Case Study for Hootsuite



Hootsuite is the global leader in social media management, trusted by more than 18 million customers in 80% of the Fortune 1000, with over 4,000 enterprise customers. The company has the broadest dataset in the marketplace, used in more languages and in more countries than any other social media management platform. Forward-thinking businesses and organizations turn to Hootsuite for unparalleled expertise, customer insights and a collaborative ecosystem that helps people and organizations succeed with social media.  

Although widely known and used around the world, Hootsuite believed company recognition, thought leadership and brand visibility in the U.S. should be elevated and their platform more differentiated. Hootsuite hired Karbo Communications as the U.S. agency of record in September 2019 based on the team’s strategic counsel, creative approach to PR and proven, successful track record in representing a mixture of B2B tech, social, B2B advertising, and martech companies. Karbo Com and Hootsuite remain partners to this day.

When Should You Stop Growing?

Author and artist William S. Burroughs famously stated, “When you stop growing, you start dying.”

In Silicon Valley, shark-like forward motion is evangelized and celebrated. One must be constantly moving. Constantly doing. But movement in and of itself is not growth.

Meaningful growth is what we at Karbo Com plan for and what we’re driven to achieve. It’s accomplishing something important, not just doing something for the sake of doing.

Is there ever an appropriate time to take your foot off the gas and temporarily ‘coast along’ when it comes to intellectual, fiscal and physical growth? At Karbo Com we plan and hold each other accountable for successful intellectual and fiscal growth. We know it means nothing without the success of our clients. But we’ve also, at times, temporarily suspended taking on more clients to ensure we don’t compromise the quality of our work and our lives.

Once a year, everyone at Karbo Com takes time to fully commit to asking and answering the important questions that will drive our success in the coming year. What did we do right this year? What can we improve?  What are our 2019 objectives? How can our PR and digital services remain state of the art? What technology areas and clients should we pursue? How do we stay one step ahead of competitors? How do we maintain the culture we love while hiring to meet the demands for our services?

Everyone in the company attends our offsite, because everyone adds value. In our boutique firm, there can’t be any weak links. At our annual offsites, we tune out the noise and frenetic activity of the industry to create an oasis of strategic thinking, creativity and camaraderie. We are unflinchingly honest with ourselves. We channel constructive criticism and new ideas into laser-focused plans.

This year we met in Las Vegas. One of my favorite activities was when one of our account directors, Sian, had us write our name on a stack of blank 3×5 cards. We then passed them around the conference room. Each person anonymously shared what they admired about the person whose name was on the cards. This activity said a lot about the kind of company and people we are.

Outside our strategy meetings we looked to strengthen the bonds we share as a team. Like sitting front row at Jabbawockeez, playing in the dirt in bulldozers and excavators at Dig This, riding high on the Ferris wheel, and enjoying inspiring food at some of the best restaurants.

Yes, we’re growing and not dying. But we’re doing it in ways that are meaningful to our success, our happiness and making our mark on the world. That’s the KC Way.

Wishing you success as you do things your way in 2019!

Cool, Calm and Collected: Responding to a PR Crisis

On October 4, 2018, Bloomberg Businessweek dropped an apparent bombshell in its article, “The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate U.S. Companies.” America’s technology supply chain had been compromised, with nearly 30 U.S. companies allegedly directly affected. (Only Amazon, Apple and Super Micro Computer, Inc. were named.)

Responses from Amazon, Apple and Supermicro have been swift, emphatic and persistent: “The report is untrue.” “We’re unaware of any such investigation.” “The article should be retracted.” “Show us the evidence.”

In his opinion piece in The Atlantic published two days after the initial report, Contributing Editor Ian Bogost declared: “Soon enough, as people start tearing down the Supermicro motherboards at the heart of the scandal, the world will learn whether the hack is a real crisis or a false alarm. But in some ways, it is a real crisis no matter the outcome.”

