A well-rounded PR strategy requires a steady cadence of activity. Each year, maybe even each quarter, your company has a major event or announcement to share with the world: a funding announcement, a merger or acquisition, a new executive hire. It’s paramount to take advantage of those opportunities and get the most out of your time in the spotlight, but those moments fade.
In between major announcements, holidays, or campaigns, it remains critical to keep up brand visibility through the news media. Earned media—coverage of your company that runs through an editorial process at a news outlet—is among the most credible methods to reach consumers, as the publication’s masthead lends additional authority to your message. Producing content for first-party channels—podcasts and social media—is among the easiest. The best way to consistently produce engaging content and keep your brand in the conversation is by leveraging your own experiences as a thought leader.
Finding Something To Say
“But how do I lead with my thoughts?” I hear you asking.
Thought leadership can take many forms, but the most important prerequisite is to bring a strong point of view that fits your unique position in the business world. Cheryl Sandberg has “lean in” and Stephen Covey has his seven highly effective habits. Don’t try to copy their viewpoints. Select an interesting question in your industry and walk through it in your mind, weighing the various sides of the argument.
For example, as a PR leader, I often ponder the usefulness of the standard press release in comparison to other tools such as one-off pitches, editorial briefings, and shorter media advisories. Of I wanted to contribute a column to PR Daily or PR News, I’d start my outline by casting some much-warranted doubt at the unsolicited press release.
Be provocative. Think about the hot takes that made your colleagues raise an eyebrow. If you need further inspiration, do a bit of reading. Plug into the world of trade media and find what your peers are opining about.
Learning Your Trade Media
Large, complex industries like healthcare, education, and logistics sport a network of trade publications that offer opportunities for contributed content free of marketing language. Not only can you use these platforms to earn recognition from your peers across the industry and raise your profile, trade publications are phenomenal educational tools.
It’s possible to leverage thought leadership in large national publications—or even in the local press—via op-eds and letters to the editor, but trade media is often the best home for such content. Editors of trade publications understand the nuance of your business and reward executives for delivering strong points of view or showing their vulnerability.
While contributed content or interviews in broader publications like Chicago Tribune might require a 10,000-foot view of your topic, trade publications allow for you to explore the nitty gritty details. The local news might want to know why learning to code is important for teens coming through school and entering the workforce. Computer Weekly wants to know why Python’s open-source code base is optimal for building secure, custom software solutions.
Social Media Influencing
A successful thought leadership campaign requires regular pitching, coupled with recurring meetings between you and your PR team to determine topics and goals. If you’re looking for a quick start to thought leadership, look no further than your own social media profiles.
Social media platforms provide a soapbox for any articulate executive, without having to please the gatekeepers at trade publications or bigger national outlets like Forbes or the Wall Street Journal.
Your LinkedIn network should already include dozens of your close professional connections, and a thoughtful post about your industry can draw significant interest. According to Social Media Today, 66% of surveyed professionals said they’d be more likely to recommend a brand if they followed an executive from the company on social media. LinkedIn even provides a Quick Start Guide for executives looking to build their authority as a thoughtful voice in the industry.
LinkedIn posts and Twitter threads are also perfect places to test out new and interesting takes. Ideas that generate positive feedback from your audience can be the basis for a blog post, a piece of contributed content, or even a podcast pitch.
Subscribe to a few industry newsletters (and maybe ours) and take in the best of the thought leadership on offer. Start talking with friends and colleagues about the interesting ideas you have. Then, put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and start writing.
There is nothing inherently special about the executives on the Forbes Business Council. They simply put in the work by collaborating with friends and advisors to hone their ideas and craft interesting content for a diverse array of media outlets. You can do it too.