Thought leadership is a phrase often used within the PR industry. But what does it actually mean?
How do you become a thought leader, and why do you want to position your client as one?
Lockdown placed consumers in a position where they were no longer able to go out and about window shopping, picking the first product they liked the look of. Instead, during the online shopping boom, a lot more time was spent researching not only deeper into the products, but into the brands and companies behind them.
PR companies have always seen the value in corporate profiling and thought leadership, but because of this consumer shift, there’s been an increased focus on the products, but also in building the profiles of brands’ individuals too.
Thought leadership positions brands and team members as industry spokespeople. Establishing them as the ones leading the development, whilst also seeking to solve problems their audience may face.
This can be done through various means, such as submitting forward features for trade publications, offering expert comment, sharing industry insight and stats, or even trying to push change that will benefit your business and consumers through public affairs and policy.
A misconception around thought leadership is the idea that you must be in a well-established position for it to be effective. This is wrong, you don’t need to be Elon Musk or Jeffrey Bezos to be listened to, you simply toned to have expertise you’re willing to offer.
There are many benefits to producing thought leadership content for your clients, not only for the brand, but also for the individuals behind it. You will see within your brands’ reputation and consumer connection dramatically increase through targeting thought leadership pieces.
In virtue of sharing firsthand accounts through leadership content, naturally your personality and voice will resonate through. It allows the audience to feel more invested and connected with your brand, whilst also looking kindly on the generosity of sharing through leadership information. An added benefit of this is that you’re able to dictate the tone of communication through your industry leaders. If you publish more academic-led content, your brand will be viewed as not only knowledgeable, but also a trusted news source. Whereas more informal insights, such as tip sharing on LinkedIn, allows people to connect on a more personal level and buy into the people behind the brand.
Another positive is increased brand exposure. This is a huge benefit that comes from producing thought leadership pieces. The whole premise is formed around offering industry insight and positioning your brand experts as trusted oracles on their chosen topics. Thought leadership resonates with those in the trade industry, as all want to better themselves and quench their thirst for development and knowledge. Through this, naturally the brand gains exposure, as the experts behind the stats, tips and comments.
Finally, by sharing your own research, insight and trends, it allows you to highlight, consumer demand and sales… and generate it too. We know from research that thought leadership has influenced more than 60% of decision makers have bought a product solely through thought leadership. Furthermore, more than 50% of businesses have closed deals because of thought leadership insight they have published, which led to their reputation being viewed in a higher stature, leading more businesses to want to work with them.
So how can you ensure your thought leadership pieces cuts through the saturated market of everyone wanting to be an expert?
Be yourself – Tone of voice is incredibly important when establishing consumer trust. They can tell when someone’s name has been attached to something they’ve probably never read. Moreover, consumers can tell when authenticity is lacking in language choices, such as using slang to appeal to a younger audience. It is yourself you are marketing here, so being genuine is key. Wholesale Manager publishes a regular feature called ‘Supplier Spotlight;, which asks industry questions direct to experts, whilst also including more personal topics such as the experts journey into their role and challenges they’ve faced. This can be a great opportunity to humanise a controversial topic, such as the tobacco industry. Recently Duncan Cunningham, UK Corporate Affairs Director at Imperial Tobacco & blu was profiled and shared a lot of personal insight, which is rare for this industry, but welcomed by consumers.
Solve problems – Find an opportunity to make a difference where others have not. Maybe you have a niche opportunity to help pass legislation to change trading standards, highlight an injustice or an issue that needs to be brought to the attention of Parliament. By showing willingness to work to solve problems your consumers face this will help build trust, whilst also pushing your brand in a direction to problem solve and make business easier. This is something Martin Lewis, Money Saving Expert, has a real talent for. Giving no fluff advice that helps consumers save money on a daily basis, all whilst challenging financial legislation.
Share what you know – With thought leadership it is easy to get carried away and feel the need to comment on everything you see. But this is an easy way to fall down; it can be viewed as disingenuous and transparent when you have no solid expert comment to offer. Pick your opportunities wisely and ensure you’re bringing something new to the field of discussion.
Be data dependent – Saying what you know is one thing, but showing it elevates you to the next level. Reminiscent of a university lecturer, references are everything. By offering data to back up your comments – it reassures your readers you know what you’re talking about and provides exciting industry insight which will resonate across the sector and help generate traffic to your piece. This will result in even more people becoming aware of not only what you’re sharing, but your brand also. The drinks trade often publish stat heavy forward features on a range of topics, allowing experts to not only share their insight, but to back it up with evidence and figures. This helps instill trust as the experts evidence their claims. A great example of this is Boost Drinks, who’s CEO and Marketing Director often update the trade market publications with upcoming trend data which help retailers inform the hot products they should be stocking.
This process can seem daunting to begin with but thought leadership can be built up over time. Starting with small expert comments, the odd interaction offering advice or insight on social media, leading to full scale forward feature in high circulation trade outlets. Stay insightful, stay authentic and you will stay ahead.
Interested in learning more about how we can help you boost your position through thought leadership, get in touch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org