In the shadow cast by the report’s Klieg lights are hundreds of American supply chain companies who are not named publicly, but still need to assure their customers, partners and stakeholders that they are unaffected. To these companies, we offer the following tips, road-tested with tech companies over several decades, for how to deliver a clutch performance when in a near-miss crisis situation like this.

When you hear the first hints of disturbing news, you’ll need to quickly, yet thoroughly, research what’s included in the news. This includes distinguishing between rumor and fact. If it’s difficult to separate the two, then find at least one primary source to approach about rumors. This lessens your dependence on secondary sources, however credible.

You should simultaneously assess whom the news might affect. This includes identifying all potential individuals (e.g., partners, customers, supply chain, employees, others).

Many companies find it useful at this stage to pull together an ad hoc team of experts to consult with. The team typically consists of both internal and external participants with expertise in communications, legal requirements, technology, etc. Among the team’s tasks are brainstorming the possible effects of the news on the audiences you’ve listed. This team should also try to anticipate any potential concerns of each group or individual affected, so the correlating facts to assuage the fears can be assembled.

Because there are typically no one-size-fits-all answers, you’ll be most successful by identifying how and when those affected might respond to the news. The ideal is to anticipate questions before they can foment into concerns, and provide counterfacts to replace rumors before they blow out of proportion.

Once you’ve prepared the list of concerns and corresponding facts, it’s time to determine how much information each affected party needs to know, and when they should learn it. In general, there will be information to be communicated immediately. Additional information, especially if it’s initially incomplete or unsubstantiated, should be verified and fleshed out before it is communicated.

Carefully select the words for each communication. Choose words to convey sincerity, disclose facts and express commitment to the well-being of affected parties. For public companies, investor relations and legal advisors should be consulted at this point, to ensure messages are consistent with legal and SEC disclosure requirements.

The level of urgency and the number of individuals and their locations dictate the selection of communications’ vehicles. The choice is yours whether to use instant-messaging or a similar group-sharing platform, phone, email, social media, letter, op-ed, advertisement, etc.

Don’t forget to designate who will share the messages. This can be as important as the tone and the words in establishing credibility and managing expectations appropriately.

Finally, construct a timeline for ongoing communication. As we’ve seen from the alleged Chinese hack attack, the news was still making headlines three weeks after the initial story broke. Companies should prepare to communicate immediately (if appropriate) when initial reports become public, to follow up with periodic updates in parallel with attention-grabbing headlines as a crisis persists, and to send a final communication that proves the crisis will unlikely reoccur.

When a crisis threatens your company’s reputation, or hits as a near-miss within your ecosystem, look for inspiration from the athletic greats who’ve demonstrated over the years how to calmly handle pressure situations. Like Brandi Chastain’s left-footed PK that decided the final of the 1999 Women’s World Cup. Practice these tips, and you, too, can show you’re a clutch performer who can guide your company to desirable outcomes.

Tips for Clutch Performers:

  • Consult sources to separate rumor from fact
  • Identify who the news affects
  • Assemble ad hoc team of comms, legal, IR, tech experts
  • Anticipate possible effects
  • Craft factual messages conveying sincerity and commitment
  • Designate communicators
  • Select appropriate comms channels/platforms
  • Create timeline

Will Native Content Fall Victim to Fake News?

Originally appeared in O’Dwyer’s PR News.

Native ads have overtaken display as the most popular form of digital advertising, but the gaming of social channels and the mistrust of media based on cries of fake news threaten to usurp its value.

In general terms, a native ad is any paid content that mimics the design of the press-generated content available on the channel on which it appears. It can be a paid editorial that subtly weaves a brand’s value into the article. It can be a hashtag that a brand promotes to spur user engagement.

When done well, native ads can be informative and persuade the reader without violating their trust.

In the era of fake news, growing consumer confusion and mistrust, it’s more important than ever that native advertising content be true to this mission.

O'Dwyer's Nov. '19 Technology PR Magazine

This article is featured in O’Dwyer’s Nov. ’18 Technology PR Magazine

Fake versus real content

Americans have been hearing a lot about “fake news” over the last four years. The term was actually coined by BuzzFeed editor Craig Silverman, who defined it as “completely false information that was created and spread for profit.”

