Building brand reputation via thought leadership

Guide to thought leadership

Thought leadership is a highly effective tactic to develop credibility for a person and the organisation they work for.

What is thought leadership? 


A thought leader is an expert in their field whose experience, guidance, opinions and insights are of interest to, and influence others in their sector. The ultimate objective of thought leadership is to become a respected and recognised expert in a sector. 

Why generate thought leadership content? 


Effective thought leadership can result in improved business reputation, enhanced brand awareness and support business development objectives. 

What makes a good thought leader? 


Good thought leaders help fellow professionals by sharing quality content containing insights and advice that helps. They identify opportunities, challenges and trends and provide context and advice to help their audience. Key to success is sharing unique perspectives and experiences. This can be done by drawing on past experiences, examining current issues and providing clarity on the future to provide impactful insights. 

To do so regularly requires stepping back and considering broad sector challenges, opportunities and trends to establish strong viewpoints of value to share. Here is an example of a thought leadership article we wrote and placed for TicketCo on how it pivoted during the pandemic in the trade press. 

How to prepare a thought leadership campaign


A thought leadership campaign can be devised as part of a wider communications strategy. Identify themes that are of high value to your organisation and support your strategy and then devise key messages and hooks from there. This can be spread out across a year to maximise opportunities and to align with broader planned news flow. 

Make sure you understand your niche and what you want to communicate alongside defining your audience and what they are interested in. To help prepare your content plan make sure you do your research in your sector. This will help you ensure you are contemporary and enable you to differentiate your content from other experts. Consider whether there are any challenges your sector has not fully solved yet and offer solutions. Make sure you explain why your suggestion has merit and why current systems are not optimal. Where possible back your solutions with data and research to enhance confidence, relevance and credibility. 

Make sure your thought leadership campaign is aligned to your wider communications and PR strategy, so it dovetails with your company or charity’s objectives. Also ensure your content plan identifies content and themes with longevity so where possible your articles can work for you on online an on-going basis. 

How to create engaging thought leadership content


It is important to be original to build authenticity. Focus on quality content and themes and insights that will grab attention. To build a respected profile as a thought leader you must focus on your industry and topics or issues in which you are experienced. Combine this with writing about things you are passionate about and that fits in with the vision and values of your organisation. 

Additionally make sure your themes are contemporary, relevant and of interest. There is no point writing about topics that are out of date or of no interest to your audience. This is where being plugged into the daily news agenda to gauge what is important and relevant helps. 

When writing a thought leadership article long-form content is favoured backed with evidence, data and real-life examples. Make sure your content is engaging and memorable. Use storytelling techniques of humility, emotion and humour to help resonate with your audience. 

Another effective tactic is to tap into national awareness day, week or month themes. For example World Car Free Day’ or Recycling Week’. Here is an example of a thought leadership piece we wrote and placed in the trade press for the Oxford Bus Company during English Tourism Week’ in which we outlined why buses are vital to reviving the tourism industry and visitor economy. 

How to get thought leadership content published 


By monitoring the media and news agenda you will be across what is of interest to your trade press, plus national and regional media. It means you can pitch insights on current news themes to editors of media outlets. This could be in the form of a thought leadership guest article, or a comment to breaking news story. Timing is key here and so being in tune with the news agenda is important. This is where a PR agency can be invaluable. 

How to widen your thought leadership content engagement 


Utilising blogs, social media and newsletters can amplify your thought leadership campaign. 

Repurpose your content for different platforms to help build your audience and engagement. LinkedIn, for example, is a strong platform to publish thought leadership on. With LinkedIn it is advisable to publish your article directly on LinkedIn, rather than simply sharing a link to your website. Firstly it will pull readers in straight away and secondly LinkedIn will value and therefore promote your content more strongly, as you are not directly encouraging visitors to leave the platform. This is why you now see people sharing a link to articles on company websites in the comments section. Remember to monitor content and engage in conversations and comments to further amplify your content and engagement. 

Inviting clients, partners and other industry leaders to provide guest thought leadership for your website and social media is a further powerful tactic. This could be stand alone guest articles that form part of a series of pieces covering a particular theme. Or it could be a feature exploring in a topic in which several people comment. 

By publishing and sharing guest thought leadership you can benefit from being associated with high quality experts and additionally it will expose your organisation to their audiences. 

Who can be a thought leader? 


Producing regular thought leadership requires a level of expertise and time commitment.

Effective thought leadership is the sharing of quality insights and views and it is the media and audience that ultimately label it thought leadership. The good news is thought leadership is not exclusively reserved for CEOs of long-established multi-nationals. It is a great communications tool for a variety of organisations and people. It is a proven tactic for start-ups and scale-ups, as they have to be more creative to be heard and are often market disruptors and therefore interesting. Thought leadership can help boost brand awareness for businesses via unique content. 

Often department heads can offer excellent insights for an audience. In larger organisations multiple people can act as thought leaders as part of a wider strategy. It can help develop individuals’ profiles alongside the organisations. Personalising content is a proven way to cut through the digital noise. 

Measurement


At the start of your campaign consider what your objectives are and success could look like, so that you can measure and assess the results. This should combine data with real-life feedback from colleagues and peers. 

Get in touch 


If you would like to discuss communications and thought leadership and how it could benefit your organisation please get in touch here.

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