The Scriba PR blog is well-known for its wealth of thought-provoking content, and one man who knows all about the power of good conversations – and copy – is none other than Ian Leech, editor of Yorkshire Business Insider.
Host of many a regional roundtable and Yorkshire business’s answer to Michael Parkinson, we asked Ian for his help on a very special guide we’ve been working on – but our conversation around the power of his regular tête-à-têtes was too good not to share. So, without further ado…
How can roundtables act as a great source of media coverage for business leaders in the region?
By their very nature, business owners are voracious consumers of business content. There’s a continuous learning pattern to acquiring more knowledge and a desire to leverage other people’s smart ideas to put them to work in one’s own company.
The actual medium is less important than getting the information. There are issues which are national and global in context, for instance economics or industry sectors, and others which are specifically local – such as the skills pipeline, connectivity, or premises provision.
Directors want to know what other directors’ views are and we rarely get public access to those opinions as they are so busy within their companies. So roundtables provide golden moments of insight.
Do you think you get more from this form of interview?
Sometimes – although it largely depends on the individual. Some are extrovert and will want to tell you a lot about their company, plans and experiences, while others are naturally competitive and will want to make a point in a group discussion.
Insider’s discussions are always private events, but I always publicise them on social media afterwards – steering people towards reading the full coverage in the magazine. You can always use little excerpts as teasers too.
Highlighting significant attendees or companies among the participants helps too as their opinion would be particularly valued and they may not make public comment very often.
What do you look for when selecting participants for a roundtable?
A good balance of panellists is the most important aspect for me to ensure a rich conversation. That means a diverse group of people from different backgrounds, business size, sector, and career experience. If you have ten people with broadly the same experience, you’ll find that the conversation will soon run dry.
You always want someone with a story and some ambitions for growth. And, as a wildcard, I sometimes like to bring an individual or professional from another region or industry for an outside view. Academics provide brilliant future projection and can really engage participants too.
Of course, if people would like to take part in an Insider roundtable, they just need to get in touch with us. If they have a great story to tell, I want to hear it!
Do you see roundtables as shaping the future of comms in 2021 and beyond?
I don’t know about shaping comms, but participants constantly tell me how much they enjoy them. The attitude to networking has changed drastically over the years. Many attendees say that they only need one piece of information, or a single introduction, to make the whole experience worthwhile. You tend to get out of networking what you put into it.
Is there merit in brands hosting their own roundtables – amongst industry peers?
Of course. Talking is good, we never stop learning and new introductions are important. But business events publicised through media companies gives you a far greater audience reach than just social media.
In Yorkshire, Insider has 36,000 readers of its monthly magazine and daily online newsletter each, with only a 15% crossover of both. And with business directors making up 80% of that total that’s an awful lot of people to communicate to.
Anything else you think needs to go in there about the rise/future of roundtables?
The period since March 2020 has shown that they can now be held virtually as well. Despite initial misgivings, some of the best ones I have held have been online. Participants seem less inhibited than when in a room together and of course they don’t have to even leave their desk!
Follow Ian on Twitter at @ianleechinsider.