The noise around fake news first reached a crescendo during the 2016 presidential election, when it dominated airwaves and altered the way some people perceived the mainstream media.

It’s still used in today’s tribal political warfare, which inaccurately calls out quality news content developed by respected news outlets as false. This misrepresentation can bleed over into mistrust of brand-based content. Consumers are struggling to distinguish between factual and manipulative content, as it can be hard to tell the difference between an outright lie intended to provoke a reaction and a sincere sponsored article designed to mimic objective content. Brands are struggling to walk the line between persuasion and transparency.

How has the relationship between consumers and brands changed?

We live in an era of values-based consumerism. In fact, a recent Forrester report found that seven in ten Millennials consider a company’s values when making a purchase — nearly 40 percent higher than the adult population as a whole.

Even among older generations, it’s becoming increasingly important for brands to declare — and act on — clearly defined corporate values. Customers today want authenticity from their favorite brands — whether it’s a declaration of corporate values or a shift toward more user-generated content.

Going forward, it will be increasingly common to see native ads that rely on user-generated content such as reviews and pain points. These ads will still match the channel’s form and function, but the content will be perceived as less advertorial and more authentic.

Why are native ads so effective?

As digital consumers, we’ve developed a remarkable ability to tune out unwanted information. Just look at the way browsing habits on Google have evolved. Five years ago, people started reading at the top of a search results page. Today, people have learned to start reading about a quarter of the way down, skipping over the paid ads and starting with organic results.

One of the reasons native ads are so effective is their ability to manifest as content developed by a credible third party instead of an advertorial.

According to a recent study by, consumers are 25 percent more likely to look at a native ad than at a banner. These same consumers check out a native ad 4.7 times per session on average, versus 2.7 times for banners.

Native ads also have a significant impact on conversions and brand affinity. According to research published by Digital Relevance, native ads have been found to increase purchase intent by 18 percent and brand affinity by nine percent, when compared to traditional banner ads.

Brands are taking notice. According to Business Insider, native advertising will drive 74 percent of all ad revenue by 2021.

Where does public relations fit in?

PR practitioners have a responsibility to serve as brand stewards, helping companies define — and protect — their reputation. They also work closely with the media, leading to coverage that factually informs consumers of the benefits provided by their companies or clients. While it appears the PR person serves several masters, these roles can and should be balanced.

This becomes especially important when external factors such as fear mongering threaten to undermine credible content. PR must straddle the line between increasing brand awareness and affinity and producing honest content, both paid and earned.

When it comes to native ads, the following tips will help you develop a paid media strategy that’s positive and reflects well on your brand.

Lead with quality. While it seems obvious, it’s easy to find brands that don’t start with this commitment. Content must address a need, be written in a journalistic tone, adhere to the style of the publication and be non-promotional. Of course, depending on the content and publication, humor and creativity can be effective tools.

Educate on the value of transparency. Consumer trust is inherently fragile and, once lost, difficult to regain. PR professionals can help brands understand the value of transparency and honesty across every channel, including advertising.

Find the right mix of native ads and earned media. There is no denying the effectiveness of native ads, but a well-rounded outreach strategy will always yield better results. Earned media carries special value, whether it’s a contributed article or a high-impact feature story. It’s a little harder to earn coverage than cut a check, but the impact is worth the effort and will boost the efficacy of native efforts.

Craft ads that won’t leave your customers feeling deceived. Not all native ads are created alike. Some are virtually indistinguishable from editorial content; others are clearly marked as sponsored content. If a native ad feels promotional on any level, it can be interpreted as deceitful on every level.

What’s the future of native advertising?

Marketers and brands alike are extremely bullish on native advertising. When looking at the numbers, it’s easy to see why. Native is having a tremendous impact on the advertising and PR worlds, with one forecast by eMarketer projecting 40 percent annual growth over the next few years.

Publications are equally reliant on native ads. For example, these ads are responsible for three-quarters of The Atlantic’s annual ad revenue.

