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Patrick O’Neill Managing Partner of Sherlock Communications and named Latin America’s Best PR Professional 2020 by PR Week Awards
To “e” or not to “e”? That should never be the question. E-books, as we know them, have been around since the mid-to-late 1990s, but their roots may date further back still to the 1940s. Yet while their popularity jumped early in the last decade and they’ve seen a revival during pandemic-hit 2020, their benefits as a marketing tool for many public relations and communications agencies continue to be inexplicably questioned.
Strangely, I’ve noticed that skepticism remains strong among embryonic companies in Latin America regarding whether self-publishing an e-book is really worth the time and effort. Some agencies question the wisdom of freely sharing their trade secrets with clients and — worse — competitors. Yet to my mind, the positives of producing a corporate e-book outweigh the negatives every time.
Whether your goal is to position your company as a thought leader in a particular field, improve trust and credibility, share key insights in an accessible way, help set the media agenda, or simply generate leads through opt-in downloads, e-books can be a vital way to help grow your business.
There is a misperception that in making a reader enter their contact details before accessing an e-book, you are tricking them. That is only true if your product has no value. A well-researched, expertly written and professionally formatted e-book will not only attract media and potential clients from the very industry you are targeting, but it will usually leave them impressed too. They should come away feeling both that they have learned something and that you are an authority on the subject. Collecting their contact details is simply opening a mutually beneficial, commitment-free communications channel.
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At my agency, we always ensure that our best writers compile and edit our e-books and weave self-sourced survey data with quality insights from industry insiders. We also enlist professors from the best universities in Latin America to validate the reports because then everybody benefits: The professors gain exclusive insight ahead of publication, and by aligning with credible institutions, our reputation improves. It also often means that the e-book may be more widely shared, especially if it is published in your target market’s native language. To maximize accessibility across Latin America, we publish all our e-books in Portuguese, Spanish and English.
Here is a real-life example of how it works: In October 2019, we published our first e-book, Latin America Outbound Travel Report: How To Reach More Than 25 Million Travellers, which is a 15-page study of the region’s travel industry and included the results of our latest survey. This exclusive insight allowed us to confidently provide companies with detailed, data-led guidance on how best to market themselves in Latin America. As well as resulting in increased website traffic and press coverage, it undeniably helped establish us as industry experts, which ultimately helped us secure new clients.
This aspect of media coverage should not be overlooked. That’s because by publishing credible, exclusive insights and opinions tailored to their market, you are helping journalists do their jobs — while also influencing the media agenda. Our travel report was covered by more than 50 sector-specific publications, including one of the leading tourism magazines in Latin America.
Our latest e-book provides regional perspectives on how Covid-19 is affecting a burgeoning yet largely ignored gambling industry. Betting is often ignored or viewed as taboo in Latin America, yet our e-book shows that it is quickly growing in popularity across the region, and the industry is now worth in excess of $5 billion to Latin America. Unsurprisingly, the e-book is generating great interest and prompting important conversations concerning regulations among regional media. It is also encouraging us to consider self-publishing even more regularly.
Ultimately, if you decide that publishing e-books is a strategy worth exploring, don’t do it half-heartedly. Establish strong links with esteemed universities and get leading experts involved. This should not be a one-person project but rather a chance to build powerful and informative relationships that result in a group effort that you can all be proud of. For example, we are releasing another e-book that analyzes the blockchain across 19 Latin American countries. We commissioned a leading Latin American blockchain expert to write it.
If you don’t have the budget to commission a book, explore the option of having an expert write at least a foreword. And as well as making it easy to access in terms of published format — I recommend PDF rather than EPUB — again, ensure that readers must provide their email address in order to download it. Such a setup can connect you with like-minded people and potential clients. As long as the product is of high quality, then much like “to ‘e’ or not to ‘e,'” it won’t be a difficult decision for anyone to make.
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