It’s not easy for a b2b tech company to break through in a media environment that spends such an inordinate amount of time reporting on the big tech companies, scandals, and, well, big tech companies involved in scandals. Editorial teams continue to shrink and very few dedicate resources to product news anymore. Real-world customer stories still command attention, and while your customers love you, they just don’t love you quite enough to allow you to ever utter their names in public or print. So that’s out.
A great point-of-view or opinion piece, though, can still break through. So how come yours keep getting rejected or ignored entirely?
Usually, it’s because you forgot the point. As in the sharp part that causes people to react as if some office prankster left a thumb tack on their office chair. Unfortunately, most POVs have all the ‘pointiness’ of an unsharpened Ticonderoga #2. They pack as much punch, original thinking and fresh language as your run-of-the-mill universal whole life policy.
So how can you put a fine edge on your point of view so you can cut through a noisy marketplace like Jon Snow’s Valerian sword slicing through a White Walker?
Here are some tips:
You can’t delegate POV. Executives who expect their comms staff to deliver a POV with their morning coffee and the latest sales numbers need to adjust their expectations. I have had clients ask for a POV to be developed from a corporate PPT deck (which itself was developed with zero input from the executive in question.) This is an utter waste of time. It’s your POV – it will be under your name. And if it’s successful, you will talk about it at keynotes, with customers, in employee all-hands, with media, and a whole lot more. You need to participate, actively, in its development.
Ixnay the sycophants. The more successful you’ve been in business, the more likely you are to have a decent-to-large staff. Inevitably, some of these individuals, regardless of level, laugh a bit too enthusiastically at your jokes, think your every utterance is brilliant, and they never question you or push back. If your goal is an ongoing stream of milquetoast POVs that induce spontaneous napping by the second paragraph, by all means involve them in the process. Alternatively, the day you dedicate to hammering out your POV might be a perfect opportunity to send your obsequious staff members off for another PPT training.
Get an outside-in perspective. All of that said, you’re a busy executive running a thriving tech business. You can and should get help, and that help (whether internal or external) should offer you an informed and thorough perspective as to what’s happening outside the four walls of your particular cubicle farm. What’s breaking through with the media? What conversations are driving social media engagement? What’s your competition saying (and does anyone care?) Your advisors should “bring the outside in,” then help you find the white space for your unique POV.
What makes you reach for the blood pressure meds? You can’t hide passion. If you’re a founder, you probably started your business because you saw a better way to do things. What are the topics that get you fired up? The conventional wisdom that you want to dismantle and supplant? What are the causes you believe in? Finding where your passions intersect with market interest and business goals is usually the path to a great point of view.
Work with experienced interviewers. Great interviewers don’t take things at face value. They question your assumptions. They disagree. They offer alternate viewpoints and perspectives. They probe to help you figure out what it is you’re trying to say. Perhaps most critically, they are your personal whetstone against which you sharpen your best ideas.
Say something new and say it in a new way. I consider myself fortunate to have spent much of my “professional formative years” at Sun Microsystems in the 90s, where a master of POV and quotability, Scott McNealy, seemed to churn out something fresh and memorable every day. From simple employee directives (“Yes, we have a dress code. You have to dress.”) to industry paradigm shifts (many of us will never forget McNealy as JavaMan on the cover of Fortune – great POVs can be expressed visually, too), it was one of his gifts.
For most of the rest of us, coming up with new and fresh opinions and perspectives – and expressing them in uniquely memorable ways – requires time, process and collaboration with trusted advisors. The good news is even the dullest blade can get its edge back. Is it time to put the point back in your POV?