Behind the Headlines With Tom Lindell
Tom Lindell, managing director of Exponent PR, says harnessing your brand advocates’ opinions is key to influencing sales and building a successful brand strategy.
In this interview, Tom discusses being the first public relations partner for Florida’s Natural, why brand advocates are so valuable and the importance of listening to your audience’s conversations.
What drew you to the PR industry?
I studied political communications in college, so after graduation, I cut my PR teeth in the fast-paced environment of Capitol Hill. My experiences on the Hill taught me the basics of media relations—and the inner workings of politics (which could be a good or bad thing, depending on your perspective).
Tell us about Exponent PR’s approach to brand strategy.
Our focus is singular, but strong: We build belief for our clients. Belief is powerful, yet sustaining—and it’s the foundation of everything that we do. When people believe in a brand, it drives their purchase behavior and creates strong advocates.
I understand Exponent PR was recently named agency of record for Florida’s Natural Brand. What do you have planned for them?
We’re incredibly honored to be the first public relations partner for Florida’s Natural. I can’t give too much away, but what I can say is that we’ll be helping the iconic brand tell the story of their unique, grower-owned cooperative, and we’ll be using modern public relations to do it—from media relations and influencer engagement to reputation management.
What do you think was the key factor in Exponent PR winning that account?
Our extensive experience with brands in food/CPG and farmer-owned cooperatives. We’ve worked with these brands from farm to table, helping them build belief and reach new audiences in different ways. We look forward to doing the same for Florida’s Natural.
What do you think is the biggest PR challenge brands face today?
Today, a brand’s most credible advocates aren’t on the payroll, don’t have to be managed and don’t require a special infrastructure to amplify their voices. That’s good news.
But it’s also a challenge, because brands can’t dictate what their advocates say, or when and where they say it. And what these people have to say is more credible than anything a brand could say about itself.
The test is harnessing these advocates’ natural, honest opinions into enthusiasm for the brand itself.
How has PR changed over the years?
Gone are the days when marketers fulfill a product need and hope the people who love the brand will talk about it—or assume that anyone will hear them when they do. There’s just too much noise competing for our attention.
Modern PR practitioners have had to learn to anticipate and embrace the now. Those who are successful are the ones who are listening, already part of the conversation, and ready with rewards and encouragement for their most valuable advocates.
What advice do you have for those looking to start a career in PR?
Strong verbal and written communication skills are great, but they’re only part of the equation. Today’s modern PR professionals need to have gravitas. You need to be able to exude confidence, take the lead in a conversation, have a strong point of view and be able to defend it.
When there’s a lot of noise competing for our attention, the people with gravitas will be the most successful.
Rapid Fire Round
1. I always thought I’d be…anything except running an agency. It’s funny how life works out.
2. If I won the lottery, I’d…to be honest, I hope I never do. I wouldn’t want any large sums of money skewing my day-to-day priorities and values.
3. My biggest pet peeve is…wallflowers. Everyone has an opinion and point of view and those should be shared. Whether it’s in a meeting or in a day-to-day conversation, your input is valuable.
4. My daily newspaper of choice is…anything political: POLITICO, The Washington Post, The New York Times, StarTribune, USA TODAY and RealClearPolitics. Even though I’m no longer on Capitol Hill, my passion for politics is still there—especially during an election year.
5. The thing that gets me up in the morning is…I’m not a fan of mornings, so I’ll be frank: Our neighborhood school bus. It waits for no one.
6. My guiltiest pleasure is…drinking iced tea. Black, no sweetener. Maybe it’s a not-so-guilty pleasure.
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