5 steps to amplifying advocacy of your SME to accelerate its growth

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By Holly Sutton, founder and strategy director, Journalista


People buy from people that they trust will deliver what they need. Nowhere is this truer than in healthcare, where purchasers feel they have nuanced needs people outside the sector struggle to understand.

Peer to peer advocacy is the best way to develop trust at pace – so if you’re pitching to NHS CEOs, you need senior executive healthcare figures advocating on your behalf. Ideally armed with credible facts and figures to back up how your tech-led innovation has fixed a burning hole in their budget, transformed patient care and engaged staff across the organisation.

Amplifying this advocacy is in our, and our many health tech clients’ experience, a sure-fire way of getting the phone ringing with the right people for your product and services.

A successful pilot or full-scale project offers opportunity for viral growth into parallel organisations. But maximising this chance can be difficult, time-consuming and fraught with pitfalls. These five simple steps could help you transform your success with one healthcare organisation into a legacy of tech-led change throughout the entire system:


  1. Terms and understanding

Set the expectation up front that you would like to share the outcomes of your project with a wider audience. Build this into your contract.

Raise the ambition of your work together as offering a learning opportunity across the sector. Discuss benchmarking to establish a before scene to your pictures of success along the journey.

Being able to quote impressive credible figures that track the impact your digital service is making, such as in this Guardian article ‘GP Super Practice’, has a marked difference in the power your piece will have on its target market and likelihood of being published.


  1. Relationships

Talk about who would be the spokesperson on either side from the start of your contract and aim high. Getting the CEO to champion this tech-led consultancy’s crowdsourcing process in the industry’s leading trade title Health Service Journal in ‘Helping great ideas rise to the top’ is already generating targeted business leads and speeding the pipeline of conversion. This is because such specific, third party advocacy truly strengthens trust in the Clever Together brand.

If your tech product could offer a publication a way of generating unique content that gives them an edge over their own competitors the look to generate the relationships there you need. Several collaborations between Clever Together and HSJ have generated fantastic opportunities for brand awareness and getting target audiences to try first hand their digital product.


  1. Managing expectations

Despite the exciting new business potential of amplifying your successes together, asking your biggest clients to open up to the media to promote your own business is pretty frightening. And rightly so.

The more independent the advocacy, the greater its value, as content written by respected journalists is much harder to control. You need to be aware of these risks on both sides and carefully mitigate against them throughout the engagement process.

The risks more often than not are outweighed by the benefits in doing this, as people understand such advocacy to be much weightier than self-authored thought leadership. For example, this NHS insight piece ‘Money’s too tight to mention’, is good as part of an overall blended PR engagement strategy for driving general awareness and understanding, but doesn’t build the same level of trust at pace.

Independently authored pieces are much stronger lead generators in our experience. The top target of which in NHS management are case studies in the Resource Centre in HSJ, where ‘How crowdsourcing engaged NHS staff in Leeds’ sits. This independently authored piece, in a go-to section for all its readers this piece generated a large proportion of our clients’ pipeline in one year.


  1. Networked content

Amplifying your content so it reaches the right people requires sweating your media asset beyond its placement in the paper and online.

Encouraging a wide-range of stakeholders throughout your projects to engage with the potential of sharing what you’ve achieved together as best practice offers the most opportunities to do this. For example this public round up of success case studies, presented as a ‘how to’ Involve the public in the Guardian last week, offered a great opportunity for the wide range of people involved to share the content on their own channels. Spiking readership and engagement in the piece so it was the most read article in this section of the Guardian in a week.


  1. Measurement

ROI has to inform everything that you do that’s led by PR, from award entries to thought leadership reports or articles, best practice case studies to direct mailing.

Look to the industry standard Barcelona Principles on measuring PR value and determine the metrics that really matter to you and make these your key performance indicators of success to drive your investment in it.


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