With so much money driving native content, it’s important for PR professionals to get a handle on how best to navigate what can be a gray area and ensure that ethical and quality standards are maintained. Native’s long-term health and success will ultimately depend on providing value to the reader.

Are CMOs missing the PR opportunity?

In the B2B tech marketing world, PR – and earned media – holds an important place in the overall marketing mix. However, what considerations should CMOs be aware of when balancing their owned, earned and paid media strategy? We put 7 quick questions to Julie Karbo, CEO of Karbo Communications, an award-winning U.S. technology PR and marketing agency, about where PR fits in the marketing mix, and whether a good PR campaign can actually drive sales.

1. What should CMOs be prioritizing in their PR strategy?

You need a solid foundation if the house is to stand, so it all starts with effective positioning – including market need/pain, target perceptions, competitive differentiation and compelling trends, to name a few. I find that as you go through the positioning process, your strategy and program path become illuminated. But, because there are so many options in PR now, it’s important to prioritize. Before tactics are chosen you must rank order—verticals, buyers, important seasonal elements, and then the tactics that influence each market segment the most. Earned tactics such as news announcements, opportunistic pitching based on news events or trends, contributed articles, surveys, primary data sharing, case studies, etc. can then be rolled out.

2. How can brands balance their owned, paid and earned media efforts?

PR provides the credibility quotient to the brand. Both earned and paid media are important elements of a fully integrated PR program and part of the emphasis and value placed on content as a whole.

CMOs are cognizant of the value of quality, earned media. For many, the gold standard remains positive feature coverage in the top publications. With earned media it’s all about validation from credible, independent sources.

“For new or stealth companies, an emphasis on owned media will help them craft a specific narrative and position themselves within their market.

For more established companies, a blend of the three will reach a wider audience and allow them to take advantage of social shares/mentions by brand advocates and market influencers.”

Paid content works best when it mirrors the credibility of earned content.
 It has to be trustworthy, not overly promotional and it has to tackle topics that are important to a company’s targeted stakeholders The areas where you have a little more latitude to be promotional are social media, blogs, newsletters, video, and events.

To balance earned, owned and paid media in a full-blown content marketing strategy, CMOs should start with a clear understanding of both the target market (e.g., customer personas and buying patterns) and the brand’s current goals and positioning.

Of course, the exact balance for any company should remain fluid based on the efficacy of each program, changing market goals or dynamics, and any seasonal or opportunistic trends that arise.

3. What are the metrics for PR and earned media? Can a PR campaign drive sales numbers?

For me and most of my clients, the holy grail is the bottom line. We can talk about thought leadership, Share of Voice and Sentiment Score – and those things do have an important role in most programs – but the ultimate ROI measure is how you drive sales. We use Google Analytics to track website traffic, length of time on site, and bounce and conversion rates. We also survey customers and track all the standard metrics that show brand affinity, sentiment and number of impressions.

4. For global enterprises, should CMOs balance the global brand voice with local messaging imperatives?

Absolutely. Global efforts must be localized. While technology has in many ways eliminated geographic borders, almost every key market has its own cultural, physical and intellectual distinctions that should affect how a business approaches that market. I’ve yet to meet the communications pro that knows what it takes to be successful in a widely diverse group of markets. Having local feet on the ground and best of breed boutique agency partners is imperative to long-term success. Having said that, there has to be an established brand voice and centralized strategy that can be modified to take local nuances into consideration. It has to go both ways – great ideas and experience should also travel from the local market back to central command.

5. What role can or should marketing technology play in PR?

Technology has and will continue to play an essential role in PR planning, execution, and measurement. Early on we saw everyone jumping on the technology bandwagon and they really weren’t looking at tools strategically. There are success metrics such as Share of Voice, Sentiment Score, Media Exposure and Potential Reach that are best measured with tools such as Meltwater, Cision, etc. On the other hand, no tool can measure how something like coverage is tracking to a company’s messaging, how competitors are reacting to – and frequently co-opting – that messaging; or how a reporter’s perceptions about a company have evolved over time and how that can be leveraged. This may change as AI technology is integrated into more of our tools, but at this time, human judgment, knowledge, and experience can provide the most accurate analysis.

