Every communication firm or PR agency you come across is bound to mention the term ‘thought leadership’. While you may be tired of it following you round in every pitch meeting, thought leadership is actually an essential component of all PR and communications strategies.
What is thought leadership?
But first, let’s understand what the term means. Simply put, thought leadership is about having answers to the most pertinent questions that your audience may have. It can also be your unique perspective on hot topics relevant to the industry you operate in. It means that people don’t look to you just for your product or service, but also for your thoughts and your ideas.
While it may seem like this will give up your control over top your audience base, you need to know that they already have the control. Thought leadership is simply going to benefit you by pandering to the audience’s agenda and attracting them to yourself. In addition to this, one also needs to remember that Thought Leadership can only become effective when the passion and expertise of the speaker or the writer is the same as the interest of the consumer you are trying to reach out to. Otherwise, it will all just fall flat on your face.
Where can it come from?
Thought leadership also doesn’t have to necessarily come from only the top management of your communications company. Knowledge is knowledge, no matter where it comes from. If you believe your sales professional or your PR intern has some unique insights from their experiences, it is always worth a shot to give them the chance to pen down those feelings for your audience. Plus, your audience also benefits from a fresh, unique perspective of a young mind just entering the professional world.
Why is it needed?
But how did thought leadership gain so much prominence, and why is it so important for any brand or firm?
Branding in this age is all about being associated with the category of the solution you are providing. It is about connecting with your audience and delivering information that they want; beyond what your products offer. Thought leadership fuels your publicity efforts further. When you are seen as an expert in your domain, more media opportunities come your way in terms of seeking advice.
Not just publicity, but thought leadership also increases your trust and credibility in the market. According to this report, about 50 per cent of B2B marketers believe their thought leadership builds trust in their organization. But among actual buyers, that number is more like 83 per cent. Providing people with relevant industry insights and advice earns you rapport. Your customers trust you more, and your respect within the industry goes up as well. Thought leadership also fuels more content for your brand, while driving engagement with a larger audience, especially potential customers. Don’t underestimate the contribution of this conversation; it can contribute directly to your revenue vis-à-vis people searching for your products and services online.
Some shining examples
A very popular article from a leading publication also gathered opinions of some of the top PR leaders of the country and opined how it is ironical that PR professionals and marketing agency leaders who help others discover their brand are ‘brand-less’ themselves. When asked about their opinion on whether or not they agree on the importance of thought leadership, the affirmative nod was unanimous. However, none of them had actually thought of giving it a go (in some cases, lack of time to pursue this further).
It is also important to understand that thought leadership is not about self-promotion, but just an act of differentiating yourself from the scores of similar professionals out there. This helps your consumers understand the difference in approach between, say your PR agency, and that of your competitor.
How do you create content?
Another question that arises in the minds of most people is how exactly do you create Thought Leadership content that can drive actual results for your brand? After all, you don’t want to be spending heavily on a resource to draft all these lengthy pieces, only to get 1 click or zero ROI for your efforts and research.
Yes, thought leadership, if used correctly, can drive sales for your business as well. One of the ways to do so is to create thought leadership content that arises from some sort of research or survey. When you do that, you become a very reliable source or point of information for your audience, since it is not something that you have randomly cooked up, but can actually prove with data.
Of course, make sure that all this data doesn’t become too dull. Any piece of content has to entertain your audience and keep them thoroughly invested and engaged. Try using some dose of humour in your content, share anecdotes, do anything that makes it impossible for your readers, or potential prospects, to forget you. It also helps to develop some interesting backstories on your product or services to keep your audience hooked.
Another thing that may work very well is customer participation. Basically, inviting your audience to create some fun content for you. Win-win!
Being a thought leader, however, doesn’t mean you have to be a know-it-all. It also doesn’t mean that every thought you present has to be original; you can always utilize what others have presented and add more to it to your benefit. In the end, it is all about getting the buyer to act in favour of your brand through high-quality, focused communication.