How to position yourself as a thought leader

Client expectations must be set before any agency can begin to write up a thought-leadership article. That’s because PR clients often want to push how great they are, and how fantastic their products are. Whilst they may be great, editors want to receive content that’s informative and which focuses more on the issues of the day and how to overcome them than on the sales pitch of any company or any individual. This principle applies to placing any kind of thought-leadership article – whether it’s about how to make the most of the blockchain, investing in crypto-currencies, securing the cloud, Wide Area Network (WAN) data acceleration, or about the latest consumer trends.

Demonstrate expertise
CEOs and their companies want to get certain messages across, but the best way to do that is by demonstrating knowledge and expertise. Any consideration to the greatness of a product must be a secondary concern from the perspective of wanting to list all of its features and benefits.

The problem is that clients tend to want to focus on pushing their products, and so they have to be reined in to realise that a journalistic approach is a must to increase their media coverage. With this comes a discussion about the tone of the articles, which may inject some positivity by suggesting technology-based solutions to the challenges that, for example, companies face every day. Beyond this, a matter of fact tone is essential as thought-leadership articles aren’t meant to be sales copy.

Present an argument
Does this mean that products can’t be part of the thought-leadership argument? No, they can be. However, magazines don’t want product names to be plastered all over an article. By considering all of the issues, market trends and market needs, technology companies – for example – can still get their core messages across, and the by-lined individual can still demonstrate their expertise. However, they may wish a journalist with specialist knowledge and experience to write the article.

Targeting is crucial
Furthermore, before writing an article, it’s best to have some target publications in mind. Journalists receive a large number of unsolicited press releases a day. Subsequently, many of them are ignored. Although some editors will accept speculative thought-leadership pieces, there are others that won’t. So, the process should ideally begin with a brainstorming session and then with the drafting of some article synopses that reveal what the article will be about, while also offering a range of potential sources that could be included in the article to support the thought-leadership arguments of a client.

Thought-leadership also begins by looking at the media as a customer, and by offering editors content that will interest their readership. Relevancy is key. Pitching an estate agency article idea about house prices to an IT magazine isn’t going to gain anyone any coverage unless there is a technology focus to the article.

Be methodical
The next challenge is to write thought-leadership articles. Begin by discussing the challenges or issues; and then consider and propose the potential solutions. It should conclude by responding to the key argument of the article, answering why a particular solution should or should not be adopted. Alternatively, it should offer some predictions about future trends and what needs to be done to achieve the ambitions of a market, the needs of consumers, or the needs of an industry.

By working closely with a PR agency that follows these principles, and which offers a journalistic approach to promoting them, CEOs will find that they will raise their profile with a portfolio of published articles. Editors are always glad to hear from people with something pertinent to say, provoking the creation of new thinking or discussions about ideas, trending issues and innovation.

Written by Trudy Darwin, CEO of PR agency Trudy Darwin Consulting.