Reversing the Bastardization of Leadership in Tech PR

Credit: Lee Scott
Credit: Lee Scott

One of the most overused clichés in all of tech marketing is around leadership. All too often, companies claim to be “the leading provider of” their category or “a leader in” the latest trend without giving much thought to what that leadership actually means or why their audience ought to care.

The prevalence of “leader” as a buzzword has an unfortunate side effect: the bastardization of leadership as a concept. Market leadership, thought leadership, and technology leadership need to mean something in order for the tech sector to thrive. The dilution of their meaning ultimately hinders growth and perpetuates a view of PR as less strategic, less valuable and less honest than it really is.

What’s worse, we’re turning “leader” into a self-appointed accolade that runs counter to everything leadership is supposed to mean. Real leaders derive their strength and influence from being in service of something greater than themselves. When a company loses sight of what leadership is really about, they begin the journey into obsolescence.

With that in mind, XTC is going to examine these various aspects of leadership in tech PR and suggest ideas for bringing meaning and impact back into the leadership discussion. Up first: market leadership.

It’s easy enough for a company to claim leadership in any given space. What’s not so easy is to quantify and validate leadership using evidence your audience will value without a lot of extra explanation. That’s why things like Gartner Magic Quadrants and Forrester Waves work—the criteria for leadership are grounded in customer wants and needs and published transparently. With that in mind, here are a few options for quantifying the terms of market leadership:

  • Revenue. Most who can use this option, do. But being biggest or richest doesn’t always mean being best. The story needs to be about what revenue leadership lets companies do for their customers, not just what their customers’ money has done for them.
  • Customers. Having the most customers overall, the highest caliber of customers, or even a high success rate with a particular kind of customer is useful validation. But again, what matters more is why those customers chose the vendor and solution they did. Context matters.
  • Vision. Current market leaders who can claim the most revenue and customers right now are not necessarily the horses to bet on going forward. Gartner predicts that by 2017, 20% of today’s market leaders will be displaced by companies founded after the year 2000. So vision is a critical component of market leadership. But it doesn’t help to simply call yourself visionary. It requires external validation, leading us to…
  • Third-party Validation. Winning awards and scoring a positive ranking in an analyst report has huge impact on sales and reputation. But to turn ratings into revenues, companies must be ready to explain how the criteria and assumptions behind the accolades apply to customers’ specific needs. What’s more, you need more than product endorsement. You need validation of vision and strategic direction to create sustainable momentum.

Next week we deconstruct thought leadership, and how to save it from the buzzword graveyard.