[Post updated March 19, 2019]
Thought leadership PR was once considered a passing flavor-of-the-month. But it has proven its worth as a must-have strategy for any brand looking to up its game. What exactly is it and should your business consider it as a future goal?
In this post, we'll dive into such questions as...
- What is a good thought leadership definition?
- What 3 flavors of thought leadership are available to your brand and which one should you choose?
- What do you need for a successful thought leadership strategy?
What is Thought Leadership?
If you ask a room full of people what thought leadership is, you're bound to get a host of different responses.
While there are a variety of shades to thought leadership depending on your industry and goals, there are a few principles of thought leadership that remain timeless.
We personally like the thought leadership definition provided by LinkedIn's ebook. LinkedIn describes it this way: "In a nutshell, thought leadership is about sharing insights and ideas -- and a unique point of view -- that provoke new ways of thinking, spark discussions and debates, and inspires action."
While this may seem like a tall order to fill, with some expertise and the right strategies in place to highlight that expertise, it is an attainable goal for any serious business.
Why put in the effort to become a thought leader? There are a few reasons, including...
- It helps to distinguish you from your competitors.
- It helps you to recruit the top talent for your brand.
- It helps you individually to climb up the career ladder.
- It gives customers an extra incentive to choose you.
- It engages your audience on a higher level.
In fact, studies have shown that 89% of buyers said that thought leadership content increased their awareness of a seller. Another 58% said that it led them to award business to an organization and even pay a premium price.
There's no doubt about it. We have actual proof that thought leadership benefits a brand in so many ways. It is not just a vanity strategy -- it has real impact on your brand's bottom line!
The 3 Sides of Thought Leadership Strategy
There is no doubt that thought leadership in marketing has become an integral part of a brand's strategy. In fact, thought leadership can impact multiple parts of your organization from your executive leadership to your offer to your organizational style. Because of the growing importance of thought leadership, there's a need to understand the different types of thought leadership and how best to incorporate it into your brand.
Industry Thought Leadership
Industry thought leadership or executive branding helps you to stand out within your specific industry or niche. Develop this by keeping you finger on the pulse of industry news and trends, while offering innovative ideas and insights to your audience. Make it clear what value you bring to your audience.
Anyone can spout off industry news items. But a thought leaders offers valuable and logical advice about what it means. A thought leader offers a new perspective, frames the problems that people face in an industry, and provides prescriptions for success.
Product Thought Leadership
Your products or services are the vehicle you offer your customers to improve their business and get where they need to go.
Before this vehicle can become relevant, you need to convince your audience your ideas' importance. How can you do this? Through content that highlights best practices, strategic planning, and informative how-to's. Your thought leadership content demonstrates that your brand is not just another big talker. It's evidence that you have the knowledge and expertise to back up your talk with real results.
Organizational Thought Leadership
It is one thing to promote your brand from afar with evidence of thought leadership. It's another thing to invite your audience into your company's culture to see your thought leadership first-hand.
Giving your audience a window into your brand's culture opens a level of transparency that is increasingly valuable in a commoditized business world. You can do this through behind-the-scenes videos and sharing the values and principles that make your brand different.
So now that you know what thought leadership is, how can you use it to grow your business? Here are the six pillars of an effective thought leadership pr strategy that gets results.
6 Killer Ways to Explode Your Thought Leadership PR
The first and most actionable tactic to utilize when working to build a thought leadership position is blogging. Blogging is an incredibly powerful way to establish your credibility, spread your ideas, and build trust with potential customers.
By consistently churning out highly relevant and original copy, you can turn your content into a magnet for inbound links. It’s the cumulative effect of these inbound links that will help you increase your search engine visibility, the brass ring in today’s search-addicted world.
While your blog is a great way to show that you're familiar with the latest news and trends, don't forget to create evergreen content. Evergreen content is content that never grows old -- it is as applicable in five years as it is now. These usually includes guides and studies that your audience can continually refer back for years to come.
Blogging also spills over nicely into other forms of content that support thought leadership strategies. For example, publishing a book is a great way to boost your reputation as a B2B thought leader -- and with the myriad of self-publishing outlets available today, it's easier than ever to put "author" in your bio!
