The role of a thought leader is to offer unique insight on a specific topic, problem, or trend and establish themselves as a go-to resource. A successful thought leadership strategy supports organizational business goals, making it an essential part of any communication plan. You shouldn’t have to look hard to find a thought leader in your organization—they typically are the individuals in your C-suite, but there are likely others equally as valuable in your organization with ideas, passion, and experience that may be credible thought leaders.
Thought leadership can take many forms, such as contributed content, speaking engagements, webinars, white papers, and an ongoing social media presence. It is imperative to remember that, like all communication efforts, strategy should drive thought leadership and consistency is critical. Having a clear strategy tied to your business goals will help establish your voice, get buy-in from leadership, and allow for effective measurement of your program.
The best way to start is by identifying topics your thought leaders can speak to that will support your organization’s goals. For example, if you are a health IT vendor that wants to increase sales of your population health tools, focus on promoting your organization’s point of view (POV) on effective population health management.
Below are five components to consider incorporating in your thought leadership strategy.
1. Proactive outreach
Recently, members of ReviveHealth’s public relations team attended July’s Nashville Public Relations Society of America luncheon featuring presenter Johnny Smith Jr., senior director of public relations at Ascension. A fellow attendee asked about why proactive public relations is important to thought leadership. His response?
“PR is a tackle sport.”
The first step of proactive PR is engaging in daily media monitoring and other environmental scanning techniques to determine what topics are trending in your industry. Then, join the conversation via social media, contributed articles, etc., sharing your organization’s point of view. But remember: be strategic and specific about the topics your expert can speak to and make sure they are relevant to your business and the industry. See also: Managing the Race Against a Bad Reputation
Another tip from Smith, Jr.: it’s imperative to establish and maintain relationships with media, which lowers the barrier to entry when joining the conversation. A key part of this is setting up face-to-face meetings between thought leaders and reporters whenever possible—these often prove more valuable than a phone call or email. These conversations are opportunities to share a POV and establish credibility as source for reporters.
2. Local involvement
Securing coverage in trade and national consumer publications might be the goal, but having a presence in local media is foundational to any thought leadership strategy. This way, when you approach trade and national publications with your company’s story, you’ll already have an established presence as a thought leader on the subject on the local level. This could mean contributing content, writing a monthly column or being mentioned in an industry story.
Local media is also a chance for you to get creative as a PR professional. Is there a cause your thought leaders are passionate about they can advocate for locally? If you have a thought leader that’s making waves in the industry, what local award nominations are a good fit? These activities in the community will help lead to organic media coverage locally and beyond.
3. Speaking engagements
Securing speaking engagements are a tried-and-true practice when it comes to elevating the thought leaders in your organization. These opportunities get you in front of your audience and allow you to engage with them directly. Research opportunities for your thought leaders to give keynote speeches and participate in panel discussions or Q&As at industry conferences as part of your proactive PR activities.
Pro tip: the best way for vendors to showcase your business’ innovative solutions is to partner with one of your clients and share their success story. It’s a win-win for both parties. Check out this blog to learn more about The Power of the Proposal.
4. Content creation
In addition to earned media coverage, take advantage of blogging, op-eds, contributed content, webinars, and white papers. Developing a variety of content allows you to continually engage with your audience at different stages of the buyer’s journey while generating interest about a topic.
Make sure your content links to other (relevant) previously-developed thought leadership materials – such as white papers you’ve created and recordings of webinars – on your website.
5. Social media
Social media is another avenue for creating content and sharing your POV. Speaking at an event? Tell your organization’s followers and live tweet the presentation. Hosting a webinar? Invite your target audience to attend by setting up a Facebook event. Just released a new white paper discussing the current industry trends? Have the paper’s author publish a short blog about the content on his or her personal LinkedIn page.
Social media is also the place to share relevant industry articles and news that, while may not quote your thought leader specifically, still supports your thought leadership strategy. Remember, use the 80/20 rule on social media. Roughly 80 percent of the content you post should be non-branded industry content, while 20 percent should promote your organization.
A thought leadership strategy is critical to elevating your organization in the public sphere, and therefore helping achieve business goals. To maximize success, be strategic and consistent through proactive activities with your audience such as speaking engagements, content sharing, online communication and local advocacy.