How Industry Speaking Opps Drive Thought Leadership

While many people think that a PR agency’s responsibilities boil down to announcements and media placement, we can’t discount the power of thought leadership for business executives, especially for B2B companies. 

Content is one of the engines for thought leadership, and there are many ways to get the story out, from posting on the company website to being a part of a group like the Forbes Business Council. But one of the best ways to drive influence and visibility for business leaders is to secure earned speaking engagements for them. While some events are pay-to-play, meaning a company has to sponsor the event to secure a slot, there are plenty of conferences that are open to all in the industry. Here’s why earned speaking opportunities are an important PR program element.

Exposure in the right environment

The exposure that results from a keynote or panel opportunity is especially important for leaders at companies that are not household names outside of their industries. Sharing a stage with prominent names offers exposure to prospects, partners, and media.

can also use conferences to elevate people lower down on the totem pole that still have ideas to share, ones that might have otherwise gone unheard. Speaking opportunities are not just for the highest of the higher-ups and it’s a great opportunity to give people a voice.


Many executives are subject-matter experts, but they may not have had the chance to showcase their expertise to a large audience. Speaking at an event offers instant credibility and a chance to build a reputation as an expert resource. People will then be interested in what they have to say and what they can offer, which once again can lead to new business opportunities.

PR opportunities

Thought leadership can very easily go hand-in-hand with press releases and media placement, bringing together three main elements of PR programs. Because trade and business media typically cover the conferences and trade shows in their categories, a speaking slot can drive exposure to media and thus, interviews and features. A speaking gig can easily turn into a media story, with the PR team offering commentary to media or using a presentation to weigh in on a relevant issue. Additionally, the PR team can write a news release about the speech or post it on the company site to garner clicks and exposure. 

Great company

Speaking opportunities are more than just getting a leader on a stage. It allows them to participate in meaningful networking sessions where they meet peers with whom they can share knowledge and business tips. Conferences can be massive brainstorming sessions, and businesses can miss out on valuable contacts and insight if they’re absent. Of course, business leaders will attend relevant conferences even if they’re not speakers, but they gain extra prestige if they’re on stage, and being positioned with successful industry figures lends weight to their ideas and business brand.

Content that has legs

Just as it sparks PR opportunities, content offered at an event is often high-quality or even provocative stuff that can be repurposed for marketing and visibility down the line. It can be used in direct marketing, particularly email newsletters, press materials, sales presentations, and internal sessions. And of course, it adds to the executive’s speaking portfolio that builds their case to speak at more events, which then leads to more PR opportunities.

There’s no doubt that a strong thought leadership strategy that results in consistent and high-level industry exposure can help turn an emerging company into a more visible brand and an established brand into a category leader.

5 PR Tips To Promote Expertise On LinkedIn

Among B2B PR teams, LinkedIn is the go-to social media platform for executives to drive positive visibility and thought leadership. But a profile that serves as a glorified CV isn’t enough to gain sought-after exposure; that takes time, strategy, and a dash of creativity. How can executives get the most from their LinkedIn profile to convey leadership and be seen as an expert? 

Go beyond a resume 

Your LinkedIn profile is representative of your brand. If someone were to scroll through, how would they perceive you? It may be time to review and optimize your profile to ensure that it’s presenting you and your brand in the best way. Here is what to keep in mind:

  • Have an updated and professional-looking profile picture, and an appropriate banner photo. Don’t use a vacation snapshot or a picture of you in black tie at someone’s wedding. And make sure the banner photo is high-resolution and eye-catching.

  • Instead of your job title, include a headline that describes what you do. “Experienced marketing consultant who helps nonprofits obtain funding” is better than “Director of Marketing” or, worse, “Nonprofit Marketing Guru”  

  • Your summary should reveal your specific expertise. Be mindful of using keywords that will describe you as a leader in your sector. For example, “Built and led comms team at high-growth technology startup in advance of IPO” is more specific and a bit stronger than “Headed comms at successful startup.”  

  • Showcasing media on your profile is a great way to represent your expertise. If you’ve spoken at industry conferences, upload the video. Linking to blogs or articles that feature your expertise are also great ways to present your brand.

