Most executives these days know the importance of thought-leadership in establishing their credibility as a trusted authority on a particular industry, product offering, skill, area of expertise or issue to help them attract new clients, encourage people to fight for and support a cause, or generate sales for their products or services. Thought-leadership allows you to demonstrate that authority on an ongoing basis by providing practical insights about, and delivering answers to, the biggest questions on the minds of your target audience(s).
Employing generic language to appeal to a wider audience ironically will result in reaching fewer of the readers whom you actually care about.
Regardless of how knowledgeable you are or the quality of the materials you develop, however, thought-leadership is useless if such pieces never reach those whom you wish to influence. Below are five tips to help ensure your thought-leadership gets read by the right decision-makers:
- Identify your audience and call-to-action first. Don’t try to cut corners by developing thought-leadership pieces that will appeal to everyone or you will wind up crafting such generic content that it will cease to have value to those you want to communicate with most. Before you develop your piece, ask yourself the following questions: Who do I wish to reach? What is main message I want them to remember? What action do I want them to take as a result of this outreach? The answers to those to questions will help determine what you say, how you say it, where you will distribute it, even the layout, format and type of graphics (if any) you include.
- Place your article, op/ed, infographic or video with a trusted, credible third-party news outlet. Whether you seek to attract new clients or customers or remind current ones what they value about you and your organization, nothing demonstrates that you are a leader in your field more than publishing thought-leadership pieces in those outlets your target audience(s) rely on most for their information. Be it a mainstream publication like Forbes, Bloomberg BusinessWeek or The Huffington Post or an industry trade magazine like American Banker, Tech Crunch or Pharmaceutical Executive, these outlets set high standards when it comes to factual accuracy and quality content. By agreeing to publish your piece such outlets essentially “endorse” you as a reputable expert, which is far more effective than if you say it yourself.
- Pre-pitch your idea/angle to a third-party news outlet before you write it. Bear in mind that precisely because third-party news outlets have high editorial standards, there are no guarantees that they will accept your thought-leadership piece. The chances that an editor of a particular news outlet or trade association newsletter will agree to publish your content substantially increases, however, if you pre-pitch the idea/angle first. Pre-pitching also lets you learn about any upcoming deadlines and obtain the publication’s editorial guidelines such as word count restrictions, formatting rules or other requirements its authors are expected to follow. Failure to follow such instructions significantly reduces your odds of being published.
- Make it as easy as possible to access your thought-leadership. While many organizations require users to “register” to download thought-leadership content in order to capture the user’s information to grow their target database, doing so can work against you as many people don’t have the patience or time to register or simply view doing so an invasion of their privacy. An alternative would be to give visitors to your website the option of filling out an online form which details their areas of interest, what types of new products or events they wish to be informed about. While not everyone will opt to complete such a form, it allows the user to dictate how and when they are contacted, so that when you or your marketing team do reach out to them, they are far more receptive to the “pitch.” Likewise, send a personalized email to your relevant customers that includes a link to your piece so that they can read it at their convenience and associate it positively with you and your organization.
- Publicize your thought-leadership via social media like Twitter or Facebook or business networking sites like LinkedIn. Whether your thought-leadership is published by a third-party news outlet or is posted to your own blog or organization’s website, maximize the chance of it being read by sending a link to it via your Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or other social media account. Unless you have an immensely popular blog or website of your own, you also will likely reach far more interested readers by posting the entire thought-leadership piece through LinkedIn Pulse, which allows you to not only reach all the people in your LinkedIn network, but also target certain groups who would have a particular interest in the topic, exactly as I am doing here.
Author of the PR and the C-Suite Executive blog, Sandi Sonnenfeld is an award-winning corporate storyteller who marries 15+ years of experience developing PR & marcom campaigns with her talents as a published fiction author and journalist. She has a deep background working with, and creating content for, professional services, healthcare/life sciences, energy, technology, and media & entertainment entities.