Business leaders often tell me they have an opinion about something in their industry, but don’t feel that it’s relevant enough to their business or bottom line to speak out about it. My response is generally “that’s fantastic, you’re embodying a thought leader—let’s find a way to share that thought or opinion.” However, I’m often met with “ehhh, my opinion doesn’t matter. I want us to focus on the product only.” The problem with this mindset, is that your opinion DOES matter. A lot!
What many don’t understand, is that opinions and well-formed thoughts can ultimately be a huge driving force in acquiring business and building a company, if used correctly.
I know I’m not the only PR professional to experience this scenario and turn my efforts into education about what thought leadership is and why it’s important. So here it is—here is why it’s important and how it can ultimately help you grow your business, brand, and bring you authority and credibility.
First off, what isn’t thought leadership?
Thought leadership isn’t about your product. Is it related? Sometimes. But it’s less vendor or product-specific and, in fact, it shouldn’t be about the bells and whistles of your product or services, at all. That would make it more like a sales pitch and not thought leadership. Your commentary should not look like the copy on your website.
So, what is thought leadership?
Thought leadership is simply a well articulated opinion on a relevant and timely topic. And, as a leader in your industry, your insights, thoughts, feelings, and commentary about a certain topic are highly valuable in positioning you as an expert in your field. What do you uniquely know and understand about your industry that others don’t? What can you reveal about the market form where you sit that others can’t? After all, you’re often the ones chatting with customers, understanding common pain points or challenges, and because of this, you often have your fingers on the pulse of what might impact your industry next.
Like all things, there is an appropriate time and place to share an opinion that is not only beneficial to readers, but gives business a boost. No matter the title or years of experience, the thought of seeing your own name in print (or video!) can make even the most seasoned leader a little shaky.
However, the rewards far outweigh the scare factor. By sharing your voice, you will:
- Be better positioned as a frontrunner and innovator in your space. Have a prediction or a thought about a new technology or product? Say it. Everyone wants to follow the person familiar with the latest and greatest idea, product, or service.
- Build trust and authority, as well as rapport with your community. It’s important to establish your own personal brand as someone that can be trusted, relied on, and is forward-thinking. By showing up and thoughtfully speaking out, you’ll keep your name, credibility, and business front and center.
- Attract the ears and eyes of your buyers—and competitors. Brand awareness is an important aspect of your marketing and sales strategy. Serving up easily digestible nuggets of information to the media is a great way to boost brand recognition and awareness for yourself and your company.
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Now that you know the benefits, what are the best ways to share your voice? Here are 4 tactics to get yourself heard:
- Draft a comment. Have thoughts on something happening in the news? Get in the practice of drafting a quote with the help of your PR support person or team. They’ll work their magic and share with relevant reporters who are covering the topic. This comment should be your point of view and not a product or service promotion. A well-thought comment that is easy to include in an article is always appreciated by the media. (BUT! Don’t get discouraged if you’re not always included. A diverse source list is a must for media professionals.)
- Write a piece of content. Whether you take pen to paper or hire a ghostwriter, guest posts are a great way to achieve thought leader credibility. Many publications accept guest posts to round out their coverage, offer a new or different perspective, or fill in content gaps. Partner with your PR team or professional to understand the editorial process and best topics to consider. Hint: this piece isn’t a sales pitch or promotion. Whatever you decide to write about should be from your own point of view and not about the benefits or features of a product or service.
- Start talking! Whether it’s during a virtual event or webinar, on LinkedIn, a podcast, or even a Facebook/IG Live, if there is a platform for your comment, share it! At the very minimum, you’ll make new connections and people will start to get familiar with your face and brand. I’ve seen many people participate in online convos only to promote their product and then they hear crickets. No one wants a sales pitch during an industry event—keep it fresh, relevant, and product/service-neutral.
- Conduct and share research. Third-party research is a fantastic way to assert your opinion and authority on a topic. PR professionals will often team with a research company to conduct this research, then you can parse through the data and create several compelling comments. This is often a longer running tactic that can reap your business serious rewards for months.
The opportunities to share your opinion—especially in today’s digital age—are vast. Partnering with your PR resource is a great place to start brainstorming where your commentary will most resonate and they will help you put together the process and cadence in which to do so.
Ready to get started? Find a PR professional to help you sharpen your thought leadership now.