The interest in thought leadership shows no sign of slowing down. Half a million people list the term in their job title on LinkedIn. A Google search brings up 32 million results. And there’s been a 20-fold increase in the number of thought leadership videos since 2017.
Clearly, some of the material is more considered and thought provoking than others. But the fact remains that increasing numbers of PR and marketing professionals recognise the power of thought leadership to differentiate brands and enhance reputations.
At our latest workshop exploring the key elements that make up genuine thought leadership, attendees also raised their pressing concerns. Five questions that we hear regularly, and the techniques we use to resolve the issues, are listed below:
- How can we decide on a thought leadership topic or topics when multiple people have their own ideas? It’s critical that multiple team members are involved in the process, but not to the point where nothing gets decided. Creating a thought leadership board – made up of people from different parts of the business – can help make fair and informed topic choices. Decision making should be informed by research assessing your expertise, competitor activity and likely stakeholder (including media) interest in potential topics.
- What’s the best way to evaluate the success or return on investment from thought leadership? Thought leadership is often tied directly to commercial goals, but it shouldn’t just be about short-term sales. Instead, the discipline has a huge role to play in creating and enhancing relationships with clients, prospects and influential partners. Similarly, when done well, thought leadership can dramatically enhance reputations. Take time to set objectives and link them to a range of awareness, reputation and engagement metrics at the beginning of the programme.
- Can thought leadership be used to break new markets e.g. moving from consumer to business to business? The short answer is yes. By investing time and money to understand the issues affecting your potential customers, you can open up new markets. Thought leadership is particularly effective in business to business communications where it is often difficult to differentiate by services alone. However, the approach must be authentic – in the sense that you have a genuine right to talk about the issues in a certain field and can walk the talk.
- Thought leadership material often takes a long time to produce – how can we make the most of the content? Good thought leadership does take a significant investment of time and money. It’s often launched at an event or with a big media push. However, we find that good, original material can be sliced and diced in multiple ways and used for at least a year after the content is produced. Similarly, specific aspects of the research e.g. audience perceptions, can often be updated for year on year trends
- What’s the one thing that most people forget to do when it comes to thought leadership? There are lots of things that are important – setting objectives, applying robust research and analysis methods and packaging the material into a compelling story. But one area that is often forgotten is ensuring that the content is easily found and read. Effective PR and social media amplification are critical. But so too is Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC) and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). We’re also finding that organisations can reap significant rewards from paid for content on LinkedIn.
If you’d like to attend one of our events and find out more about running successful thought leadership programmes, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org