2. Social Media
Social channels like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn are becoming increasingly important in the content promotion ecosystem. Key influencers with a high numbers of followers, fans and subscribers can deliver their content and ideas to a whole network with one tweet, post or share.
Position yourself as a valuable expert on social media by providing useful content, whether written by you or someone else. Be sure to promote other influencers who may reciprocate by promoting you.
It is also vital that you utilize the strategic tools that are offered on various social networks. This includes such tools as live video streaming, audience targeting, and analytics.
Take live streaming as an example. One study found that 80% of brand audiences would rather watch a live video than read a blog. And 82% prefer live streaming video over regular social posts. Clearly, you are missing out on a key part of your audience if you don't use this tool. Look into various ways you can use live video in your social media strategy.
3. Media Interviews
Seek out opportunities to get media coverage by building relationships with reporters in your industry. This is foundational for thought leadership PR.
Of course, not every publication is going to benefit your thought leadership goals. Shoot for one that your audience reads -- such as a trade publication. Look at the kinds of articles they publish and visualize how your brand fits into their subject matter. Then do your research to see what journalists cover your industry's news and work on a pitch that will speak personally to them.
What kinds of things should you pitch? Offer reporters a unique angle on an emerging story, or tip them off about a potential topic of interest. Work on cultivating a relationship with a reporter by following them on social media and retweeting their articles. Self-promotional plug: You can hire a B2B PR agency to help you with this.
4. Content Creation
At their core, thought leaders are content creators. They are the ones pushing the industry forward with new ideas, dynamic strategies and untested tactics.
In addition to blogging, social media and media interviews, content can be repurposed into premium content like e-books, SlideShares, and infographics. Repurposing it helps preserve it and generate leads through a gated offer (requiring a form to be completed in exchange for the content).
Create content with a specific audience in mind. If you find yourself wandering aimlessly from one piece of content to another, then it's time to sit down and hammer out who exactly makes up your audience, what niche you want your brand to sit in, and what skills you want to highlight. This will help give your content purpose and avoid targeting the wrong audience.
For instance, if your audience's main social media network is LinkedIn, then focus your content creation efforts on that platform. Create content that is designed for that audience. One study from The Drum, with data from LinkedIn, showed that the kinds of content that performs the best on that network include industry trends/new (89%), tips/best practices (86%), and leadership (78%). Whoever your audience is, such research can help you to pinpoint what content is going to give you the best results.
5. Case Studies
The proof is in the pudding -- and proof is an essential ingredient in any thought leadership strategy. And that's exactly what case studies do for your brand. They prove your thought leadership capabilities, with not just theories but real world examples. They show that you not only have the knowledge, but also that you've used that knowledge with real results.
Outline common pain points that your audience deals with in its business. Then go through and carefully choose certain clients who have faced those same pain points -- and who achieved positive results with the help of your product or service. Once you've chosen which clients are the best examples of this, reach out to them to see if they would be willing to be featured in a case study for your brand.
And it is definitely worth the effort. When your audience is able to see the real-life results that you've achieved for other brands, they can more easily visualize what you can do for their brand.
Feel free to check out our case studies page to see an example of how to set up your own.
All of us fall into the trap of going full speed ahead at the beginning of a project and then lagging behind after the initial spark fades. This is something you want to avoid when it comes to thought leadership.
While consistency is more of a discipline than a tactic, it must be discussed because thought leaders consistently generate original and engaging content week after week.
Whatever tactics you choose (social media, blogging, case studies), create a documented strategy that will keep you on track. This will help you to visualize what's going on and keep your projects rolling forward.
It’s this methodical approach to content creation and original idea generation that allows subscribers, fans and followers to develop a cadence with a thought leader. So if you are looking to elevate your personal brand or your company’s brand make sure that you keep pace in your delivery of remarkable content.
By utilizing these six tactics, individuals and brands can elevate their position within their industry or network.
The important themes to remember as you climb the thought leadership ladder are (1) stay consistent, and (2) generate highly relevant and original content for your audience.
What are you doing to establish your thought leadership PR? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.
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