At its essence, thought leadership is about having something to say. Here's how to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.
Business leaders and marketing managers are often laser-focused on one goal – pushing a product. While product marketing can be a useful and sometimes necessary method for driving sales, it's not always the answer from a public relations perspective.
If you're an unknown brand, in the early stages of your business, or are in a highly saturated market, one of the best ways to stand out and drive visibility is to peel back the layers of your business and be real with people. Whether it's providing advice, inspiring or educating others, or sharing an expert point of view, at its essence, thought leadership is about having something to say.
The thought leadership method not only has the capacity to drive more visibility to a brand, but it's likely to foster a more engaged and connected audience.
Who can be a thought leader? These professionals often…
- Have passion for what they do.
- Care about the people their business impacts.
- Are an expert in something or have a wealth of experience.
- Have a significant role or title within their company.
- Have something bold or unique to say.
- Are able to write or speak authentically or have access to someone who can guide them through the process.
If you check three or more of those boxes, you might want to consider building a thought leadership platform.
Two of the most common excuses for businesses are not having the time or the money to invest in thought leadership. Consider these tips and tricks to establish yourself as a thought leader, whatever your challenge.
No time? Hire a consultant
PR can be expensive, but it doesn't have to be. If you can partner up with one quality PR pro, you can set some boundaries around what you can and can't afford and what your goals are. You can even arrange something project based to get you started.
If you're looking to cut costs, your consultant can help you get crisp on your messaging and thought leadership pillars. They can also help set you up with initial content, pitch materials and opportunities for you to pursue.
No money? Get scrappy
There are some free DIY tactics to look at. One resource I cannot broadcast enough is Help A Reporter Out – better known as HARO. HARO Ops are stories reporters already have in the works and need supporting sources or quotes for. Often, it can be as simple as writing short answers via email on a topic that applies to your expertise and intimidating phone interviews may not even be necessary.
For some PR Pros, HARO Ops are a lifelong devotion, where we dedicate 15 minutes a day reading through the opportunities to elevate our client's voices. Timing and convenience is the name of the game for HARO, so make sure you are making it as easy as possible on the reporter by doing exactly what is asked. The quicker you are to bat, the more likely you'll be included.
Feeling bolder? Invite a reporter that covers your industry to coffee. Be honest and real with them. Don't be overly salesy. No one likes that. Tell them you're not a PR guru, but you have something to say, you follow their beat (make sure you read it!) and would love to talk when they have time. Reporters are human and they appreciate being treated as such.
Put some thought into it.
By focusing on aspects such as what prompted the creation of a product or solution, which market problem you set out to solve or your point of view on an industry topic– you engage instead of market. Your product may very well be the next best thing since sliced bread, and that's fantastic. However, one of the best ways to drive visibility to your brand is to be willing to talk about things that go beyond your product.
People care a whole lot more about why you do what you do than what you are selling.