Wars have been fought in the quest for authority. Whether on the battlefield or the internet, the pursuit of authority continues. As marketers, we just have to adjust our tactics for earning said authority.