Zone in on your audience 

Odds are that B2B executives already know who their ideal target is, so the next step is to focus on the content that attracts them. Look at relevant media, customers, and key stakeholders. Keep in mind that interests will vary based on job title and sector. Make sure to use terms familiar to those in your industry, and be conscious of keywords and phrases that spark ideas and answer questions. For example, descriptions sprinkled with terms of interest to marketers, like “performance marketing,” “optimized campaigns” or ”lead-generation” will make your profile more searchable.

Minimize self-promotion 

As a thought leader, your goal is to provide authentic insights into industry trends and business. Glaringly obvious brand and company promotion can turn off your audience and detract from your message.It’s far more impressive to focus on insights and indirectly on career achievements.

Develop engaging content

Creating well-crafted, timely content is the most important way to position yourself as a thought leader on LinkedIn. Here are a few strategies you should consider when generating content.


If you’ve been quoted in any publications, share the links to them with an introductory sentence. LinkedIn also lets you publish your own articles within the platform as updates in your feed and LinkedIn groups.

Current events and timely coverage

Provide personal observations and opinions on the latest news; for example, what privacy updates mean for advertising or lessons to learn after a company’s been breached. Google Trends is an extremely useful tool that shows what people are searching for and highlights search phrases at their peak volume.  Google News is useful to understand timely coverage of what news outlets are publishing. If applicable, offer reasons why you agree or disagree with relevant stories or opinions in the news that relate to trending topics in your industry.

Evergreen content

Though timely coverage should be included in your mix, it’s important to include content with staying power. This is where evergreen content comes into play. Evergreen content will stay relevant for months or even years.

Create polls

Polls are a creative way to gauge where your audience stands on industry trends or breaking news, or common obstacles. Poll responses can spur the creation of a blog post or an article that addresses the subject at hand, providing you with even more content!

Thought leadership content is meant to be informative, not exhaustive – you don’t have to overthink it or go too broad when bit-sized topics will do. You’ll be able to reach a self-selected audience in search of practical advice that is shareable by other LinkedIn members.

Consistency is key

Set a schedule for publishing your LinkedIn posts. Social media managers like Hootsuite and Sprout Social allow you to schedule posts ahead of time. It’s also beneficial to set aside scheduled time to interact with your LinkedIn network. Pencil in some time on your calendar the same way you would for a meeting and stick with it. Just 15 minutes three times a week can build your network.

Once you’ve woven these ideas into your LinkedIn strategy, set metrics and track engagement and new followers to see if you’re making headway. Start connecting with your peers and key stakeholders. If you’re sharing relevant updates and articles, these potential connections will have context about you and your brand which will increase the likelihood of them connecting with you. You’ll be well on your way to solidifying your place as a LinkedIn thought leader in no time.

What Thought Leaders Have In Common

In B2B public relations, there’s a lot of talk about thought leadership. Agency teams promise client executives that they’ll be positioned as thought leaders, we throw the term into proposals, and we call our content “thought capital.” Granted, good executive content is a very useful component of a B2B PR program, but that doesn’t necessarily make the author a thought leader. They might be an expert, which is a fine thing, or a business leader, which is terrific, or even a brilliant and charismatic speaker.

So, what’s magical about thought leadership?

“Expert” or “authority” just aren’t good enough, and “pundit” can hit the wrong note. It was an economist, Joel Kurtzman, who is actually credited with popularizing “thought leadership” in business circles. Kurtzman, who died in 2016 and also coined the term “economic headwinds,” was clearly a thought leader in his own right.

So, what separates mere experts from thought leaders? As business professor and author Dorie Clark says, the emphasis here is on “leader.” Lots of us have interesting or provocative thoughts, but the delivery and amplification of such concepts is critical. Maybe that’s why we PR people just can’t stop talking about it.

In my view, true thought leadership is typically a blend of insight, inspiration, and influence. The good news is, it can be easier to grab attention for leading insights during a time of disruption, when specific audiences like customers or employees are hungry for new ideas or solutions to problems.  That describes the present, of course. And today’s digital media environment, which makes building virality easier than ever, also comes into play. Now is a great time to be a thought leader.

How thought leaders are made

How does that happen? One way to be a thought leader is to be first with a striking new concept or insight, like digital marketing guru Seth Godin, or the person I think of as his latter-day counterpart, Gary Vaynerchuk. We see it in first-mover companies as well. Look at Salesforce, which pioneered modern CRM, or Starbucks, which Americanized the concept of cafe culture in the 1990s. In the spirit of thought leadership about, well, thought leadership, here’s my adapted list of qualities common to people and brands who qualify.

