There are six ways to think about how to create thought leadership right now.
- Social Media. The “fad” isn’t over yet and every organization—consumer, business-to-business, non-profit—needs to have a social media presence. It doesn’t need to be on every platform— hang out where your customers and prospects do—but to get any earned media coverage, journalists want to see that you have social networks people respond to so you can help them increase their pageviews. Unless you have a product or service that no one else has if the story is between you or your competitor and they have robust social networks, and you do not, the story is going to them. (Yes, I realize there is a big push to #DeleteFacebook and a pub in the U.K. is getting lots of attention for deleting all of their social media. It makes a big statement in the short term, but will end up hurting you long-term.)
- Content Creation. It is my belief that every organization should create content for lead generation, thought leadership, and brand awareness. You don’t have to blog multiple times a week to have success. In fact, you don't have to blog about all. The point is to create consistent content and, in the words of Andy Crestodina, “create the best page on the internet for your topic.” If your executive (or client) has an interview, write about that experience. If things end up on the cutting room floor, create a video about it. Publish an excerpt from the piece and link to the rest of the story. Interview the journalist and run a Q&A. There are lots of ways you can extend a story and get content from your CEO, without having to create something new.
- Thoughtful Commentary. One of our favorite things to do is have Talkwalker Alerts set for a client’s topic(s) of interest. When we see an article they will like (typically a few times a week), we send it over to get their thoughts. Every executive on earth will read the story and send back some thoughts—though they may be disjointed. That’s OK! Now you have something to work with and you are, after all, a communicator so this is your bailiwick.
- Comments. This is an oldie, but a goodie. Back in the day (like 2007), we would send articles to clients to comment on. They would leave these very professional comments, complete with their name, email address, and phone number. It was very cute. That won’t work today, of course, We have to be much more engaging and thoughtful about our approach. If your executives have an interesting take on a story or blog post that’s been published, ask them to comment on it.
- Voice Recordings. The argument I always hear at this point is, “But my executive doesn’t have time.” I know! It’s the hardest part of our jobs. But there are lots of ways you can get content from them without a lot of time or effort. Go back to the second idea here—content creation. Record excerpts from town hall meetings or team meetings or speaking engagements and create content from that. Take the emails they send and create content from those. And my favorite tip is to schedule a monthly, 30-minute conversation and ask a bunch of questions. You have to go to the meeting prepared with lots of questions you can fire off in rapid succession. Then record the conversation. Those 30 minutes will give you a month’s worth of content.
- Contributed Content. Publications want to publish thought leaders. Most of the big publications today all accept bylined articles and blog posts from industry leaders. Get your executives set up with their own columns, ghostwrite the content, and get it placed. You’ll have to work closely with them and get their approvals, but you can do the legwork. A thought leader is intimately involved in the communications of his or her organization (a la Sheryl Sandberg, Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, and Mark Cuban).
When you can help get an organization noticed through your content, the thought leadership comes much more easily.