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 a B2B 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 look at how you can boost your thought leadership with PR.
What is Thought Leadership?
This is a question that comes up often in my B2B PR agency. Thought leadership has become a buzzword in B2B PR -- everyone wants it, but not everyone has a clear thought leadership 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.
In short, when thought leaders speak, people sit up and take notice.
The benefits also go beyond simple reputation and personal branding. B2B thought leadership has led to some tangible results, as noted by a recent joint-study from Edelman and LinkedIn. Here are a few of those findings:
- 89% of B2B buyers said that thought leadership increased their awareness of a brand.
- 45% of B2B buyers said that thought leadership content led them to invite a brand to bid on a project.
- 58% of B2B buyers said that it led them to award business to one organization over another.
Can Just Anyone Be a Thought Leader?
Because thought leadership has become so popular lately, it's easy to think it happens naturally. Yet sheer willpower and industry knowledge don't alone generate thought leadership.
It takes an investment of time and energy, as well as the use of thought leadership tactics, to develop a solid reputation and earn the respect of your audience as well as your peers.
To tout my own industry a mite, a thought leadership PR agency can boost your reputation. Such an agency provides support, guidance and know-how. Sure, you can do it on your own, but a skilled B2B PR professional will shorten the process and likely elevate your reputation beyond what you could do yourself.
In a world that's saturated with self-promotion, thought leadership makes a refreshing difference. Done right, thought leadership automatically draws people to your expertise. It's all about positioning yourself so that people perceive you as an expert.
Ready to discover 15 ways you can boost your thought leadership PR and build a truly phenomenal record of leadership within your industry? Let's dive in.
15 Easy Ways to Boost Your B2B Thought Leadership Strategy with B2B PR
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. Don't make yourself scarce but use the media as a platform to share your expertise.
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. You and others within your company who are on the track to thought leadership should be trained on working with the media.
Your accessibility should also include social media. Choose a couple of networks where you can really connect with your audience. Take time to network and engage with other industry leaders within your chosen platform.
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 offer a fresh angle to your thought leadership with the addition of your collaborator's point of view. Not only will this boost your content's value, but it will also position you in front of a new audience -- that of your partner.
3. Maintain a Strong Online Reputation
Things happen quickly online -- one minute you could be a fan favorite and the next minute a negative comment could ignite a sandstorm of negativity. That is why your online reputation is a vital component of thought leadership. Don't just passively monitor your online reputation. Work hard to grow and maintain it as your online business card.
A major part of maintaining an online reputation is monitoring and controlling negative mentions. Tune into any and all mentions of you online with a handy tool like Google Alerts. Have it notify you whenever your name or brand is mentioned online. If you come across a negative comment, do what you can do to neutralize the situation. Tools like Hootsuite make it easy to monitor keywords, including competitors, so you can be on top of trends and opportunities.
Promote a positive online reputation through your social media accounts. Interact with your audience, especially when they leave a comment or reach out to you. If a problem arises, such as a negative comment or complaint, act quickly to resolve the issue.
4. Feature a Personal Element
At the end of the day, people want to connect with you on a personal basis. Whenever you pitch a story, prepare a speech, or publish a blog post, look for ways to make it personal.
This doesn't mean that you have to bare your most intimate secrets. Rather, when there are personal stories that add value to your content, don't hesitate to add them. If you have an interesting origin story that sheds light on why you're in your industry, or that shows why you're different, then share that with your audience.
Remember, people want to connect with other people -- not brands.
5. Be Generous and Humble
Content is one of the biggest roads toward thought leadership -- so the last thing you want to do is erect 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 thought leadership 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. Don't try to make people follow you. Simply put your head down and focus on the work. If you're good at what you do and you strategically plan out your thought leadership tactics, you have nothing to worry about. It will happen.
6. 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, don't. You'll 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.
7. Create Content Consistently
Whether it’s a blog post, infographic, eBook, or video, consistently 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. People will return to hear your views, benefit from your insights, and learn from your depth of knowledge and experience.
As part of your PR strategy, promote your published content. Use social media posts, PR campaigns, and your public events to talk up your content and encourage others to check it out. A regular stream of content buttresses 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 helpful and meaningful. Self-promotion will dilute the value of your message and come across as purely self-serving -- the opposite of thought leadership.
8. Boost Your SEO
A thought leader needs to be visible -- if people can't find you online, they won't seek you out. People often view Google's first page as the who's who of thought leaders. The closer you are to the top of that page, the more your thought leadership status grows.
Stay current with Google's SEO algorithms to maximize your Google exposure. From the keywords you choose, to the backlinks you accrue, to the mentions you generate, ensure that no SEO tactic goes unused.
Some basic SEO tactics include:
- Keyword choice -- Choose long-tail keywords with low competition.
- Keyword placement -- Make sure to include keywords in your posts around 3-5 times, as well as in your URL, meta description, and the alt text of any images.
- Link-building -- Get links to your site from sites that have high authority, such as news media sites.
9. Write a Book
Publishing a book has never been easier thanks to today's self-publishing revolution. No longer are you at the mercy of a publisher. Even something as simple as publishing an ebook can be effective. Being an author solidifies your thought leadership status and opens the door to 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.
10. Be a Conversation Starter
Part of being a leader is to own the conversation. Every industry has important conversations -- some of them, like the #metoo movement, are more emotional and sensitive than others. Don't be afraid to start conversations and share your opinion. People don't want to hear the same old-boring tune. Take a strong stand.
This is not just arguing for the sake of arguing or bringing up sensitive topics for the shock value they provide. Starting the conversation involves incorporating hard data into the conversation to prove your point. Do your research into an area that needs to change within your industry.
Such conversations aren't just one-hit wonders -- they are substantial and have the potential to be a driving force for real change.
11. 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 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, at least in your bio. Use that opportunity to link to a page about your new new product. This helps you ride the waves of your recent news and keeps you fresh in the prospects' minds.
The focus should be on reaching your audience. If your industry expertise centers 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.
12. 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 Typeform right at your fingertips.
This kind of information can be like catnip to the media. Tell journalists how the new information uncovered in your survey will have a powerful impact on your industry. And include a human dimension to your overall story. New data plus emotional tugs are an irresistible combination for many journalists and bloggers.
Surveys help you in a number of other ways. For example, they 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
Once the survey is done, repurpose it into blog posts, ebooks, and infographics. Your audience will thank you by absorbing it.
13. Be a Problem Solver
Every industry has problems and issues that stand in the way of progress. Thought leadership shouldn't be used simply as a forum to air grievances and tell others what to do. It is about adding meaningfully to the industry.
If you can offer new and innovative ideas that will add fresh perspective to your industry, this can be a boon to your thought leadership status.
14. Take the Lead
The "leadership" part of thought leadership requires action. Don’t be afraid to move forward 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, offer perspective on industry issues. Don't be afraid to share a different opinion in your content. Don't restrict yourself, but take every opportunity to display your ingenuity, innovation, and clarifying voice.
15. Admit When You Don't Know
Nobody knows everything -- and acting like you do can quickly sour people's taste of your leadership. Instead of "faking it till you make it," admit it when you're unfamiliar with a certain aspect of your industry.
Be willing to learn from others and share the spotlight with someone else who knows more about something than you do. This goes back to what I mentioned earlier about humility. It shows a human side to your leadership that attracts people to you and cements your place as a thought leader people will want to follow.
While thought leadership strategy does take time and thoughtful planning, these tactics will put you on the road to success and propel you further along. Ready to get started?
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