When you think of Elon Musk, you immediately think of Tesla. Jeff Bezos…you go straight to Amazon. Mary Barra, General Motors. Rihanna, Fenty. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook. For better or worse, top executives are inextricable from their company’s brand.
And while not all organizations have (or want) a cult of personality, company leaders are their natural representatives and therefore one of the best vehicles to enhance a brand’s reputation.
The most successful organizations rely on an organized thought leadership campaign—a road map if you will—that connects bylined articles from multiple executives and leaders into one coordinated approach that consistently conveys your company’s key messages.
Here’s how to build a thought leadership campaign that boosts your company’s reputation.
1. DEVELOP CAMPAIGN THEMES
What’s the message your organization wants to put into the marketplace? DE&I? Innovation? Workplace culture? Sustainability? Identify the two or three central themes you can anchor your campaign to and build bylined articles around.
2. IDENTIFY YOUR THOUGHT LEADERS
Once you identify the themes, match them to the best voices in your organization. It can be a member of the C-suite, a subject matter expert, or a rising star within the organization. Your HR leader is a natural fit for culture or talent topics. Tap your CEO to weigh in on industry trends or discuss the new DE&I initiative you launched. If your theme is innovation or growth, leverage your CTO or CRO. The smartest organizations will have a deep bench of thought leaders.
3. SYNC UP WITH WHAT’S HAPPENING IN THE NEWS…
Even with the right topic, securing an earned media placement for your thought leader is more challenging than ever. What helps a bylined article or pitch stand out in an editor’s inbox? Something newsy. Something trending. If there’s breaking news, a trending topic, or a big announcement that’s relevant to your business or your industry, find a way to make it part of the introductory paragraph in your thought leadership piece.
4. …OR VOICE A STRONG OPINION
Nothing is more powerful than offering a strong opinion on a hot topic in your sector. If it’s coverage you’re after, take a stand. For instance, when Hallmark pulled down ads featuring a same-sex couple and issued a generic apology, I wrote a piece about how the channel, known for love stories and happy endings, missed the mark. It was picked up by Campaign.
5. PROVIDE SOMETHING OF VALUE TO READERS
There’s a reason so many publications are partial to listicles: they’re easy to digest and provide quick takeaways for readers. This piece, for example, offers nine straightforward steps to building a thought leadership campaign. Without even going through the entire piece, the reader can understand the basic points from the headline and subheadings. Think about how you can turn your campaign themes into service-style bylined articles for industry trade publications.
6. BRING IT ALL TOGETHER AND WRITE THE ARTICLES
You have your themes nailed down, you’ve identified your thought leaders, and you’ve worked up a newsy or compelling POV. Now it’s time to start writing. In some cases, executives are able to write their own pieces from scratch, while others may need help drafting something in the middle of their busy schedules. Whatever process suits your organization, make sure your articles are proofread and fact-checked before they’re submitted.
7. DON’T STOP THERE—MAKE IT A CAMPAIGN
As soon as an article is published, treat it as the launch of a micro campaign that supports the larger thought leadership framework. Promote the piece on your company’s social media accounts and encourage other members of your organization to share and engage with the posts to build momentum. Publish the article to your website and share via email to clients and prospects.
8. SHARE INTERNALLY
Sometimes thought leadership can be just as impactful inside the organization as it is outside. Share published articles internally to celebrate your thought leaders, encourage others to participate in the campaign, and get everyone thinking like thought leaders.
9. LEVERAGE WINS TO COMPLETE YOUR THOUGHT LEADERSHIP CAMPAIGN
One of the benefits of adopting a campaign approach is that you can use published pieces to secure more opportunities. Look at these bylined articles as an entry point into securing earned media interviews, or submit the piece for an upcoming speaking opportunity.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Consumption of thought leadership is at an all-time high coming out of the pandemic (nearly half of c-suite members are spending an hour or more reading thought leadership content every week). But in a market where all companies are competing to tell their story, crafting quality thought leadership content becomes all the more important. Follow these nine steps to build a thought leadership campaign that leverages the expertise of multiple executives within your company to enhance your reputation and break through the noise.
Mark Pasetsky is the founder & CEO of PR agency Mark Allen & Co., where he serves as a trusted advisor to top C-suite executives.