Four Ways to Become a Thought Leader
We’re often asked by clients to position an individual or brand as a thought leader in their industry.
It has the potential to be a powerful tool for B2B PR and marketing, but developing a thought leadership strategy is not without its challenges. Historically, activity that has been styled as ‘thought leadership’ has sometimes had an ulterior motive in the world of B2B communications.
So, it’s time to set the record straight. In this blog, WPR client services director Nick Whittaker sets out four things to do if you want to become a thought leader.
1. LOSE THE PRODUCT PLACEMENT
Brands, understandably, want to promote their products to their customers, which is an integral part of any PR strategy. Our role as comms professionals is to find ways to highlight the impact these products have on the worlds of those we are targeting – whether that’s energy managers, installers or HR directors.
Sometimes, we’re asked to weave this product information into a thought leadership strategy. While product-based long-form content can be an effective route when discussing industry challenges, and how the products fit into the narrative, it should not be defined as thought leadership.
If you are serious about your ambitions of becoming a thought leader, then you need to have the confidence to talk about issues and ideas, rather than products.
2. MAXIMISE KEYNOTE SPEAKER SLOTS
We’ve all attended exhibitions with keynote addresses which turn out to be simply product placements or service pushes. What starts full of promise, can leave visitors feeling like they have been cheated, particularly if the premise of the address promises answers or insights which fail to materialise.
While it’s good to show an example to back up a point, all too often brands are guilty of overtaking the moment with product pushes, which can become tiring.
Speaker slots don’t have to be this way. Using them to inform the audience with genuine insight can not only build your brand profile, but it also legitimises you as a thought leader. Talk to your PR agency or comms team about the angles and themes that will strike a chord with the audience. After a long day of sitting through keynote sessions, it will be the speeches which inspire and offer ideas and solutions that people will remember.
3. OFFER GENUINE ADVICE
To become a thought leader, you need confidence in your ideas. Almost everybody has a burning question to which they’re looking for answers. When this is not available, people read around the subject matter, looking for understanding and inspiration that can help formulate their own decisions.
When we’re working with clients, we focus on identifying the hot topics in a specific industry or the ‘pain points’ for a company’s target customers. By developing thought leadership content to address these, and by having something valuable to say about the sector in which you’re operating, you can begin to own part of the conversation.
Having the confidence to give industry advice can also elevate your personal brand, and generate high profile opportunities. The subsequent impact this can have on brand reputation can be significant, too, as it shows caring and understanding of the wider challenges customers are facing. This is never more true than in times of upheaval or disruption when, as we discussed in a recent blog, offering genuine advice is essential if you want to communicate meaningfully with your stakeholders.
4. COLLABORATIONS ARE KEY
If you’re looking to elevate your profile in a new industry, you could be at risk of your campaign falling flat. Having a pre-existing reputation plays a significant role in your chances of making an immediate impact. However, there are ways to build this from the bottom up.
Collaborating with industry professionals can help elevate your brand and introduce it to prospective customers. This can be achieved through hosting webinars, events and roundtables, while asking for participants to promote their participation allows you to reach their audiences. Making the most of your existing relationships automatically enhances your reputation, offering the building blocks for a long-term strategy.
Ultimately, effective thought leadership is about making a meaningful contribution of ideas, views and advice to the sector you work in. At its best, it’s a powerful PR tool that can influence the important conversations taking place in your industry, building positive reputation for both individuals and brands.
The author: Nick Whittaker, client services director at WPR, is an experienced B2B PR practitioner who specialises in fields including manufacturing, hospitality and professional services.