Key traits of thought leaders

They talk about ideas

The young U.S. president John F. Kennedy was a thought leader when he rallied Americans to put a man on the moon, and in fact, the term “moonshoot” has been used to express an idealistic goal ever since the first Apollo moon landing.  In Kennedy’s day, it wasn’t a new concept, but it captured the public imagination and was a metaphor for American ingenuity, competitiveness, and idealism. It’s interesting to see space travel adopted as a personal and business mission by billionaires Bezos, Musk, and Branson today, although I’d say their “moonshots” fall well short of Kennedy’s example. But the fact remains that true thought leadership is about ideas that demand attention from relevant audiences, that spark inspiration and discussion, and that can lead to new ways of thinking about and achieving our goals.

They’re specialists

Most thought leadership arises from deep expertise, usually the result of immersion in a singular area. Many experts cement their reputation in a vertical area, then apply their ideas more broadly. It may be less about answering the obvious questions (“How to unify our country?) than it is about asking a different and more specific one (“What are the things we dream of doing but have not done?”). Expertise comes from immersion in a narrow area, and most PR people will agree it’s easier to differentiate ideas when they are specific.

They’re bold

Many true thought leaders are naturally contrarian. If that tendency to zig when others zag is authentic, it can offer a quick route to recognition.  The quintessential example is Steve Jobs, who took risks by rejecting market research and other conventions of product development. Of course, Jobs reportedly took his inspiration from Henry Ford, who is rumored to have said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” A true visionary follows his own path.

They’re hopeful

I don’t think personal optimism is necessary to an effective idea or leadership platform, but people will naturally respond well to a concept that offers hope. Part of inspiration is to offer a path to progress, particularly in a dynamic, troubled, or rapidly transforming industry where stakeholders feel uncertain or if they fear change. That’s one reason why Vaynerchuk, who transformed from a social-media wine expert to a business leader after the 2008 downturn, achieved such startling success. He offered advice to recession-battered strivers on how to take advantage of social and digital media to pivot away from traditional jobs and create new-economy gigs.

They’re different

True thought leadership is unique and ownable. That sounds daunting, but differentiation can come down to a twist in an existing idea, or the juxtaposition of two seemingly dissimilar things. Which is where the packaging and communication of  a single, coherent and well-articulated thought are critical.

How they get the message out

Even the most inspiring idea is only as good as its delivery. How can true thought leaders start an authentic conversation around their message? This is where the PR and digital marketing magic kick in, — or so we hope. But in addition to a sound communications strategy, targeted audiences, and quality content, message differentiation and amplification here are key.

Package the idea

Often an idea or trend has grown up around us, but we haven’t noticed it and have no language for identifying or discussing it. Malcolm Gladwell had some excellent and insightful observations about the spread of ideas and memes, and they were truly original. But it was only after he packaged his observations under a label borrowed from epidemiology that “the tipping point” was born.

Build a community

According to Dorie Clark, the first step here is in building a network of receptive and knowledgeable people who will listen to the idea. That network, which typically combines business and personal contacts but may extend deeply into a given industry, serves to plant the seeds for conversation. If properly nurtured, it will grow into a group of advocates and eventually, propelled by digital and social platforms, a community. Good leaders will listen to that community. After that, things become like a boulder running downhill; an idea generates its own momentum.

Be generous

An idea at the right time has its own momentum, it’s true. That means you can’t own it. Thought leadership isn’t about profiting from ideas or selling products. Instead, it’s about sharing credit, encouraging reaction and discussion, and building a community around the central concept. Thought leaders literally give it away, but the rewards of their work include public recognition, deeper relationships with customers, and an invaluable platform for continued business growth.

The Future Of Conferences And Events: A PR Planner’s View

A year ago, our B2B Tech PR clients were finalizing their 2020 conference speaking strategies, looking forward to sponsoring or winning speaking gigs at tech stalwarts like Cannes Lion, DreamForce, and Hubspot INBOUND.

