Developing thought leadership in challenging times

Developing thought leadership in challenging times

It’s never been harder to establish credibility in the B2B market. Potential customers are wary about engaging an unknown brand and don’t know who to turn to for reliable information.

One of the most effective tools for B2B marketing is to focus efforts on becoming a thought leader on your topic of expertise. This is an opportunity to become a trusted source within your business community and beyond.

According to research, 90% of B2B decision-makers factor in thought leadership pieces when deciding which company to work with. Moreover, six out of 10 said that creating thought leadership content is more effective at demonstrating the value of a company’s products or services than traditional marketing.

What is thought leadership?

A thought leader is seen as an authority on a topic and able to answer questions about it. Thought leadership is an important way to make your company or brand stand out from competitors, to build trust and to raise awareness of the specialist areas you can help prospective clients with.

In times of adversity, this becomes even more important. Thought leaders can help people make sense of industry developments, connect information to make complex topics accessible, and add value by demonstrating how to overcome challenges.

Define your area of expertise as a thought leader

It’s better to focus on a few topics rather than trying to comment on industry-wide issues.

Take a look at what your competitors are commenting on, then choose a niche that very few people are taking ownership of. If you hone in on one or two specialist topics, it’s easier for stakeholders to understand what you specialise in, and for journalists to know who to come to when they need insight from a subject matter expert.

Building your thought leadership reputation through PR

You might be an expert in your area of business, but that’s no help unless people know about it. That’s where public relations (PR) comes in. Working with a specialist PR agency can enable thought leaders to get more ideas, craft messaging and positioning, and ensure it aligns with your wider goals. It can also give you increased exposure, maintain media relations, and monitor the results of your thought leadership efforts.

Your public relations agency will help you create a press pack containing details of your thought leaders and their specialist areas of expertise. This helps journalists proactively contact you for comments when they’re writing a news story on your thought leadership niche.

A PR agency is also a resource-effective way to monitor media coverage of industry presence and track keywords in your thought leadership field, to enable you to swiftly react to industry topics in the news via your own content channels.

Aligning thought leadership with your wider business goals

It’s important to think strategically with your thought leadership PR campaign to avoid spreading yourself too thin.

For example, if you own a construction firm that specialises in environmentally friendly builds, then commenting on news about the ecological impact of building projects can help reinforce your business value reputation as an expert in this particular niche area and can give actionable insight. On the other hand, commenting on a news item about supply chain issues in the construction trade would be less relevant.

How thought leaders can develop an authentic voice

It’s usually best for firms to limit themselves to one or two spokespeople who can be presented as informed opinion leaders. This might be a firm’s co-founder, CEO or sales director.

A successful thought leadership piece will read as though it’s been written by that thought leader, using the type of language and turns of phrase they use. If you use a PR agency to write your thought leadership content marketing, it’s important that they have regular access to speak to your spokespeople so they can get to know their tone of voice and replicate this.

Connecting with your community

In order to build genuine connections with your community, you need to meet them where they are. You can reach new audiences by contributing to trade press articles or white papers; taking on speaking engagements at public events and industry conferences; giving a TED talk; or writing guest posts for other industry influencers’ blogs.

Many successful thought leaders run their own YouTube channel or podcast series offering free advice and ‘how to’ guides. Working out what the pain points of your future customers are, and providing valuable content that helps solve them, builds trust in your brand.

Why thought leadership is more important in times of adversity

During an economic downturn, being a thought leader can help you stay connected to clients and become a reliable source of expertise to a wider audience. True thought leaders are able to build trust and credibility en masse, partly replacing the need to develop one-to-one relationships with every prospective business lead.

Clients may also be less receptive to sales calls in a downturn, but can still be enticed by relevant content and the sharing of great ideas. If you offer your audience insight into your industry that, in turn, helps them grow their own firm, it increases your credibility and makes them more likely to want to work with you.

Meeting the changing needs of your target audience

The best thought leaders change what they talk about as the needs of their client base change. If you can demonstrate to your audience how to overcome challenges, you’ll become a go-to resource in your subject area. Monitor social media for what your audience is having a tough time with, then create ideas to help them resolve their issues.

This involves being adaptable: these needs will change frequently, particularly if you help solve an initial problem, so you’ll need to change your communication plan to ensure you’re always addressing the current needs of your market.

Measuring thought leadership strategy results

Any thought leadership campaign should start with a set of SMART goals so you can measure whether you achieve success. Quantitative measures could include how many pieces of thought leadership content you produce, how many followers you gain on your LinkedIn profile or the number of downloads.

Qualitative measures might be asking leads how they heard about you, monitoring sentiment on social media, or linking spikes in sales to the dates thought leadership content is published. Your PR agency can help you measure ROI for your communications campaigns, allowing you to tweak content and channels for improved results.

The Thought Leadership Cycle

Your thought leadership strategy should be a long-term marketing plan. It helps to build trust gradually and encourages people to engage with your brand, but it takes time to become a trusted figure in an industry. You can gradually build up from an industry voice to someone who is a known expert in your field. Your PR agency can accelerate this process by putting you forward for TV and other press coverage, or for speaker opportunities and places on panel discussions.

It’s vital to monitor responses to your own thought leadership content campaign. Answering any questions that your content attracts can help you generate high-quality content that fulfils genuine audience needs. In addition, see if your sales team can turn ideas for content into useful marketing outputs to assist them in their roles.

Thought leadership marketing for brand credibility

In order to become a thought leader you need to add value by providing useful content. Although it takes significant time and effort to become a leading voice in any industry, the payoff will be a trusted brand that can inspire people, while also helping them resolve their key questions in your area of expertise.

In uncertain times, being able to successfully influence your industry leaders and customers through thought leadership content is an essential part of a long-term marketing plan.


If you’d like to further your thought leadership, we’re here to help. Enquire about our services here.