A thought leadership strategy is a blueprint for industry success. Not only does it boost your credibility, but it also puts your brand on the map. But thought leadership doesn’t happen overnight. It takes careful planning to position yourself as an industry star.
PR and thought leadership strategy go hand in hand. In fact, public relations is a key way to carve out your strategy and attain thought leadership status within your industry. Let’s now look at thought leadership and see how you can better position your strategy to reach your goals.
What is Thought Leadership?
Thought leadership has become a bit of a buzzword among executives — everyone wants it, but not everyone has a clear definition. So let’s take a moment and discuss exactly what is thought leadership.
Thought leaders have earned the respect of others. They have a loyal audience and are widely regarded as the go-to authority for their insights on new developments, their expertise, and their depth of practical knowledge. When they speak, people sit up and take notice.
Because thought leadership has become so popular lately, many mistakenly believe that it comes about on its own. Yet sheer willpower and industry knowledge does not in itself generate thought leadership. It takes an investment of time and energy to develop a solid reputation and earn the respect of your audience as well as your peers.
Let’s now take a look at 10 ways you can boost your thought leadership PR and build a truly phenomenal record of leadership within your industry.
10 Steps That Are Sure to Boost Your Thought Leadership Strategy with Public Relations
1. Be Accessible
Open yourself up to thought leadership PR opportunities by leaving the lines open for journalists, bloggers, and even industry event organizers to contact you. Learn how to nurture press relationships and use them effectively to boost your thought leadership.
Be prepared to engage effectively with the media. Your company should have policies and protocols in place on how to deal with various media opportunities, including those that arise on social media. You and others within your company who are on the track to thought leadership should be trained on f working with the media.
Along the same lines, make sure to reserve time to get involved in industry events. Be visible. You don’t need to have a speaking engagement to be present and actively participate in an industry event. Your engaged presence at such events has a strong impact on your thought leadership development.
2. Collaborate on Projects
Combine your name with the power of another high-profile executive in your industry to increase your impact. Whether it’s a blog post, eBook, or speaking engagement, collaboration is a key way to boost your thought leadership.
Partnership can also offer a fresh angle to your thought leadership with the addition of your collaborator’s point of view. Not only will this boost the value of your content, but it will also position you in front of a new audience.
3. Feature a Personal Element
At the end of the day, we all respond emotionally, as well as intellectually, and thought leaders should not be afraid to show their human side. Whenever you pitch a story, prepare a speech, or publish a blog post, look for ways to highlight a personal aspect.
Some do this by highlighting real-world examples of people who use their products to solve real-life problems. Others shine in the spotlight on the individual members that make up their team.
Bottom line: Whenever there is a personal side to your story, make it the main attraction.
4. Be Generous and Humble
Content is one of the biggest roads toward thought leadership — so the last thing you want is to put up any roadblocks for your audience. Instead, be generous. Loosen the strings and make it as easy as possible for your audience to access your expertise through your content. Provide valuable and pertinent content that isn’t gated or restricted.
Michael Brenner, CEO of Marketing Insider Group — among other thought leadership-level achievements — is one of the foremost experts of this “give to get” ideology. Instead of self-promotion, Brenner encourages others to become “an authority on relevant topics by delivering the answers to the biggest questions on the minds of your target audience.”
Along the same lines, it’s impossible to know everything — so don’t act like you do. Humility is a huge part of being a thought leader. Pretending or making haphazard guesses about industry developments can backfire in a major way — audiences respect and reward honesty and humility. Instead, stick to what you know, and admit when a topic is out of your expertise.
5. Choose Your Speaking Engagements Wisely
The speaking engagements you choose will later define your thought leadership abilities. In the beginning, it will take time to develop your speaking abilities and land a top speaking engagement.
Pro tip: If you’re unsure how to write an engaging speech, take a couple of your best-written articles, and transform them into a speaking outline.
As your experience grows, requests for speaking engagements will start to flow in. While it can be tempting to say yes to every request, it can, in fact, be counterintuitive. It can water down the impact of your speaking and constrict your overall value. Instead, focus on high-profile events where your target audience will be present.