That was then. As the pandemic hit the U.S., I recall the first big event to cancel was South By South West (SXSW). Soon, the event dominoes toppled in a quick series of cancellations and postponements, with most moving their meetings to the fall. We were speculating about how jam-packed the fourth-quarter 2020 tech calendar would be – and that was in some ways true, but only on our screens. Event producers hustled to pivot to virtual conferences, which forced innovation throughout the entire live events industry.

Now, as tech leaders look at their PR and marketing 2021 calendars, they see a transformed conference ecosystem. Here’s what the near and distant future will look like in the evolving world of live events.

Live will return, but don’t count on it in 2021

After a year of Zoom meetings, virtual happy hours, and family Facetime calls, most would agree that there is no substitute for in-real-life (IRL) experiences. The B2B world in particular is dependent on live events to meet business objectives; (97%) of B2B marketers believe that in-person events have a major impact on business outcomes. Everybody wants IRL, but only 62% of event marketers are planning to resume in-person events in 2021. Many conference producers have announced their 2021 in-person events in hopes that vaccines will quell fears and increase confidence about attendance. But as happened in 2020, live events like Cannes Lions, currently planned for June 2021, may have to be postponed yet again or adapted to a virtual platform. The Consumer Electronics Show and SXSW have gone virtual this year, and most events well into summer are still being planned in virtual or hybrid formats.

Virtual is more “real” than ever

In 2020, necessity became the mother of innovation. B2Bs and media outlets rely heavily on their own events and industry conferences as full-funnel engines of customer engagement, conversion, and retention.  Many raced to transform their annual conferences to virtual experiences. Some like Social Media Week did so with astonishing speed, revamping its model in 3-4 weeks. At first in survival mode, they were just salvaging what they could of their event marketing programs. Yet savvy producers created compelling online conferences with the help of tech advances and good old-fashioned creativity. They created ways for attendees to interact and network in real time virtually, for exhibitors to have virtual booths, and for sponsors to enjoy robust ROI in virtual environments. As some conferences embark on their second virtual event in 2021, they will offer experiences that are compelling and interactive, approximating the IRL experience more than ever before.

The future is hybrid

The scramble to salvage vital pieces of the B2B marketing mix has produced a positive by-product. In-person conferences will almost inevitably include online, on-demand, and other virtual elements that will result in better overall attendee and sponsor experiences, improved personalization, and new opportunities to engage attendees with broader reach. Event producers who had never dipped toes into online elements are now busy incorporating virtual tracks into their conferences permanently.  The bar has risen for online conferences, with better video production value, live attendee chats and Q&As, and virtual exhibition halls. In 2021 and beyond, there will be very few live conferences that do not offer some kind of online element. Still, event solution providers and marketers are still addressing the biggest challenges of staging online conferences, mainly how to mimic the electricity of real-life, one-to-one human engagement.  In a ‘best of both worlds’ scenario, the future of tech conferences in particular is certainly hybrid, combining the magic of face-to-face interaction with the technological efficiency, data collection, and broad reach of virtual meetings.

Trade organizations like the Consumer Technology Association, B2B techs like SalesForce, media companies like Digiday, and independent event producers like SXSW are all adjusting to the strange new normal. Perhaps because they see the upside of lower barriers to entry and reduced costs, a few event producers like O’Reilly Media seem to have no plans to return to IRL, opting to hold their Strata Data and AI events in fully online environments. But no matter how event marketers decide to handle their meetings, tech conferences will be better in the coming months and years, as they benefit from a crisis that forced us to rethink the everyday.

Five Types Of Bylined Content That Work For PR

As outlined in my post on PR tips for effective bylines, bylined content is a powerful part of a B2B PR plan. It can help deliver key messages, communicate expertise and drive thought leadership for business brands. But there are many types of content that build credibility and leadership as part of a strategic PR program. Here are five of the most common.

Traditional Trend Piece

Content that explains a new or emerging trend is among the most valuable for business customers because it helps educate prospects. Educational content is particularly useful for any category with a long purchase cycle and steep learning curve, like software or insurance. Executives who are subject-matter experts can share relevant insights on business happenings. These will typically include a specific point of view about an industry trend, what it means, how businesses should prepare or respond, and possibly even how they can help, although this may only be implied. For example, we represent several ad tech companies at a time when major browsers like Chrome are phasing out support for third-party cookies. What does this mean for digital advertising? How can marketers cope? What does it do for publishers? These issues seem arcane for anyone outside the industry, but they’re hot-button topics in the ad tech lane because the community is rushing to adapt. As in any category, change represents opportunity for those who can seize it.

