“Thought leadership” is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot these days, and it can sometimes sound like just another buzzword. But the truth is, thought leadership is very real, and if done right, can have a major impact on your brand and business.
In this post, we break down strategic thought leadership into its essential components to clarify what it is, what it can do for your brand, business or organization, and what you should keep top of mind as you build your reputation as a thought leader.
At its core, thought leadership is about providing insightful analysis relevant to a specific field. It requires not only being able to assess and articulate the causes underlying a given situation, but to make deeply informed predictions about industry trends. In short, to convey how things got to where they are, and where they’re most likely headed. A thought leader, therefore, is one who can offer rich, valuable industry insights. While anyone can post their point of view online, it takes a true thought leader to have, well, leading thoughts.
The value of strategic thought leadership, when done right, can be immense for your brand, business or organization. With quality content directed towards the right audiences, you can engage the audiences you’re looking for, drive traffic to your site, and raise awareness for your brand. But in today’s ever-changing media ecosystem, it’s increasingly challenging to truly stand out, rise above the noise and create sustained momentum for your brand.
The most important thing that distinguishes a true thought leader is credibility. This means that when you share your insights, you’re not selling or promoting any product or service; rather, you’re lending a perspective and sparking a productive conversation that others find valuable. By building your credibility as a thought leader, you’ll earn your audience’s trust, which will ultimately extend to your brand, business or organization.
The old adage, “to thine own self be true,” holds true in the realm of thought leadership. When engaging your audience, don’t try to be something you’re not. Don’t feel the need to weigh in on every topic if you don’t have a deeply informed view. Most importantly, always convey your ideas in a way that feels most natural and authentic to you. The key to authentic thought leadership is to go “narrow and deep” as opposed to “far and wide.” Stick to what you know best, and your audiences will value what you have to offer.
Reaching Your Audience
It’s essential to leverage the right platforms across social, earned and paid media to reach and engage the right audience. This means defining what key social platforms and media outlets your audience uses as a central component of your PR and digital strategies. Meeting your audience where they are is not only fundamental to effective outreach, it’s also a key pillar of creating an authentic thought leadership presence. So when engaging reporters, publishing a blog or op-ed, or posting on social media, make sure you’re leveraging the platforms where your target audience can most readily find you.
To truly stand out from the crowd, it’s important to offer an original take whenever possible. Now, you may not always have a completely original view on every issue you wish to speak on—and that’s ok. But generally, when developing insights on important topics, try to approach them from a unique perspective to differentiate yourself from others in a way that feels authentic to you and your business.
Creating a steady drumbeat of engagement across your key platforms is an absolutely central strategy to build your thought leadership credentials. It’s essential to drive your thought leadership on a sustained and consistent basis, and that means engaging your audiences in a structured and strategic manner. Consider creating a social media calendar to plan your posts in advance on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis. In this way, you’ll become a reliable source for your audience on the topics that matter most to you and them.
Listening and Learning
Key to sustaining your reputation as a thought leader, and to ensuring your ideas are fresh, insightful and relevant, is to always stay apprised of the latest developments and trends in your area of expertise. Keep your ear to the ground by engaging with other thought leaders in your field. By keeping your finger on the pulse of your industry, constantly honing your views and developing insightful takes on evolving trends, you’ll become a go-to source for timely analysis on the most pressing topics for your audience.
Consistently ranked at the top of Observer’s PR Power list, BerlinRosen delivers communications and digital strategy, high-impact media relations and creative services to top organizations, companies and nonprofits.
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