The Key to Making News Without Having Any News — An Intro to Thought Leadership

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Getting in the news is no easy task, especially when you have a shortage of company announcements to share. One tactic to supplement awareness during a not-so-newsworthy time for your business is to execute a thought leadership program on behalf of your company stakeholders. Outside of generating a cadence of awareness, thought leadership has additional benefits like establishing a consistent voice in the media and, perhaps more importantly, credibility in your industry. Win-Win.

So what is thought leadership exactly?

Two employees standing in front of five employees who are seated on bleachers in front of them in an office

In the PR world, it’s best described as a type of media outreach that elevates experts by sharing their industry-specific knowledge and expertise with reporters who find interest in or write on those particular topics. Thought leadership should advance the industry or add a new perspective in some way, offering advice for efficiency or overall change, and take a forward-looking stance. Outside of the media, thought leadership can take many forms such as a speaking opportunity at an industry conference, a LinkedIn post on an expert’s profile or a post on a company’s blog.

There are four steps for generating effective thought leadership:

  1. Identify your company experts – Start at the top of the organization, as title matters with reporters, especially with those at mainstream outlets. It’s always good to have multiple experts lined up (two to three is ideal). That ensures you have multiple sources to involve in media opportunities in case your company CEO or primary source is unavailable to take an interview.
  2. Remain focused – Stay within the industries that your business operates in and the unique background of the individual speaking on behalf of the company. You don’t want to put them in a position where they have to comment on a news item or trend they know very little about
  3. Follow the news – Keep an eye on the top trends within these industries and identify what unique perspective each expert can bring to the table
  4. Brainstorm ideas – Outline specific ideas related to each trend and consider what platform is best to share the perspective. Contributed articles to a mainstream business or industry trade outlet, pitch ideas for reporters for a potential interview or a company blog post are three options

Once ideas have been generated, it’s time to engage the media. Here are two best practices when it comes to thought leadership outreach that can help companies avoid common pitfalls:

  • Make it timely – Reporters are always looking for stories that are “newsworthy,” meaning there’s some reason a given story should be published right now. Addressing industry trends in a way that makes them seasonal, connects them to holidays or other major events like a big conference (RSA or Black Hat) or associates them with something in the news is a great way to make thought leadership feel fresh.
  • Be a good source – Reporters typically look for “hard news” or sources that can contribute to their articles; however, thought leadership lies in a third area where reporters are looking for story ideas. When pitching, being a “good source” means providing an interesting and valuable perspective or delivering some concrete data in a timely fashion.

Not quite ready for media outreach? Owned marketing channels are a great place to start establishing key company execs as thought leaders. The same strategies used to generate ideas for contributed articles and story angles can be used to execute thought leadership on a company blog or social platform, like LinkedIn.

Thought leadership is essential to keeping a business in the press even without hard news. The key to thought leadership success is right in the name; position the company as a leader that’s pushing your industry forward.


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