Personal/Lessons Learned

We love this type of piece because we represent high-growth technology companies often led by entrepreneurs, and they all have stories to tell. What’s more, these pieces are usually both well differentiated and authentic. The important thing to bear in mind for “lessons learned” content is that the most influential and widely shared articles will offer insights for the reader as well as an interesting personal experience. Right now, many businesses have learned and changed enormously as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among our base of clients there are some excellent stories about what they’ve learned, how they’ve adapted and how they’re continuing to navigate the situation as business leaders and as citizens. A “lessons learned” piece is also among the most versatile, and it can usually be augmented or even replaced by a video version. 

Service Content

This type of content can overlap with the “lessons learned” category, but it is typically more tactical and less personal. It may also be far more grounded in research. An effective service piece can be in the form of a whitepaper that offers proprietary industry data and outlines key steps for customers who face a specific decision or business dilemma. The best service articles are generous with data but offer clear tips, steps, or checklists for moving a business forward, responding to customer preferences, or effecting specific change. Service content is among the easiest and best types of content for incorporating different types of visuals beyond text, including digital graphics, charts, and short video snippets. 

Opinion/Contrarian Piece

This type of contributed content showcases a personal opinion on an important business, social, or cultural matter. Op-ed pieces and bylined articles are a staple in politics, but they’re equally effective for entrepreneurs and business leaders who want to communicate their ideas and build a reputation for bold thinking. The most effective such articles set out a single take or point of view and back it up with statistics, experience, or other evidence. An op-ed is a perfect vehicle for experts who want to help shape a public conversation. A contrarian opinion and/or a strong call to action can help an op-ed writer stand out. In our world, a less popular opinion may have a better chance of being published in an influential business or trade outlet – but only if it is authentic. 


A Call To Action, or CTA, can exist in nearly any type of content but it’s worth calling out because it is essential to achieving content marketing goals. The CTA tells a target audience what action they should take after reading through the post. The most basic CTAs involve encouraging the customer to buy a product or service. Other types might involve asking readers to share the content, make a donation, subscribe to emails, and so forth. CTAs should be short and concise so the reader knows exactly what to do and can easily follow through. 

Leverage bylined articles for maximum exposure

After deciding on your content mix, it’s important to make sure it is seen by the most relevant target audience. Any business can ensure that its pieces are seen by those who matter most: clients, prospects, referral sources, alumni, colleagues, internal staff, and, of course, the media outlets that influence different segments. Promoting content social media and encouraging others to share it as well is important for gaining maximum exposure for your piece. Direct marketing to customers and employees through timely emails is also useful. We will explore the best ways to merchandise business content in an upcoming post. 


PR Tactics To Boost Executive Visibility

PR is one of the best ways to build visibility for a corporate brand while getting the word out about a given product or service. And a fundamental part of any effective PR campaign is a healthy focus on executive visibility.

These days, business leaders can’t afford to sit on the sidelines and simply run their company with the expectation that their PR team will do the heavy lifting. A C-level executive is the face of the company and often its brand. They must be willing to share business advice, comment on key trends affecting their category, and use their position as a platform for communicating expertise on an industry-wide scale.

Here are some key tactics for PR pros to build executive visibility and thought leadership.

Finding a voice in the media

Executives should be seen as thought leaders – first and foremost – by the journalists who cover their industry. This usually doesn’t happen overnight. PR teams need to be vigilant in identifying opportunities for business leaders to weigh in on relevant news and issues. Whether it’s a reactive pitch about Amazon’s effects on a startup ecosystem or a proactive push about a company’s unusual approach to online marketing – execs should always be using the media as a platform to educate relevant audiences.

Bylines and blogs

A leadership campaign should include a robust bylined content program. PR pros should consistently make inroads for executives to become regular contributors to both trade and mainstream publications. These opportunities give executives a range of content to use as a way to address customer concerns, offer fresh ideas, or introduce new thinking to the industry. They also help shine a light on the personality behind the exec, positioning them as someone with a compelling point of view.