6. What skills and capabilities should a CMO be looking for in someone responsible for the PR and earned media deliverables?

The CMO should seek the experience and skills that she or he would look for in any good marketing person:

  • Ability to acquire superior results that ultimately drive sales.
  • Strong strategic and analytical marketing abilities
  • Strong verbal and written communication skills
  • Drive corporate and product messaging that differentiates the company against competitors
  • Work with corporate spokespeople to help them develop the communication skills and vision to become respected market experts and leaders
  • Possesses deep editorial and analyst relationships and media and analyst relations skills
  • Can sell ideas, products, people, programs and budgets
  • Ability to think creatively
  • Upholds the highest ethical standards

In addition, the CMO needs to pursue someone who has the fortitude to be honest and forthcoming with executives, even when there is pushback. Top PR and marketing professionals need to function as strategic partners, not echo chambers or sycophants.

7. What trends are you tracking in content marketing, earned media and PR going into 2020?

  • AI and machine learning applications in marketing and PR
  • Better measurement – always
  • New social networks and vehicles for interaction and influence
  • Balancing data analysis with a respect for privacy
  • Impact of IoT on content marketing
  • Values-based marketing and the intersection of social activism/consumerism


More about Julie Karbo

Fun Fact: Julie began her technology marketing career at iconic video game firm Atari in 1981.

With more than 30 years in the technology industry, Julie, an expert in tech PR, has provided positioning, planning and tactical counsel to executives in a wide array of technology areas, including enterprise software, the Internet of Things, Big Data, mobile, advertising tech, e-Commerce, marketing platform, storage, virtualization/cloud, security, social networking/media, Internet infrastructure, networking, Internet television, and consumer electronics.

This piece was originally published in MarTech Advisor on July 25, 2018.

Spread A Little Love For Your Brand With These Thought Leadership Tips

It’s February and love is in air! As many brands look to launch their romantically themed mini-campaigns designed to bring “warm fuzzies” to the masses, don’t forget to bring thought leadership into the mix. At Karbo Communications, we believe that “thought leadership is a verb, not a noun.” We help our clients to communicate their problem solving ideas to the right audiences.

Thought leadership campaigns are a way to spread the love for your brand, not just on Valentine’s Day, but all year long. Here are four tips to help your brand get started:

Highlight the Right People
The first step in launching an effective thought leadership program is to identify the right people to participate. Who makes a great thought leader? An ideal person is an expert in their field who has the ability to connect the dots in the market before others do. They pioneer a point of view.  Not only a visionary, this person sees a path forward, inspires others to action and (here’s the tricky part) manages to do all of the above without directly promoting the brand, product or oneself.

Inspire Many Company Leaders to Participate
The CEO is a great choice to speak on behalf of the brand, but what other interesting ideas are percolating across the leadership team that the marketing team should explore? Consider empowering several company leaders and delve into the ideas that have the potential to resonate with different audiences. By looking beyond the CEO’s office, the company has the opportunity to showcase a range of expertise and creativity, which will attract the right audiences and help the business to continue to grow.

Help Your Friends in the Media: Don’t Disguise Self-Promotion
Unfortunately, you can’t identify a market problem and offer your product as the solution and call it “thought leadership.” No matter how cleverly the marketing team believes they’ve hidden the direct references to the brand, a skilled editor will recognize how closely the piece resembles the company’s messaging and reject it immediately for being promotional. Keep your friends in the media engaged by speaking to trends objectively. This comes with a very pleasant side effect: stronger media relationships, boosted visibility, added credibility and perhaps an edge over the competition in terms of market expertise.

Be Authentic and Charming  
Showcase your authenticity and credibility, but don’t forget to pepper in personality and charm! Being a trusted voice in the market builds confidence with customers and has the potential to deepen their loyalty (especially when your competition fails to offer helpful insights). Shining a light on what’s to come in the future will also help prospects find your brand and attributes to sales growth over time. But it has to be memorable too – show the world what makes your thinking and brand special.

