How to Get Public Safety Thought Leaders Together to Talk Up Your Business

Thought Leaders

We’ve all experienced the magic that happens when the right mix of people gets together. They don’t need to be friends or even acquaintances, but they do have to have something in common. In public safety, that thing is very often a genuine passion for and expertise in helping people.

At RedFlash Group, we’ve built thousands of strong relationships across decades, states and nearly every facet of public safety. And while we’re good at what we do, we also know these connections are an essential part of our special sauce. One we love to share with our clients by creating some pretty, well, magical events.

The marketing benefits of gathering the best and brightest

The magic that happens when you assemble the right group of people—in this case, we’ll call them thought leaders or influencers—under the right conditions can be priceless. Here are some of the benefits not just to marketing but to your business:

  • You make personal connections. In public safety, this is a huge bonus in terms of how business actually gets done.
  • More people get introduced to your product, service or company. An informal setting for these introductions is typically when people are most receptive to hearing your message. So when you gather thought leaders together, think happy hour or a casual dinner with smaller tables, not a booth in a crowded exhibit hall or a formal presentation. Once introduced to what you do, thought leaders are among the very best people to meaningfully amplify the value you bring.
  • You get real-time feedback (good and bad) about your product/service. While we all wait for in-person events to return, you can still get a lot of benefit from holding webinars with six to 12 of the right people. These should always be facilitated, ensuring all attendees get a chance to say something and that any product message is brief and to-the-point. Most important, solicit comments on the product/service/company and keep the conversation going. There have been times when a single comment from a public safety leader altered the direction of a client’s business—that’s how impactful this honest, immediate feedback from true experts can be.
  • Gathering influencers together is cost-effective. If, post-COVID, you can assemble thought leaders at a conference, you’ll pay for the cost of a dinner. If you opt to hold a virtual event, the only real price tag is your time to organize and hold the webinar.
  • You get great ideas for content. When you have the chance to sit around a table to kibbitz with leaders in public safety, you’re tapping directly into their thoughts and expertise about current issues, critical problems in their field (sometimes even ideas about how these might be solved), trends and more. Record the session or take notes to capture ideas for future blog posts, white papers, videos or other marketing collateral. And make sure to ask all participants if they mind if you use any ideas for your marketing. Offer to share the content before it’s released or published so they have a chance to review it. You’ll be surprised by how few say “no.”

The power of “community information”

As it turns out, a recent Bain and Company blog post talks about the power of this very same phenomenon. They call it “community information.” In a survey conducted by Bain and Twitter of 121 B2B buyers and marketers in the U.S, buyers said they “overwhelmingly trust information from their professional community—mainly their peers, current customers or vendors, junior colleagues, and industry sources.”

The survey also noted that too many marketers “consistently underestimate the importance of conversations among this community,” and the authors went on to say that “[winning marketers] create spaces that generate conversations.”

4 ways to create conversations about you

So now that you know why bringing influencers together can be so useful in reaching your marketing goals, here are a few pointers on how to do it well:

Consider the mix. Make sure attendees are a good representation of your customers/audience or prospects. Unless your target is niche or otherwise very focused, aim for diversity: people who work at large public safety agencies as well as small rural and suburban agencies; a range of agency types and breadth in terms of race and ethnicity, age and gender. In short, your guest list should reflect the people you serve or are trying to reach. Similarly, try to combine current customers who love to champion your product to their peers as well as people who don’t know you (or know little) and/or are thought leaders in their field.

Ensure everyone gets a chance to speak. As mentioned above, you should have a skilled facilitator at the helm of your events, whether in-person or virtual. In taking the time and trouble to include people with true expertise, it’s essential to be sure every person has an opportunity to voice his or her point of view or ask questions. They’ll leave feeling like they contributed and will want to participate again.

Keep it tight. If your guests are true influencers in their fields, chances are good they are busy. Often extremely busy. And in demand. By keeping the event focused, clear, time-limited, free of anything that smells like a sales pitch and—this is the really important part—truly valuable to every attendee, you’re not only guaranteeing their active participation but also that the thought leader will say yes to your next invitation, too.

Assemble an advisory board. Your gatherings-of-great-minds don’t need to be one-off events. RedFlash has helped clients identify members for both informal and more formal advisory boards. On the informal side, this typically means the thought leaders won’t be paid, nor will they have many (and perhaps no) deliverables as a member. Maybe you’d ask board members to participate in two or three phone calls or Zoom meetings a year, in exchange for which you’d list their names on your company website and pass along some swag. They will often be willing just for the opportunity to make a positive difference. As an informal advisory board member, the influencer needn’t disclose his or her involvement (for any perceived or potential conflict of interest), yet you’d still have the ability to tap into their expertise periodically, among other possible benefits. A more formal relationship would likely mean a contractual relationship with a stipend for each advisory board member and specific responsibilities, such as attending periodic meetings and reviewing work.

If you’d like to learn more about bringing thought leaders together to gain marketing insights for your company, we’d love to talk.

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