Once an exec has established a cadence for generating proactive opinion pieces, they can be leveraged for internal blog content, made actionable through a growing Medium page and posted to LinkedIn to encourage dialogue among other professionals and showcase expertise. See this post for tips on writing stellar executive bylines.

Become a constant at conferences

Speaking at events and conferences is another excellent way for PR teams to build executive visibility. Conferences must be relevant and the subject matter should play to the core strengths of an executive’s abilities as a brand ambassador. If done right, this strategy can drive both visibility and credibility, while giving execs a chance to network with other like-minded business leaders or prospects. See this earlier post for tips on getting speaking engagements.

Take home some hardware

Awards confer that invaluable third-party endorsement, especially for entrepreneurs. For example, the Stevie American Business Awards have categories for “tech innovator of the year,” “maverick of the year,” and “woman of the year.” Just imagine amplifying the news that your founder was named a Glassdoor Employees Choice Top CEO on the company’s awards page, blog posts, social channels, and press releases. But don’t stop at general biz and entrepreneurship awards. Many verticals feature individual categories like “executive of the year” or “CEO of the year.”

Get social

We live in a world where social media can make or break a business. These days brands tweet like real people, and certain business leaders have created cult-like followings. As PR campaigns become more integrated, social media is a larger focus for more effective executive visibility. Yet research tells us that 70 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs have no presence on social networks, and many of those who do aren’t very active. Technology executives and entrepreneurs tend to be more comfortable on social media, but others are simply gun-shy.

PR teams should encourage business leaders to find their voice on social media as a way to boost a CEO’s personal profile organically. They should consider LinkedIn and Twitter, for example, to identify and connect with industry influencers, engage with customers and interact with peers. Social media – if used correctly – can humanize an executive and give the average joe a better understanding of the values and ethics that flow into a brand.  

PR Tactics To Show Company Values

PR is an essential business function for imparting a company’s values and beliefs to the public. Because earned media confers credibility, it can be decidedly more powerful than marketing and advertising. With the public too cynical to buy into ads trumpeting a company’s inherent beliefs, public relations offers that all-important third-party acclaim. If a young company has something special in its DNA like a unique workplace culture, a mission to radically change the industry, or bold opinions on social issues, then communicating these values can be a powerful differentiator.
Here are five PR tactics to get the word out on an organization’s values.

Partners with the same values

Hitching the wagon to a like-minded organization or influencer can go a long way in communicating values. If a tech company only uses only renewable energy, then it might partner with an environmental group for an issues awareness campaign about the environmental impact of high-tech products. Just as people’s values are often judged by the friends they keep, a company’s associations help inform its public image. Plus, any messaging about the campaign receives wider amplification, since both partners communicate on their owned and shared channels. For example, Patagonia’s partnership with famous climber Tommy Caldwell (“rock climbing ambassador”) reinforces both parties’ values. See this earlier post for more on better PR with third-party partnerships.

Take the stage

Speaking engagements are an effective way to shape executive thought leadership. If a company has developed a unique method for recruiting a diverse workforce, for example, its spokespeople can earn speaking sessions at diversity and inclusion, workplace culture, and HR industry conferences. By consistently educating others the company is putting its values of inclusion on display while boosting brand visibility in a strategic way. Winning unpaid speaking engagements at industry events carries added prestige over sponsored, so they can be worth the extra effort. See this post for more on winning these prime speaking engagements.

Create your own event

By creating its own conference or other media event, a company can make an even more emphatic statement of its values and mission. Crenshaw client Bizzabo, a leading event software company, wanted to take action after research confirmed that tech events overwhelming feature male speakers and attendees to the tune of 70% and 80% respectively. To take action and amplify its push for gender diversity, it created its own women’s leadership half-day conference called Empower, held on International Women’s Day. It’s precisely the type of commitment that could grow into a recognized element of a company’s reputation as an advocate for gender diversity in tech.

Executive content

When it comes to pitching executive bylines to the media, tech companies naturally tend to focus on topics related to its space and solutions. However, PR teams shouldn’t forget to join conversations related to industry and social issues when relevant. If the executive has a strong or contrarian point of view on topics of evergreen interest, then she should write blog entries, LinkedIn posts, and pitch bylines to key outlets. Of course, the company has to walk the walk before the media will listen to its talk. One of our clients found a powerful platform after it decided to buy back the business from the venture capital company that funded it. It was only after it went through with the transaction that it had the credibility to promote corporate values like independence and reasonable growth (as opposed to VC-cash-fueled hypergrowth.) As with all PR tactics, conversations supported by substance and/or data have a better chance of gaining coverage. See this post for tips on writing stellar bylines.

