Thought leadership is possibly one of the most difficult tasks you can undertake and yet it is vital in communicating your message to certain target audiences in different markets across the world.
Organizations use this kind of content marketing for attracting new investors and positioning them in a particular line of business. In fact the way I understand it, experts use this tool to display their knowledge or understanding of a particular sector with the aim of pulling in other business partners who then get blown away with the authority of the presentation.
However, I have also learned that thought leadership is so much more than just expressing your strong opinions. You are expected to share your expertise and provide solutions that are tangible and informative. Tangible in such a way fellow experts agree with you, but that you are also approachable. Most importantly, tangible enough for investors to recognize an expert and someone they can trust and want to do business with. Thought leadership simply cements the capabilities of brands and this is made a reality with a genuine team of experts at an organization’s beck and call.
So, how can PR make thought leadership a strong tool?
In communications class, we are not taught to specialize in any particular sector, but rather how to communicate to audiences. We are taught how to communicate and breakdown information through the best suited tools to reach the targeted public segment. For PR practitioners who have attempted to thought leadership as a tool, I am sure you are already aware of its difficulties. This is especially so when you are representing different organizations without the relevant expertise of the professions concerned.
However, you have to communicate! So when brainstorming in those status- meetings for the best mode of communication and thought leadership activities (perhaps either a speech or article), you might want to consider the following;
Understand your client
This is a rule that goes without saying. To deliver an impeccable thought piece you have got to understand what makes your client tick. Get to know their objectives and goals and what they really want to market. For clients that operate across different sectors, it can be pretty daunting to start amassing and understanding the information. Unfortunately, you don’t have a choice and must do it.
Research / Knowledge
I have not come across or heard about any expert who just became one over night! It takes time and effort. All experts have the hunger to learn something new every day by following latest trends. Otherwise how are you going to justify data without the knowledge and how are you going to offer possible solutions if needed by your target audience without a solid background of information on the industry in question?
It is in the same light that PR practitioners have the duty to read and research on different sectors and subjects. Keep up with current trends to enable you speak from an informed perspective. We must make time and have the dedication to do so. After all according to Jeff Bezos, “The human brain is an incredible pattern-matching machine.” You therefore don’t want to look blank during conversations or when making adjustments and defending yourself before the client’s queries.
Interact with the experts
Our former boss, (may his soul RIP), always said that to write a great thought leadership piece, you sometimes have to sit in the mind of your client. You have got to literally submerge yourself into the client’s head! In fact, if there is a way, use a spoon to extract all that knowledge from his/her head. You see, experts usually have vast knowledge seated in their heads that needs to be communicated. They even know what they want to say but don’t know how to say it.
This is where we as PR practitioners come in. Get as much time as possible to talk to them, ask the questions that can help you extract this information. You will find that as you craft that thought piece, the research you collected will be informed with the client’s knowledge which will help you draft a credible article.
The way we deliver communication in our writing is very crucial. As a matter of fact, thought leadership can put your writing style to the test. If we are speaking to the industry, investors, depending on who we want to reach, the way we write will determine the impact we are trying to make. This means industry language will have to be used in the pieces we are crafting, but at the same time take into consideration the ordinary person who should not be left totally in the dark. And do not forget the necessary support systems such as statistics; data and so on alongside your article while aiming for a credible balance.
I can’t remember how many times editors have asked me to go back and cut the number of words in some of the articles we want published! Actually, their reasons are always quite simple. You don’t want to have a very long piece that may get people bored and space is limited anyway.
The same goes for thought leadership pieces. Give or take, a good piece goes for between 600-700 words. You want it to be as brief as possible to ensure concentration from your readers, but it also arouses interest for you as a writer.
There are probably many things to be considered when using the thought leadership tool but for now, these come easily to mind.