Group Gordon’s Kerry Close shares strategies for effectively building a thought leadership presence.
For many organizations, thought leadership is a key component of their overall communications plan. Having its executives quoted as experts in media can be an incredibly useful tool in raising a company’s profile, and also in giving those executives a public voice on the issues most relevant to their work.
However, becoming a go-to expert in media often takes time and persistence. That’s especially the case if competitors and peers in your space already have a well-established presence in the press. As your company looks to grow its thought leadership from the ground up, there are a few points you should keep in mind:
One of the most important aspects of building a thought leadership presence is to show reporters that you can be a useful source to them. At a basic level, this involves making media opportunities a priority in your schedule, and when needed, being available to reporters on short notice to help them meet a deadline. It might also involve being helpful to journalists in other ways, such as making an introduction to a colleague who could also be a good source for them. While initially you might not be the one quoted in their story, you’re establishing yourself as a reliable resource to these reporters, which increases the likelihood that they’ll turn to you in the future.
On a more nuanced level, proactivity can translate into showing journalists that you’re ahead of the trends in your industry. Suggest specific story ideas to them that drive their reporting forward. Or, address the next issues likely to be top of mind for their readers. In interviews, whenever possible, make predictions or forecast the outlook in a relevant area. By anticipating what a reporter’s next story will (or should!) be, you’re well on the way to positioning yourself as a valuable source whose voice should be included in their coverage.
Think critically about what your organization and your executives can offer that’s unique, or sufficiently differentiated, from the voices and ideas already being featured in media. Do you have data – or a way of looking at existing data – that adds a fresh perspective? Does your organization or its leadership have experience with, or work with clients that are doing, something unprecedented or rare in your industry? It’s important to take the time to answer that question internally so that you can then make a compelling case to reporters as to why you’re well-positioned to add value to their stories.
Your first strategy – or even your second, or your third – might not be exactly the right one to crack into the outlets that are most valuable for your organization. Recognize that developing a media presence is a process, and be willing to go back to the drawing board and adapt your approach. Especially in a dynamic media cycle, this lesson holds true even for more established voices in press. What worked last month, or last year, will likely not be the same insights or approach that will help you stand out to reporters today.
Above all, building a thought leadership profile takes time and dedication. For companies and executives willing to make the investment, it will pay dividends for your public profile, and ultimately, your key business goals.