Are you doing thought leadership right? These 4 steps and insights will help you

by | Jul 11, 2023 | Public Relations

While two-thirds of marketers consider thought leadership to be among their top priorities, recent research finds that only 26 percent say their current program is successful, and 65 percent say only moderately successful—even though their organization’s thought leaders are insightful and loaded with expertise. What’s going wrong?

Establishing your company as a thought leader in your industry space is a strategy actively employed by PR strategists and marketers—and it is a great strategy when planned and executed properly. It benefits the company threefold:

  • Boosts trust and loyalty with your audience
  • Builds engagement between your community and the spokesperson
  • Impacts the bottom-line of the company positively, by boosting sales and services

Why do so many fail to get the intended results? It’s often the case that the thought leadership itself is right on target, but the thought leadership campaign is often not thoroughly thought out. While high-quality content is the backbone of a good campaign, it is also important to be mindful of building and tracking a comprehensive strategy to support the insights your company wants to share—so you get the results you want. Here are four steps for doing it right:

Create a well-rounded thought leadership strategy by determining the following:

  • Who will act as thought leader—is it one person or group of people?
  • How well do you know your target audience? A key part of shaping your strategy is finding out how much you know—as well as the industry details or audience traits you need to better understand.
  • The focus of your campaign (i.e., the messaging you want to deliver and outcomes you intend)
  • The tone of engagement: Should it be fun, academic, casual, advisory, conversational, etc.—and you must know your audience well to determine this
  • The scope of engagement (how frequently will insights be shared, on which channels, how you’ll respond to comments and feedback, etc.)

Set benchmarks and goals

Since this is an ongoing strategy, defining milestones at every touchpoint is crucial. It’s especially important to connect the strategy to the business outcomes you ultimately intend.

Pro tip: Conduct a business environmental scan to understand who the company’s current or potential thought leaders are, if any, and where the knowledge gaps are. This will set you on a path of thought leadership development, where your messaging and business goals can be strategically incorporated into the sharing of insights.

Develop a media plan

This should, of course, include how you plan to get in front of journalists and your community, but it’s also important to determine how you will keep your thought leaders up to date on relevant topics and developments.

Pro tip: Leveraging daily media briefs on topics of interest is a great way to build your knowledge base and conversation angles. This is a must for making sure your insights remain  relevant, forward-looking, and a step ahead of your competitors’.

Measure progress and outcomes

It should go without saying, but it’s absolutely critical that you regularly evaluate how your strategy is performing and how it is impacting your business objectives. Often, the media and social visibility and engagement can seduce you into believing that everything is working great, but only a measurement strategy will help you quantify outcomes—and provide you with the critical insights you can use to improve your action plan.

Caution: Do not confuse spokesperson with thought leader

The roles may seem similar, but the goals are far different. A spokesperson speaks on behalf of the organization on company-related news and issues, whereas a thought leader has established him or herself as a knowledgeable and influential source on a topic or area or expertise, and engages with the community to share insights and build relationships. 

A spokesperson keeps your audience informed, but a thought leader moves your brand or business forward ideologically, elevates your company’s status, and establishes trust with clients, prospects, and your industry at large.

Let’s end this article with some food for thought: In your opinion, would you say Elon Musk is a:

  • Thought leader
  • Spokesperson
  • Celebrity

Pragya Dubey
Pragya is the Vice President of Global Services & Analytics at Agility PR Solutions. She collaborates with clients to create objective based media-monitoring and media-analysis framework. Pragya has helped design innovative programs that deliver clear ROI and correlation to success metrics for their media program.


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