Artificial selection

This PR firm has brought artificial intelligence into the mainstream

You may recall towards the end of 2016, when seemingly overnight, the business media went from never talking about AI in business to ubiquitous coverage of its applications in marketing.

A small artificial intelligence company of Israeli origin named albert had suddenly emerged as a driving force behind this conversation, before Salesforce had had the chance to utter the word “Einstein” at its annual Dreamforce conference and AI was still a twinkle in Oracle’s eyes. Behind Albert was a New York-based PR and communications agency Channel V Media.

I spoke with Kieran Powell, Partner at Channel V Media, about how Channel V Media has carved out a niche for itself by focusing on business stories as the first step in turning them into vocal market influencers.

Gary Drenik: How can the messages that a company puts out in the market have such a big influence on its position in its sector??

Kieran Powell: Any message released by a company must be carefully prepared before being shared with the wider market. By “organized” I don’t mean it has to be fake or fabricated; I mean it has to live at the intersection of what a company wants to say about itself and what its target audiences need to hear to care. The right message has the ability to develop a company’s position and validate it in its market. A bad message can cause indifference at best and confusion at worst. Most companies that come to us don’t realize that the upfront work to develop their narrative – or, how they want to be seen in the market and what they need to say there – is just as important as exposure to the press they come to us for.

Our process for determining what a company’s target market needs to hear begins with a few key questions we ask during this process:

  • What are the company’s business objectives? Any narrative a company comes out with should support its business goals. The right message will attract new business and opportunities, which can be leveraged to create greater awareness and a steady stream of attention.
  • How does the company want to be perceived in the market? How the company wants to be seen influences what it should talk about. We typically walk clients through a messaging exercise that talks about its market and competitors, the problems the business solves, its differentiators, and its core values. All of this helps us determine what they should say to the market.
  • What are the current market gaps? What people want and need to hear, what the current market is not addressing, is a good starting point to create a narrative. Rather than simply adding to what has already been said, we identify where the gaps in the market are and fill them.
  • How can the company say what it needs to say, in simple terms? This alone will set a business apart, especially in the B2B space where companies tend to talk in terms of features and functions. Instead, company posts should talk about pain points and user needs, which will then open the door to a product conversation.

Businesses need to take the time to methodically answer these questions upfront if they want to change the conversation or own new ones.

Drenik: Your company was responsible for bringing international companies such as Shapermint, Meatless Farm, Everseen, and Albert AI to the United States. What specific challenges do international companies face when setting up in the United States?

Powell: One of the challenges we repeatedly encounter with international companies is that they underestimate the size of the US market and media and overestimate the natural interest of the press in them. The latter is especially true if they are media and consumer darlings in their own country. The US market is a completely different hurdle for companies to overcome – and many international companies fail to recognize that they need to demonstrate why the media should care before actually To do care.

We also see many international companies wanting to enter the US before having a US adoption. We always recommend international companies to have US validation in the form of users or customers before starting PR. They see this as a chicken-or-egg scenario, where they want to leverage PR to get their first customers, but without that validation it can be an uphill battle to break into the US media in any meaningful way. This becomes even more important for international companies facing competitors who already have an established US customer base or a name in the market.

Drenik: Why do companies choose to go against market leaders who hold a large portion of the market share and engaged followings?

Powell: Emerging companies go against market leaders because they think they have a product that offers different value than what already exists.

Market leaders may hold a lot of market share because they are currently the best option, but their users may have unresolved issues that they don’t even know about yet. And just because their followers are engaged doesn’t mean they’re always loyal. These audiences can quickly become early adopters of emerging companies’ products because they are naturally interested in what they are selling.

For example, when British plant-based meat company Meatless Farm entered the United States, its two dominant competitors, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, still had the first mover advantage. There were also a number of other American brands preparing to introduce their plant-based meat substitutes to the American public – and more and more people were preparing to try them. According to a recent Thrive Insights & Analytics Survey finds 7% of adults 18+ are buying more non-meat products, foods or meals and 4% of adults are buying more plant-based meat products. Our work has made Meatless Farm synonymous with both market makers and one of the top plant-based meat choices among a large group of competitors.

We did this by distinguishing meatless farm from its competitors, which have positioned themselves as meaty technological marvels, and by differentiating its products based on a taste profile that lends itself to any recipe that would traditionally use meat.

It is not easy for companies to compete with the “Goliaths” of their industry, but they have an advantage that their precursor competitors do not have: they penetrate an already existing market. This means they’ll spend less time laying the groundwork and educating the market, and more time getting their product into the hands of customers.

Drenik: Would you advise businesses to create new categories instead of trying to fit into overcrowded existing categories? What is the role of PR and marketing in creating categories if they go this route?

Powell: There is no single answer to this question. Companies need to consider factors such as their product, its differentiators, and the current market, but the most important part of this process is honesty. Companies need to ask themselves – and be honest – if their product is so different from what’s out there that it belongs in a category of its own.

There are definite pros and cons to creating categories. Advantages? By creating a new category, companies can claim to be first to market and leverage that fact to define their growth trajectory. It also establishes a business as a new alternative to the legacy options it goes against, which is necessary if a business is truly one of a kind.

On the other hand, it is very expensive to educate the market on a new category. This includes educating analysts about the category, teaching prospects where the company fits within their budget, and engaging potential newcomers to the category. The latter is extremely important because there is no validation of the category until other companies join it. And perhaps the biggest downside to creating a new category is the time it takes – it can take years for a category to gain widespread industry recognition.

If companies decide to create a category, PR and marketing will be essential to educate the market and define what the new category is and how it is different. We do this through a series of tactics: publishing category reports and content, showcasing expertise through thought leadership, and working with analysts who specialize in relevant categories and market landscapes. .

Drenik: According to a recent Thrive Insights & Analytics Poll, it pays to be in the media. Twenty-five percent (25%) of adults 18 and older say the Internet influences their purchase, and 12% say product articles specifically influence their purchase.

Thank you, Kieran, for sharing more information on how businesses can increase their visibility in crowded markets and create new ones through a storytelling approach to PR and communications.