Corporate activism

A bolder way to communicate a company’s value system is through reactive commentary on trending social or political issues. If done well and backed by authentic action, the executive can exert influence while the brand becomes synonymous with a distinct set of beliefs. See this post for more on CEOs embracing corporate activism.
Not all companies focus on beliefs or have a point of view that transcends business. But if a business does have a unique ethos, it should use PR to get the word out. By consistently communicating a coherent set of values through various PR tactics, an organization will gain reputational capital for something substantive that can separate itself from the herd.

PR’s Top Tech Events For Executive Speaking Gigs

Sure, it’s only February, but if a technology company is serious about a consistent thought leadership drumbeat at industry conferences, its PR team needs to be nailing down third and fourth-quarter events now. Tech conference programming teams begin developing their themes, tracks, and agendas many months in advance, of course. Events open their speaking proposal submissions six to twelve months ahead of time, and sometimes they close submissions more than six months out. Even if a conference has an “always taking submissions” policy, it pays to get your topic and speaker proposals in as early as possible. Since earned speaking engagements at industry events are the more glamorous gigs for thought leaders, I’m featuring eight of the major technology conferences and events later this year. Get your speaker submissions ready!

8 top tech events for thought leadership

VentureBeat Transform, July 10-11, San Francisco

VentureBeat Transform focuses on “accelerating your business with AI” in 2019 and is a thought leadership event and great networking opportunity for C-suite executives. Although there is no set deadline, PR teams should submit their most experienced, highest level executive speakers very soon to have a chance to stand out among hundreds of proposals.

Fortune Brainstorm Tech, July 15-17, Aspen, Colorado

This annual invite-only “summer retreat for leaders of fortune 500 companies” provides high-level networking opportunities, so only established C-level thought leaders should apply. If your emerging tech company has a CEO with experience on stage, and who has clearly chosen a bold, trailblazing stance on industry issues in the media, Brainstorm Tech can be a great opportunity to take a company profile next-level.

Inbound 2019, September 3-6, Boston

Hubspot’s annual martech industry bash Inbound brings celebrity clout to its keynote stages in the form of eminent stars of sports (Alex Rodriguez), entertainment (Shonda Rhimes), and politics (Michelle Obama). But it also accepts earned speaking topic proposals for its breakout sessions, which still can attract hundreds of audience members to your talk. Deadline for submissions is February 22, so hurry!

DMEXCO, September 11-12, Cologne, Germany

An expo with a thousand exhibitors and a conference with 18 stages, it doesn’t get much bigger and flashier than the annual marketing, technology, creative and media industries behemoth. DMEXCO keeps its speaker submissions open year-round, but again, a quality abstract and speaker submission in February has a better chance than one in August.

Advertising Week NY, September 23-26, New York

AW takes over New York City each autumn as almost 100,000 marketers, advertisers, technology, and brand professionals descend on the big apple to check out over a thousand speakers in four days of networking. To grab a coveted spot on stage for the 16th New York Advertising Week, submit a speaker and/or an entire seminar topic idea via online portal by May 23.

Mobile World Congress LA, October 22-24, Los Angeles

PR teams should keep this year’s tagline of “intelligent connectivity” and its four themes in mind when submitting: 5G, IoT, Disruptive Innovation, and Immersive Content.  Like its big brother event Mobile World Congress next week in Barcelona, MWC LA is a massive combination of expo and conference boasting over 20,000 attendees. Deadline is May 1.

ANA Masters of Marketing, October 2-5, Orlando

If you’re a martech or adtech solution provider or a big brand marketer, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) flagship annual conference Masters of Marketing is a great choice to gain visibility, network, and generate leads. But note that tech solution providers must bring a brand client co-speaker along to be considered for the agenda. Also, ANA recommend you submit at least 6-months in advance to have a chance at selection.

