Who are people going to trust? The company that looks as though it just started up yesterday and doesn’t really understand its industry yet or the company that has an established track record, a team that really knows its stuff, with the ability to answer questions and provide useful information to customers? It’s most likely the latter, as businesses who work with other businesses want some reassurance that the company they work with knows what it’s doing.
Thought leadership is one way for a company to demonstrate knowledge and experience to potential customers. In recent years, it’s become ever more important, not just as a way to establish authority, but as a way to market and promote a company above its competitors.
Forbes.com contributor John Hall named thought leadership as one of seven PR trends to watch in 2016. If you are ready to work it into your PR strategy, there are several options for doing so.
Understanding Thought Leadership
Thought leadership establishes a company, or in some cases, an individual, as an expert in a particular industry or field. A thought leader not only knows the ins and outs of a field or industry, he or she is also willing to share that information with others, so that they can better understand the industry or so that they can use the information to meet their own needs.
Thought leadership allows a business to build a level of trust with it clients. For example, if a company that was long established as a thought leader in content marketing were to declare that 1,000-word blog posts were no longer effective, and that video blog posts were the next big thing – and backed that claim with appropriate research — people would likely take the company’s word for it and adjust their content marketing plans accordingly.
Tools for a Thought Leadership Campaign
One of the most “tried and true” components of a thought leadership PR strategy is the white paper, an unbiased report that approaches an issue in a particular industry and that offers options for solving that issue. Since it doesn’t actually market or promote a specific company or product, but instead provides current or potential customers with information they may find valuable, it is a useful way to establish authority.
The digital era has created even more tools for companies to use to establish thought leadership. One example is a blog, usually hosted on a company’s website, which can be viewed as a shorter or more informal version of a white paper. The goal of a blog post should be to help solve a common problem or to provide relevant information on a topic.
Social media is an easy way for companies to come across as an expert in a particular field. A representative from your company can host a Twitter chat or participate in an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit. You can also use the blogging feature on LinkedIn to showcase your expertise and help people find a solution to their problem. Other modern thought leadership tools can include podcasts and informative videos.
Leveraging Thought Leadership
Creating the materials of thought leadership is just the first step to using it as part of a PR strategy. It’s also important to leverage those materials and tools to catch the eye of the media and to get a company’s message out there.
One way to merchandise the content of a white paper or blog is to issue a press release directing people’s attention to either. The press release can stress that the paper or blog is available as a research tool to journalists and can point out that representatives are available for interviews or to provide expert opinions on the topic for general news or trade publication stories.
As part of a content marketing strategy, thought leadership can pave the way for future public appearances by a company representative. The Content Marketing Institute outlined a way for a business to leverage its thought leadership so that an expert from a company is able to land invitations to speaking gigs at conferences. Having a number of blog posts, video clips and other media that demonstrate a person’s expertise in an industry can help that person land on the long, and ultimately, short lists for conference speaking opportunities.
Thought leadership increases a company’s value to customers, by reminding them that the company isn’t only there to sell things. If you aren’t yet using the expertise of your team to build out your company’s PR strategy, there’s never been a better time to start.