Your Star Turn: How to Prepare for a Podcast Interview

Coming from a background in radio, I presented monologues and conducted dialogues over the airwaves for two and a half years. My coverage varied from current events, to school and business promotions, to music and humor. No matter what genre you cater to in your radio presence, preparation is absolutely necessary. Today, podcast culture is as strong as ever, with topics ranging from self help to tech venture capitalist roundups. So it behooves company representatives to be prepared for media relations in this space. Here are the keys to preparing for a radio and/or podcast interview.

Nail your tone and play to your base. If you’re participating in an interview for business purposes, have speaking points prepared and maintain a professional yet personable attitude. If you are speaking to investors, emphasize monetization and the items that support your business model. If you’re talking to a consumer audience, speak in a down-to-earth, simple tone. If you are solely representing yourself as a personality, be yourself. Just remember that even you are a brand. Whatever you may happen to represent, it’s important to know your audience.

Don’t be robotic. It’s important that you have statements prepared for important product announcements or company updates. However, regardless of how relevant your information is, regurgitating stale rhetoric will not carry over the course of an entire interview—you could have handed over a press release or PSA to achieve the same thing. If you’re gracing a recording studio or phone call with your presence, add some humanity to your responses. Excitement and humor can add significant color to an interview—just be sure to use them wisely. Your PR agency can also help you develop compelling sound bites. Another key to not sounding robotic is voice modulation. Your voice should complement your interviewer’s, and communicate the appropriate emotion based on what you’re discussing. Ask yourself, what tone is appropriate at what time—passion, concern, humor, empathy, bravado, sympathy, authority?

Be concise. Find a happy medium when it comes to the length of your responses: don’t ramble, but don’t give one-word answers. If you’re being featured on a show, odds are people want to hear what you have to say. Depending on the type of question, you may be required to explain something at length. Be thoughtful with your answers, but know when enough is enough. If you don’t cut yourself off, the interviewer will. As a general rule, your answer to any straightforward question shouldn’t exceed two sentences.

Have fun! You can’t be camera-shy if there aren’t any cameras! There’s no need to be intimidated. Again, feel free to have a cheat sheet in front of you so you don’t forget any important talking points. Once you get acclimated, you will realize it’s fun! At the end of the day, it’s just a conversation, and listeners get to learn about your perspective and your company. Podcasts can be a valuable tool on the road to thought leadership.

Client Success Highlight: TDK U.S.A Corporation (TUC)

At Karbo Communications, we have seen how strategic positioning yields stellar results –  regardless of whether a company is a startup or an established one. We know this firsthand because we’ve made it happen for the dozens of tech companies we have worked with throughout the years.

Developing messaging with brand differentiation as its backbone is of utmost importance to the execution of our media relations efforts on behalf of our clients. It was our IoT industry expertise that caught the eye of TDK U.S.A. Corporation (TUC) and eventually led the company to name Karbo Communications as its agency of record in the fall of 2016.

The case study highlights the media exposure we initially garnered for the global brand in the United States within months of working together. Check out the video commentary by Karbo Communications’ Senior Vice President Margaret Pereira as she expands upon how our agency successfully promoted TUC at 2017’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

Are You Taking Advantage of Data-Informed PR?

The rapid advancement of analytic technologies and increasing demand for information have touched all aspects of business. Public relations is no exception. Years ago, PR professionals were sought after for their positioning expertise, media relationships and keen storytelling abilities. Although this still holds true, our roles are changing. Now, PR professionals are expected to leverage data to more effectively deliver the right content (both paid and unpaid) to potential customers and partners at the right time, through the right medium.

With advanced analytic platforms, such as Meltwater, Google Analytics and others, PR professionals have a wealth of real-time data to leverage. At Karbo Communications, we have access to media exposure patterns, share of voice, sentiment, social media engagement and audience location—to name just a few metrics at our fingertips. We can identify where target audiences are located, the communication methods and content that they are most receptive to, how our messages are being received and other crucial insights, all with a few clicks of a button.

