Thought leadership – a mainstay in many PR strategies, has become a little muddied in recent years. It used to be that all you needed to do was write a few articles and slap your name on them to be a leader in your field.

Things have changed. These days, it’s all about the digital world. To be considered a leader, you need establishing as a subject matter expert, with experience in the topic you’re writing about.

Thought leadership is a whole new ball game, with company blogs, senior perspectives, and snappy opinions on LinkedIn all vying for attention. So, what is thought leadership?

In its purest form, thought leadership involves creating authentic, genuinely new perspectives. It is a demonstration of expertise – a platform for sharing valuable insights without the intention of pushing products or services.

Unlike paid advertisements, thought leadership pieces are unpaid. Traditionally, this was done through bylined articles or, better put, today’s guest articles in industry publications. Authors, often industry executives, lend their expertise to publications, receiving credit with their name and company in the press, while journalists gain access to expert views within their field.

Thought leadership basics

Over time, the concept of thought leadership has broadened, finding a new home in company blogs and long-form content that focus on positioning and senior-level viewpoints.

However, it’s crucial to recognise the distinction between thought leadership articles and sales pieces. Here are three key considerations for those venturing into the realm of thought leadership:

No bias, please

Thought leadership is not a sales pitch – journalists seek genuine insights. Leave these at the door:

  • Product mentions
  • Service information
  • Blatant company promotions
  • Sneaky links to your own website or blog

While alluding to your business’s strengths is acceptable, overt sales tactics have no place in thought leadership. Save the promotional content for advertorials or advertisements designed explicitly for that purpose.

Backlinks – A rare commodity

Backlinks are highly coveted for SEO purposes, with some seeing a backlink as a reward for sharing their area of expertise. Despite this expectation, thought leadership articles are not the channel for abundant backlinks.

Publications typically strip out any links that appear promotional or irrelevant. If you plan on including a link in your author bio or byline, ensure its relevance to the article, and be mindful of each publication’s guidelines regarding external links.

Targeting the right audience

Thought leadership isn’t about landing features in top-tier media outlets; it’s about connecting with your industry peers and target audience. Major publications often focus on breaking news, making it challenging for smaller players to secure coverage.

Instead, aim for trade media or industry publications that cater to your specific niche. This targeted approach ensures your insights reach those who value them the most. In the world of marketing, there are a handful of great publications at the heart of the industry’s biggest questions:

Securing thought leadership in these publications is challenging but achievable. If you work in the data centre industry, one example is DatacenterDynamics (DCD). In unified communications, it’s Comms Business.

What makes a successful thought leader?

Now that we’ve covered the essentials, let’s delve into the process of crafting a compelling thought leadership piece.

Identify your unique perspective

Before putting pen to paper, fingers to keys or thumbs to screen, pinpoint the unique insights or perspectives you bring to the table by considering these questions:

Who is your target audience

Identify the specific audience you want to reach. Consider their interests, challenges, and informational needs. Tailoring your content to a well-defined audience enhances its relevance and impact. Make sure you say something new, not just a regurgitation of a trend or buzzy topic.

What sets your perspective apart?

Clearly define your angle to offer readers something genuinely valuable, and that differs from conventional wisdom or other thought leaders’ stances. Strong opinions are OK, but ensure they are backed by evidence.

Engage in industry conversations

Stay locked in to the latest industry trends and engage in relevant conversations. Staying in the loop on the latest developments allows you to contribute timely and pertinent insights, positioning you as a thought leader in your field.

The best source for industry conversations is typically in their respective trade publications. Trade publications are typically the target platforms for most thought leadership articles, and it’s good practice to read or subscribe to their content.

Collaborate with editors

When submitting thought leadership pieces, collaborate with editors to ensure your content aligns with the publication’s guidelines and resonates with its audience. Similar to the previous point, targeting the publications you’re actively interested in or engaged with can make this process feel far more natural. Building relationships with editors can also enhance your chances of securing future opportunities.

Not sure where to start with working with editors and publications? We’re always game for chatting about your thought leadership strategy and PR needs. You can find out more about our PR services here.

Leverage LinkedIn

Thought leaders aren’t just limited to guest articles.

Extend the reach of your thought leadership pieces by sharing your published articles on social media platforms. Engage with your audience, respond to comments and foster discussions around your insights. This doesn’t mean you need to go crazy on TikTok, either.

For any subject matter expert in a professional industry looking to develop into a true thought leader, LinkedIn should be your best friend. Its algorithm, while cantankerous, is exceptionally powerful at hitting your target audience when you put the time and effort into building a solid LinkedIn strategy.

Team Bamboo is here to help

We covered the basics in this blog, but putting this into practice requires energy, expertise and enthusiasm. For most aspiring thought leaders, juggling executive duties makes them incredibly time-poor. That’s where we come in.

We’re thought leadership experts, and we are infinitely passionate about technology, marketing, and delivering our clients’ unique perspectives to the world.

If you fancy a chat about your PR needs over a bambrew, get in touch.