6. Create Content Consistently
Whether it’s a blog post, infographic, eBook, or video, regularly create content for your audience. Studies show that the more a brand blogs per month, the more traffic the company sees on its website. In particular, the study found that when a brand blogs 16 or more times per month, it receives 3.5 times more traffic than companies who blog only 0-4 times per month.
Consistency breeds dependability — your audience will look forward to your regular communication. They will continually return to hear your views, benefit from your insights, and learn from your depth of knowledge and experience.
Make it a part of your PR strategy to promote your published content. Use social media posts, PR campaigns, and your public events to talk about the content you’ve created and encourage your audience to check it out. This regular stream of content goes a long way in proving your industry knowledge and ability.
A word of caution, however. Don’t use your content creation to promote your brand or products. Your content creation should be strictly helpful and meaningful to your audience. Any self-promotion will dilute the value of your message and come across as purely self-serving — the very opposite of thought leadership.
7. Write a Book
We currently live amidst the self-publishing revolution — publishing a book has never been easier! And the results are worth every effort. Being an author solidifies your thought leadership status and opens the door to many coveted PR opportunities.
Some hesitate to start such a big project. But if you have a regular blog and other owned content, chances are you already have half your material already written.
8. Guest Post Strategically
Bylines are like fuel to your PR engine. Nothing shows off your industry expertise like an article appearing in a popular industry publication. Determine which websites or trade publications your audience frequents, and investigate how to get your name in the mix.
Make your bylines more strategic by choosing the right timing. Do you have a product launch in the works? Write an article about a topic related to your project launch and try to finesse it so it runs within a few weeks of your launch. Most outlets will let you include a link to a website page in your bio. Use that opportunity to link to a page about your new product. This helps you ride the waves of your recent news and keeps you fresh in the minds of your audience.
Again, the focus should be on reaching your audience. If your industry expertise focuses on financial planning for B2B businesses, don’t attempt to break into a conversation on healthcare. Stick with what you know and reach an audience who will appreciate your level of expertise.
9. Conduct Surveys
Surveys are a powerful way to boost your thought leadership potential. The information and insights that surveys provide position you as the “go-to person” within your industry. And conducting surveys is simple with such easy-to-use platforms as SurveyMonkey and SurveyGizmo right at your fingertips.
In particular, this kind of information makes you even more valuable in the eyes of the press. Tell journalists how the new information uncovered in your survey will have a powerful impact on your industry. As we mentioned above, be sure to include a human dimension to the overall story. This creates an irresistible combination for many journalists and bloggers.
Surveys help you in a number of other ways as well. For example, they can help you to…
- Better understand the pain points that your audience faces
- Deliver new insights
- Build your credibility
- Reveal previously unknown needs in your industry
In addition, once you have the survey information, you can repurpose it into other forms of content, such as blog posts, eBooks, and infographics. Your audience will thank you by absorbing it.
10. Take the Lead
The “leadership” part of thought leadership requires action. Don’t be afraid to take action on the knowledge and expertise you have. When a hot-button issue arises, don’t run away from the controversy — get right in the middle of it.
Of course, you will need to balance other concerns. You would never want to alienate any of your audience or key investors by taking too rigid a stance on any one issue. The point is not to cower in the background. Being a leader means taking a stand and becoming a rallying voice within your industry.
Even if you don’t take a controversial stance, you should offer a unique perspective on industry issues. Don’t be afraid to offer a different opinion in your content. Don’t restrict yourself, but rather take every opportunity to display your ingenuity, innovation, and unique voice.
A Few Points to Remember…
- Make yourself accessible to your audience and the press, and get involved in industry events
- Be generous and humble in your content — don’t put up roadblocks that discourage your audience from reading and enjoying your content
- Collaborate with other industry experts that willl empower your content to reach new audiences
- Invest in surveys and use the data you receive to put yourself at the cutting edge of your industry; repurpose it into blog posts, ebooks, or infographics
While thought leadership strategy does take time and thoughtful planning to develop, these methods can put you on the road to success.