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Thought leadership: how to stand out from the crowd

According to the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA), thought leadership is “publicly sharing insights in order to differentiate brands, increase share of industry voice and open up commercial conversations with prospects.”

Here’s a closer look at what it can deliver a business:

Brand exposure - quality content will attract media attention, improve brand awareness and contribute towards lead generation

Improve reputation - being positioned as an industry expert helps build trust and prominence

Boost sales - according to LinkedIn, 60% of decision makers have bought a product after being convinced by thought leadership content

1. Will it work for your business?

Traditionally, thought leadership has been used by companies with long sales cycles and numerous touchpoints with a potential customer before they buy - 99% of the time these are B2B businesses.

However, in recent years, consumer facing brands have also begun to use thought leadership effectively.

The trend in consumer PR is moving away from outrageous stunts, such as floating objects down rivers, towards more substantial campaigns that demonstrate the brand’s core values.

For example, Starling Bank has developed a series of thought leadership content focused on teaching children about money. They have identified an issue their customer base is concerned about and are sharing insights, positioning themselves as an industry voice, and subtly introducing one of their products.

If made relevant and authentic, thought leadership has a place in the PR strategies of most fintech businesses, whether big or small, consumer or B2B.

2. How to create successful thought leadership

Thought leadership needs to provide valuable insights and spark interest, as well as helping to generate leads. There are a number of rules to follow to make sure you tread the delicate balance between being too abstract and coming across as salesy:

3. Stick to what you know

The aim is for people to gain value from what you put in front of them and associate your brand with the products and services you offer. Share insights on what you know and what people in your business are passionate about.

4. Solve problems for your audience

The best way to add value via thought leadership is to help your audience solve issues or overcome challenges.

Successful thought leadership should cover the following areas:

  • How do you envision the future of your industry?

  • How are the experts in your organisation developing your industry?

  • What unique insights does your company have into the market?

  • What is your vision for the future of your customer?

5. Base your content in research and back it up with data

To be a thought leader you need to share insights, opinions and assertions that move a conversation forward. Your research should tell you where the conversation is and who is commentating - from here you can differentiate yourself.

Having robust data as the basis of your thought leadership will add credibility and allow you to take the existing conversations in new directions. Data could come from within the business (demonstrating trends in customer or industry behaviour), studies or surveys conducted amongst key people in the industry, or anecdotal insights from customers, etc.

6. Collaborate with existing thought leaders

Bringing established thought leaders into your own thought leadership is a great way to build greater credibility and awareness. Identify key people already seen as influencers in your sector and ask them to share an opinion or insight that you can incorporate into your own thought leadership, or see if they would be willing to collaborate on something new.

As long as they are not a competitor and the offer is mutually beneficial, you will probably find many people willing to partner up.

7. Be consistent

As with all aspects of your PR strategy, consistency is key.

Don’t chop and change your thought leadership topics and don’t drastically change your opinion. Select a few, specific, topics you want to be positioned as an expert on and focus on them.

Develop a long-term strategy that allows you to make the most of each piece of content you create and get key stakeholders within the business excited about what you are planning. This will help hugely in identifying new angles and opportunities.

8. Choosing your formats and channels

The great thing about thought leadership is that it can be packaged into many different formats and delivered through multiple channels.

Press releases - sharing a new piece of research or data via a press release will give you the opportunity for an initial splash in the news.

By-lined articles - once your news is out there, a more in-depth look at the research via an article attributed to your spokesperson will help you to get mileage out of the campaign. Pitch the idea to industry press and tailor the article to the specific audience.

Written reports - publish a full report with all of your findings on your website. Journalists can delve into it and it’s somewhere to direct people to from your social channels. Make this as visual as possible and include an email capture form to help with lead generation.

Video content - whether it's an animation, talking head, or an interview with your spokesperson, it’s important to develop video content to maximise social media engagement with your campaign.

Podcasts and events - pitch your spokesperson as an interviewee to relevant podcasts and industry events. A new piece of research or alternative view is a great hook to secure these opportunities.

LinkedIn - while you should share your campaign across all of your social media channels, LinkedIn was made for thought leadership. Share your content and encourage debate - ask questions, share the assertion made in your content and engage with people in the comments.

Utilise as many channels as possible to get the maximum impact from every thought leadership campaign.

Each new campaign should build on the last, taking the conversation further, and building your reputation as an industry expert and trustworthy influencer.

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