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Five easy ways to establish your brand’s thought leadership

Cultivating thought leaders should be a key part of your PR plan


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In the digital age, it is more important than ever for your brand to implement a thought leadership strategy. Potential clients are increasingly making business decisions based on the quality and online visibility of your brand and its thought leaders before they even reach out to engage with you. Thought leadership is no longer a nice-to-have strategy; it's now a necessity as part of your public relations plan.

Your PR team can’t simply create a thought leader, though. Your company’s thought leaders must be cultivated. Thought leaders don’t need to be the people who have been working in an industry the longest. More importantly, they should be those who cannot only speak as experts on your industry but who have also demonstrated their expertise on a consistent basis by openly sharing knowledge and experience that is relevant to your target audiences.

Once you identify who your brand’s thought leader(s) are, you need to establish a strategic plan for showcasing their expertise. Be sure to include your experts and company leadership in the development of this strategy and keep the content you create in-line with your brand promise to ensure it’s relevant and of value for your target audiences. This will establish your company’s commitment to thought leadership and maintain continuity with your brand strategy.

Here are five tactics your PR team should be executing to establish your thought leadership:

Offer expertise to the media. The media is always looking to thought leaders for expert opinions and advice. Providing commentary and offering your thought leaders as resources on topics related to your brand is a great way to get recognized for their expertise. When the media recognizes your company’s people as experts, so too will your target audience.

Strategic partner connections. It is important that not only the media and influencers have a relationship with your thought leaders. You also want to identify the strategic partners – associations, organizations and businesses - that complement your brand and whose members/stakeholders fit your target audience and find a way for your thought leaders to engage with them.

Create content. Produce interesting and relevant content that shares your thought leaders’ insights and ideas on your industry and related topics. Engage your audiences through expert articles, blog posts, op-eds, eBooks, and more. However, don’t churn out a ton of content for the sake of it; you must produce quality content that provides actual value for your target audiences. 

Secure speaking opportunities. Having your thought leaders speak at events and conferences is another great way to demonstrate your company’s expertise and gain exposure with your current and potential customers. The key is to ensure that the topics your thought leaders speak on fit with your niche and will engage your target audience.

Award submissions. Nominate your company and thought leaders for industry awards. Winning an award increases visibility, strengthens credibility and further helps highlight your company’s experience and expertise.

One last thing to keep in mind: thought leadership is about educating and engaging with your target audiences, not selling your products or services. Don’t forget the golden rule of business – that people do business with those they know, like and trust, and providing valuable, relevant information and resources is one of the best ways to build that trust.

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Michelle Ellis

Michelle Ellis is a partner with the Denver-based PR agency Orapin Marketing + Public Relations. She is a veteran communications professional with more than 17 years of experience in local, regional and national public relations programs, social media campaigns, marketing communications, community relations and event promotion, as well as broadcast journalism. Michelle was named the 2015 PR Person of the Year by PRSA Colorado. Contact her at hello@orapinmarketing.com or at 720.515.8219.

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