Web Summit, November 4-7, Lisbon, Portugal

From the same producers of Collision Conference in Toronto comes perhaps the most sprawling of the world’s tech events, which is covered by over 2,000 media each year. Web Summit is unique in its division into 24 separate tracks, or summits within the summit, ranging from “” for all things data to “SportsTrade” for the business of sports. Speaker submissions are open year-round, but, of course, get your proposals in early for a better chance at a plum earned stage opportunity.
Tech companies looking to establish an executive thought leader as subject matter expert should keep a rolling calendar of relevant industry conference targets, complete with submission policies and deadline dates. Getting ahead of the game is key, since event programmers seek to solidify their agendas months in advance, and they are deluged by hundreds of proposals. See our earlier post for PR tips for getting speaking engagements.

PR Tips For Successful Speaking on Panels

Public-speaking engagements are a strong component of a good B2B PR thought leadership plan. Industry discussion panels in particular can be very effective, whether part of a larger conference or trade show, or created as a customized event for prospects. The best industry panels are not only well attended, but promoted and covered by relevant media. They can also present valuable networking opportunities. Above all, a panel is an excellent way to develop original content around a hot-button industry issue. When live-streamed or taped for repurposing as short videos, they demonstrate expertise and expanding brand visibility well beyond the panel event.

Like every other public relations activity, panel speaking requires preparation. If you’ve ever attended a dull panel event where one person pontificated endlessly, or the moderator didn’t spread the wealth, you know how uncomfortable it can be. Here are some guidelines to help you shine in your next panel appearance.

How to be the star of your next panel

Arrive early

Arriving a few minutes early will save any anxiety about being late, and, in the case of smaller audiences, it can offer the opportunity to mingle with members of the audience and possibly other panelists. Audience knowledge is important for tailoring your comments within the group discussion, and for those who get nervous about speaking in front of a group, it’s a good tip for boosting confidence.

Don’t advertise your brand

Your name and affiliation on panel materials and your stellar participation in the group discussion should be enough. Most thought leadership panels are created with the tacit – or stated – understanding that they are not meant for commercial purposes. There’s no need to digress into an advertisement for your company or service (although a good introduction is essential, as outlined below.) Show your expertise with facts, short anecdotes, and insights. And while it’s fine to jump in and add to someone’s comment, no panel member should try to outshine others by talking over them.

But make sure you have a strong introduction

Don’t leave your introduction to chance; make sure the moderator or panel planner has an updated bio that captures your experience and accomplishments. Too often a PR person will simply google around for a biographical blurb, but it’s better to create or tweak an impressive bio for purposes of the industry panel. Also, it’s a good idea to bring an extra copy in case it falls through the cracks.

Present the best face of the company

Dress attractively, sit up straight, speak naturally, and listen to others as they speak. As actors are trained to do, panel participants should enunciate and project just a little bit more than normal, speaking clearly into the microphone. Make eye contact with the audience rather than only with the moderator or other panel members. Any mumbling, slumping, or other presentation foibles will detract from the insights offered. Going forward, the audience will think of the panelist’s face and voice when they think of your company. You want them to remember you as an engaging communicator and an expert resource on the topics at hand.

Above all, don’t be boring

Bring a spark. If you hold a minority or contrarian opinion about a specific issue, this is a great opportunity to share it. If you disagree, say so respectfully and briefly explain why. If you agree, don’t just say so. Be prepared to elaborate, offer an anecdote, or introduce a new issue. There’s nothing wrong with being entertaining on an industry panel. Have a cup of strong coffee and let your charisma elevate the energy of the event.

Get in the know

Do the requisite research on the personal and professional backgrounds of the panelists and the moderator. This will help you anticipate questions, answers, and other points of view – allowing you to prepare retorts ahead of the event. Know your audience. Calibrate the amount of techno-speak and jargon based on the sophistication of the attendees. Also, don’t forget to prepare an outline of answers from a list of potential questions. If your panelist is inexperienced or not a natural public speaker, your PR team may want to offer some spokesperson training ahead of the panel.

Shining on a panel at a conference can lead to other thought leadership opportunities for an executive spokesperson, like invitations to other panels, podcast guesting, byline contribution, and media placements. Most importantly, a young B2B tech brand can begin to cultivate real brand voice, credibility, and point of view, all of which establishes a solid reputation for competitive advantage. Along with keynote speaking or workshop participation, paneling is one of the best ways to make the most out of industry conferences and trade shows. See this earlier post for more on placing execs on panels and other speaking gigs.