What is thought leadership PR?
As most of our lovely clients will tell you, thought leadership is a staple comms tactic here at Luminous PR. However, when we’re explaining our services at networking events and new business meetings, we’re often asked to explain what it means. If you’ve never come across the term ‘thought leadership PR’ before, we forgive you for thinking it’s just another piece of vague business jargon.
Other marketing resources may provide their own definitions, but here is ours:
“Thought leadership is a style of PR activity intended to promote the profile of an individual or business and let audiences know they’re an expert in their field. Thought leadership can involve a number of approaches. It could feature ghostwritten articles bylined by your CEO, or it could involve someone in your business providing a meaty quote that shows you know your industry and marketplace inside-out.”
Generally, thought leadership is better suited to B2B campaigns. It works best for targetting business decision-makers, whatever sector you operate in. Something like influencer marketing is more appropriate for B2C brands. Unlike more traditional PR – where you send out a press release – you don’t need any ‘news’ (such as funding announcement, new products or partnerships, etc).
When thinking about ‘thought leaders’, figures like Tim Cook and Richard Branson may automatically spring to mind. In fact, anyone can be a thought leader. All you need is an interesting, genuine opinion and a way of appropriately broadcasting those opinions to a relevant audience. Channels such as your company blog and social media channels (particularly LinkedIn) are useful for this. When you start using the media, this is when thought leadership becomes thought leadership PR.
Why do thought leadership?
There’s a good reason thought leadership PR is a passion of ours – it’s proven to make a positive impact on B2B brands.
According to research by Edelman and LinkedIn...
- 80% of executives admit that thought leadership content increases their trust of a brand
- 41% of executives and 37% of decision makers within a business are more likely to send an RFP when they see evidence of thought leadership
Basically, thought leadership shows your target audience of decision-makers that your business knows what it’s talking about – and helps convince them to work with you.
Thought leadership PR can help your business meet a wide range of goals, including:
- Increasing sales
- Securing funding
- Award wins
- Forming partnerships
- Securing speaking opportunities at events
- Improved reputation
How to do a thought leadership PR campaign?
There are a number of different ways businesses can get started with thought leadership: responding to journalist requests, newsjacking, and pitching bylined content. Generally, we use a mixture of all three when providing these sorts of campaigns for clients.
Responding to journalist requests
Journalists are always on the lookout for interesting stories and case studies to add to their writing. As well as doing their own research, sometimes journalists will invite people to send them information. There are a couple of tactics you can use to spot these requests.
The easiest (and cheapest) is to keep an eye on social media – you just need to know what you’re looking for. The following hashtags are used by writers on Twitter requesting information for a story:
- #JournoRequest (this is the most popular hashtag)
- #HARO (help a reporter out)
Here’s an example of the sorts of request you might find using these hashtags:
Looking for #businesswomen who started from scratch and triumphed over adversity. Single mum/skint/illness/redundancy/divorce etc then went on to triumph! For a fab regular featurein national newspaper. GREAT publicity. Must have good turnover #journorequest #WomeninBusiness
— Louisa Gregson (@LouisaGregson) March 28, 2019
If you use a tool like Hootsuite or TweetDeck to manage your social media, an easy way to monitor these hashtags is to set up a dedicated stream following them. There’s also a free daily email roundup of all the #JournoRequest tweets – you can subscribe here.
If you’re lucky enough to work with a PR agency, they will have additional tools that can help you find journalist requests. Most PRs use special software that sends requests straight to their inbox. Examples of this are Response Source, Gorkana, Press Plugs, and Help a Reporter Out. Unlike scrolling through requests on Twitter, this software allows you to filter by topic so you only have to see content relevant to you. Unfortunately, this software can be very expensive, so is not usually an option for businesses doing their PR in-house.
Once you spot a relevant request, go ahead and reply! Bear in mind that journalists are usually inundated with information, so you should only respond if you are really relevant. Just send over a brief statement (bullet points is fine), answering any questions the journalist has asked. If they are interested in using your story, they may ask some additional questions or set up an interview. Never keep journalists waiting – they’re often on tight deadlines. Respond quickly, or they may lose interest and look elsewhere.
We have already covered newsjacking on the Luminous blog. Basically, it involves using news topics that are already trending to gain exposure for your business. The beauty of newsjacking is that you don’t need to generate a buzz about a story — the buzz is already there. You’re just slotting your brand into the conversation.
When a news story breaks that is super-relevant to your business, you may have something interesting to add to the conversation. For example, you might disagree or support a new piece of business legislation, or have an opinion on how it will affect your sector.
Once you’ve formed an opinion, prepare a short statement and start by sharing it with journalists who have already covered the story. If it’s a big piece of news, they may need content for follow-up stories. Then approach other publications who might be interested in your take on the news.
With both newsjacking and journalist requests, you must be timely and relevant.
Pitching bylined content
This is the most effective – but time-consuming – way of doing thought leadership PR. It involves approaching B2B and trade publications and providing them with opinion-lead articles you have written yourself. The reason this is so successful is that many B2B publications can’t produce enough content for their requirements in-house.
‘Bylined content’ means that the article will be attributed to whoever in your business wrote it, that’s how it will promote their profile as a thought leader. However, the biggest downside of this thought leadership approach is that you have to do all the writing yourself. Not only does this require you to have strong writers on the team, but it is also time-intensive.
Before you charge ahead and start writing bylined thought leadership content, you should pitch your idea to publications to check someone will be interested in the piece. You wouldn’t want to spend ages writing a piece, only to find that no publications are interested. To pitch your article, you’ll need an article briefing. This is a short summary of the article you’re planning to write, which allows the publication to check it’s a good fit. It should include…
- Suggested headline
- The challenge you’d like to explore, or why you’re writing the article. A relevant statistic or two may help add context
- Summary of main points
- Details about the author and your business
Your brief should be clear, concise, and interesting! Don’t be afraid to show an opinion, or even be a little controversial.
We hope this post has provided you with enough knowledge to get started with thought leadership PR. Any questions? Get in touch – we’re happy to help.