Forbes has a two-part definition of a thought leader:
- A thought leader is an individual or firm that prospects, clients, referral sources, intermediaries and even competitors recognize as one of the foremost authorities in selected areas of specialization, resulting in its being the go-to individual or organization for said expertise.
- A thought leader is an individual or firm that significantly profits from being recognized as such.
So, what exactly does this mean?
In the 2019 Edelman-LinkedIn B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study, 1,200 U.S. business decision-makers, content creators and salespeople were surveyed on their consumption of thought leadership. The survey revealed that thought leadership PR tactics have helped brands win, retain and even grow customer business in the forms of keynote speeches, contributing articles and the like.
According to the study, consumption of thought leadership has grown 8 percent over the past year, with 55 percent of decision-makers saying they use thought leadership as an important way to vet business. We’ve compiled some tips for implementing thought leadership into your brand’s PR strategy.
- Select experts carefully. While an executive may be incredibly knowledgeable in his or her field, he or she may not be able to properly convey PR messages or appear likable to an audience. To avoid selecting the wrong spokesperson, interview experts and their colleagues before making any commitments.
- Choose your audience. The more narrow the target that you define for your thought leadership, the greater the impact. As smart as your expert is, they don’t know everything. Great thought leaders understand where their expertise is most helpful. For example, rather than discussing the construction industry as a whole, perhaps commit to a niche like project management, land surveying or technology.
- Establish a clear goal. Discuss which key messages your client or company is seeking to convey to your audience and what you’re hoping to accomplish. Whether it’s establishing credibility or boosting brand recognition, let the content follow the messaging. While it may seem advantageous to interview an expert and write about whatever they talk about, their topic of choice may not support a company goal.
- Solve, don’t sell. Consumers of thought leadership are seeking information that will enhance their personal or professional lives, so overly promotional content will fall flat. Compelling thought leadership should inspire forward-thinking or ask thought-provoking questions.
- Consider multiple outlets. Thought leadership is multifaceted and is consumed in several different methods. From social media to blogs, speaking opportunities to contributing articles, there are so many opportunities to get in front of an audience.