LPP PR Recipes Series: Securing Executive Participation for Thought Leadership
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If you have to “ping” – “ follow up” – “circle back” or point to some other jargon to remind a client executive about a deadline or assigned task on more than four occasions ... I hate to break it to you – you are doing it wrong.
Getting an executive to provide input is PR thought leadership gold. We strive to get those “golden nuggets” of insight on the industry from our client’s CIOs, Director of cloud strategies, engineers – the real experts who know what makes their technology cool – because that is what the media cares about. But let’s face it, it’s not always easily obtainable. These are very busy people and, while I advocate sending reminder emails, it's worth ensuring that you are not sabotaging your own efforts by doing any of the following:
- Assigning a task that is too vague
- Asking for too much
- (Or most likely) not realizing the executive hasn't read your email because it’s so daunting
In order to get anything out of a person – a byline, blog, paragraph or three bullets of insight – you need to set them up for success by following a simpler format.
1. Reasonable Task
- Evaluated Resources
- Identified Opportunities
2. Clear Directions
- Compelling subject line
- Call to action and deadline
- 2-3 sentences of context (no more!)
- Confirm participation
- An example (below your signature)
3. Multifaceted Follow-Up
Before putting in the initial request to an executive – you must make sure you have done your homework for the task. Are you presenting an idea that is strategic and does it have a high probability for future success? First, you need to evaluate your resources at hand. For instance, if you are asking your client executive to write a blog post, check to see if they have already written a blog post around a similar topic. No one wants to start from scratch. If you are efficient, you can work with already-existing content and use it as a basis for the spokeperson to elaborate on. Second, you need to back up your ask with identified opportunities. No one wants to put time and effort into something that isn’t going to move the needle. Are you able to repurpose the blog post to submit a byline for Network World or WIRED? Is there a writer at CIO who covers “How-To” stories that would take this content? Finding a “home” for this work will help push your spokesperson along and have a reason to complete it.
The call to action must be direct, clear and simple. I recommend putting the executive's name right in the subject line to ensure its effectiveness. The email should lead with the request and deadline. You can then take the next 2- 3 sentences to add context and point to helpful resources. You should conclude your email by asking the executive to confirm their commitment to the task by your deadline. Lastly, I recommend sharing an example or two of what the task should look like to alleviate the scariness of the request. Add this after your signature ... everyone hates long emails!
If you did step 1 and 2 correctly, the “pings” and “circle backs” of reminder emails should be minimized. However, staying on top of the progress of a task is key to completing it. Check to see tht your executive hasn't hit a wall, offer to provide feedback on their outline/draft, or suggest a quick call to go over the directions if they are unclear. Do not simply wait for your weekly call with your day-to-day client to ask them if they have been busy hounding down their executive – because they haven’t.
Once your executive confirms that they are on board, you should be spacing out your reminder emails strategically before the deadlines to check in on their progress, keeping holidays and other deadlines in mind. If you are really smart ... you will have set up a fake deadline to the real one in order to avoid last-minute panic.