While data plays a crucial role in informing PR efforts and creating improved targeting, positioning and performance assessment, data alone is not the end all be all. For any organization, it’s imperative to work with a data-informed PR partner who understands the value of interpreting data to inform strategy. Gathering data and providing context, as well as strategic and actionable interpretations derived from this information, is where true PR value lies. PR professionals must translate real-time analytical insights to deliver results.

Data also helps streamline the evaluation process by providing clear criteria for the measurement of success. The data-informed PR practitioner looks to data for concrete indicators of success that prove the value of PR, including direct links to how communications increases sales leads and partner inquiries. With these types of quantifiable measurements supporting their communications efforts, PR professionals can demonstrate how they’ve impacted overall business advancement.

The ever-increasing availability of data is disrupting business models and fostering innovation in industries around the world, so it naturally follows that data plays a vital role in PR, as well. Its significance in the field will only continue to grow. Companies must partner with data-informed PR professionals that understand how to collect and interpret relevant data to execute more effective plans.

‘Thought Leadership’ is a Verb, not a Noun

The biggest mistake B2B content marketers make is producing “thought leadership” content.

Brent Adamson and Patrick Spenner of CEB reached this conclusion in 2016 after surveying over 5,000 B2B purchasers across 12 industries. Adamson and Spenner elaborate the mistake is creating content that’s smart for the sake of appearing smart.

“Only content that teaches customers something new about their business and provides a compelling reason to change their behavior proves sufficient to influence the decision process.” (Source: “Avoid These Common B2B Content Marketing Mistakes”.)

At Karbo Communications, we agree.

We approach thought leadership as a verb, not a title of self-promotion. We work with B2B tech companies who live their leadership by sticking to the proverbial blueprint of success: identify real market problems and solve them. Thought leadership naturally manifests itself through communication programs that speak to problems and solutions. Let me give you two client examples.

Example #1: Education Replaces Guesswork

When we were working with Intel’s DCM Solutions, we learned about the universal problems facing data centers. Several themes emerged, but what surprised us most was the guesswork involved in determining power consumption, even though data and statistics were available. We worked with subject matter experts who put price tags on this ignorance, and identified root causes. Then, we developed and executed a campaign of bylines to educate about the gap between what facilities and operations managers estimated to be true, versus what was truly happening in their data centers. These articles demonstrated our client’s authority through scientifically valid statistics, testing and anecdotes from the field.

By sharing its expertise, our client was rewarded in ways that met both business and communications’ objectives. Prospective data center customers contacted the client, who referred these direct sales leads to partners, contributing to the overall growth of the market category. We infer this because sales in this segment, originally predicted to grow 39% CAGR, were adjusted to grow 44% CAGR by 451 Research, during the latter part of the educational campaign.

Unsolicited invitations to participate in special reports and at industry events led to greater awareness among coveted audiences, meeting communications’ objectives.

Example #2: Standards Development Democratizes Leadership

Karbo Com client RTI, a B2B company involved in the Industrial Internet, early anticipated potential problems from competing standards in an increasingly connected world. To mitigate this, RTI has committed to participate in more than 15 industry consortia and standards organizations.

For example, CEO Stan Schneider serves on the Steering Committee at the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) as well as chairing the testbed subcommittee. In his committee leadership position, his voice carries equal weight to tech giants with much larger marketing budgets for generating industry awareness.

Karbo Com and RTI work together on an ongoing basis to secure opportunities for Schneider and other RTI executives to participate in activities within the 15 groups, including speaking at keynotes or on panels, authoring technical documents, leading testbed initiatives, participating in social media activities such as Twitter chats, co-hosting webinars, and participating in joint press/analyst interviews. These communications achievements are driving greater awareness of RTI’s expertise, in turn contributing to the company’s growth as it helps define and accelerate a fast-growing market.

As a verb, “thought leadership” achieves marketing and business goals. Otherwise, let’s toss it in the trash with other clichés like “state of the art,” “revolutionary,” and “cutting edge.”