Brand Elevation — Preparing for Primetime

In my last post I wrote about identifying the hidden gems within your company and how to leverage them as subject matter experts. Of course not everyone is prepared to speak to the media, publish a paper or serve as a keynote speaker. How do you get your SMEs ready for prime time?

Think of them as a celebrity who needs a team. Each person on the team can help build the SME’s capacity. Jennifer Ransaw Smith, CEO and chief brand strategist for Brand ID, says some of the key players to have on the team include:

Media Trainer: This person will prep the expert on how to confidently interview for print, television, radio and social. They also should provide guidance on developing message points, how to control the interview and how to avoid journalist tricks.

Publicist: A publicist helps make the client more visible within her market and increases her value.

Speaking coach: This person helps the client speak with clarity and confidence. The first time I was asked to give a major presentation, I was fortunate that my company paid for a speaking coach. It really helped me with my delivery and breathing, but not everyone thinks they are worthwhile.

Brand Strategists help you develop a strategy to effectively market to your ideal audience.

Graphic designers can help design flyers and business cards.

Copywriters package ideas into powerful messages. They can help you write your bio so it stands out, for example.

Some of these individuals may already be on your team or you may have the skills and can offer the services to your SMEs. If you don’t have individuals within your company that can help, then considering hiring out because you want your experts to stand out – after all, they are representing your company.

As you help prepare your experts, don’t forget to help them build a brand tool kit. The kit should include the person’s bio and photo, as well as a list of previous conferences and publications.

By the way, this advice also holds true for you to develop your own profile. Smith says PR practitioners suffer from the cobbler syndrome because they are always building everyone else’s brand and not their own. So when you finish elevating your SMEs, make some time to build your brand.

Create a Strong Bench with Experts

“You have mastered something if you go to work every day,” says Jennifer Ransaw Smith, founder and CEO of Brand id |Strategic Parnters of Columbia, Md.

That means you, or your colleagues, are experts in their fields. If you are tasked with building visibility for your organization you will want to leverage your colleagues’ skills and experience by turning them into SMEs, or subject matter experts.

Smith describes these individuals as the “hidden gems” within a company, and says it is important to “develop an elevation strategy to leverage internal talent.”

“So many companies aren’t utilizing them to help elevate the entire company in the marketplace,” says Smith.

MVPIf you work for a large company, consider developing a year-long plan around your SMEs, whom Smith says are the MVPs of the company.

The plan should include industry specific conferences and publications. Smith also recommends color-coding the plan with each SME assigned a particular color. The goal would be to have experts speaking at conferences and publishing throughout the year.

How can you use SMEs?

Have them write for your company blog about their area of expertise. It’s a great way for your followers to better understand your organization’s work. It also makes colleagues proud of the work that is done.

Identify industry publications and ask them to submit articles. Then promote the publications on your website and with your stakeholders.

Ask them to speak at conferences, workshops and trade shows sharing their expertise. Last year the National Federation of Press Women held its annual conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. They invited a few speakers, but most of the talent came from within the membership. Members spoke about publishing, freelancing, social media trends, photojournalism, branding and Freedom of Information.

Hold Lunch and Learns within your company. Use your internal talent to offer training on everything from tax tips (auditors) to project management to industry successes.

Have them speak on your behalf. Reporters always need reliable industry leaders to quote in their stories. Offer your experts to them.