Thought leadership – what is it and why’s it important in B2B marketing?
Public Relations (PR) is the marketing activity that’s designed to establish, maintain, and nourish the relationship between your brand and the public, specifically your target audience. To run successful PR, your business needs to continuously work on ways to keep your current audience engaged and attract a new pool of prospects.
PR spawns from ideas, builds from engagement, and relies on trust. When it’s done right, PR can turbocharge the authority of your brand – and your people. Thought leadership’s the element of PR that’s rather akin to the role of the Instagram influencer or latest TikTok star. Through their expertise and wisdom, thought leaders engage, inform, and add value to their audience. And it’s an activity that’s becoming more prevalent for business to take ownership of their industry.
Here’s why you should be considering thought leadership as part of your marketing mix strategy!
What is a thought-leader?
A thought-leader is a person whose name comes to mind within seconds of an industry, field, or topic being mentioned.
- When an announcement about the latest development in AI’s made, they’re the person journalists want on the end of the phone to quote in their article.
- When a sector’s choked by a challenge, like the 2021 supply chain challenges that brought a stop-still to global transport and logistics, they’re the person their clients trust for advice – and the person their peers look to for direction.
- When there’s a change or update in industry that leaves moving forward feeling like a grey area, they’re the person their audience wants to hear from – for insight, reassurance, or relatability that they’re feeling the same.
You don’t need to be a business leader to be a thought-leader – not necessarily, anyway! They come from all levels and all titles, but what they’ve got to have in common is a deep knowledge of a particular field.
A thought-leader isn’t a Jack of all trades.
They’re a master of one.
Which is why running thought leadership activities for our clients isn’t willy-nilly – it’s only effective when the person we’re pitching is an authoritative figure who knows their stuff and has something original to say.
Why thought leadership should be a ‘must’, not a ‘maybe’
Because aren’t we all a bit over the hard sell? 78% of consumers don’t have confidence in big brands. Yet thought leadership’s a pivotal piece in the puzzle of building those relationships, and a weighty part of the marketing remit for a reason! It’s content that people are genuinely interested in reading, watching, or listening to, and not to mention they’re likely to engage with it in both professional and personal hours, too!
It’s your business’s way of tapping into personal interests, supporting on niche, professional topics, and fundamentally provoking thought. The best articles are the ones that leave your audience wanting more – whether that’s more insight from the author, more time to explore the topic, or more from the conversation, like reaching out to continue it!
Powerful PR’s more than just a headline
Successful thought-leaders do it for more than just a headline.
More than having their name in lights.
More than being quoted by the media outlets that hold the chips.
Genuine thought leaders use authenticity to catalyse further conversations within the target industry, contributing to new ways of thinking, sparking innovation, and igniting interest in the sector.
And for your brand, well, it’s a first-class exercise in increasing awareness of you, which helps to break down the barrier of encouraging people to explore your service or product! Chances are, if they’re reading your op-ed or listening to you on a pretty niche podcast, then they’ve already got a vested interest – or shared interest – in what you can offer. That all-important gap between sales pitch and close is already getting smaller.
Types of thought leadership content
So, what does content from a thought-leader look like? We’ve listed three of the most popular ways to express your thoughts below, but there’s a whole range out there!
Many industry publications offer contributors the opportunity to provide an opinion on a topic, either in line with their seasonal guidelines or of their own choosing. You can also write an opinion piece that responds to something currently in the news – timing’s everything when it comes to PR!
Opinions are as they say on the tin, your chance to express your thoughts and feelings on something, or even self-reflect. As a reader, I find my favourite opinion pieces are the ones that seem like they’ve been transcribed from a conversation with your friend in the pub. Forget the fancy words and eloquent phrases, thought-leaders need to write for people, as a person, so they’re point is understood – and resonates. Express yourself – that’s the beauty of the opinion!
Another PR activity that can be a gold-mine for putting you (and your brand) in front of the right people at the right-time. Breaking news and/or current affairs provide the ideal backdrop for a thought-leading piece – there’s something current to react to, and you’ll probably already have half an opinion formed, anyway! Journalists are always looking to inject their stories with as much expertise as possible to increase their story’s credibility, and if you’ve got your thoughts lined up and ready to go, then you can quickly become their go-to contact for a reaction to a breaking story.
Those ‘10 in 10’ pieces might seem like ‘just’ a personal plug from the outset, but they’re often thought leadership pieces in disguise! Management team especially, listen up – your business isn’t just about your products or services, it’s about your people, too. And if you’ve had a particularly successful month, quarter, year that’s in part, due to your people management, then there’s thousands of ears out there waiting to hear from you!
If that’s not enough to persuade you…
I’ll always remember Piers Morgan goading Cheryl Cole about no PR being bad PR during her Life Stories interview. Not quite sure I agree, but what I do know is this: PR that’s great can do wonders for your business. Content from thought leadership’s been said to generate just short of half (47.6%) of the leads and sales of businesses. Now that’s a stat that I think we’ll all share similar thoughts on!
Ready to meet your audience where they are and build your reputation as a thought-leader? Speak with our PR and Content team to get this PR ball rolling!