Essential Steps of a Thought Leadership Plan

(The following is the second of a two-part blog on Thought Leadership PR/communications campaigns. If you like this blog, please share it. Thanks!)

To create impactful brand messaging in a lasting, meaningful way, we must aim high. In today’s media environment, this means elevating your clients to the level of Thought Leader.

So how do you get there? As indicated in my prior blog, you have to zero in on accomplishments which truly establish an executive as a unique visionary or commentator … What are they doing within their particular technology space that sets them apart? How is it benefiting customers in compellingly fresh ways?

Our high tech PR agency is more than happy to put in the due diligence to identify and clearly define our clients’ distinct value points. It’s the kind of effort that produces “built to last” dividends for a brand, because we don’t need to depend upon cheap and “screaming headline” tactics to land great media placements.

To provide a more granular perspective, here’s a step-by-step summary of what we do for clients to ensure they emerge as substantive Thought Leaders:

We go deeper. We pride ourselves on gaining an in-depth understanding of what our clients do. Our curiosity is endless. And, once we’re certain that a company is really on to something new and exciting, we’ll extensively interview executives there to further nail down their value distinction.

Then we take all the uncommon qualities we’ve discovered and classify them into “tangibles” and “intangibles.” “Tangibles” are messaging assets which can be measured, such as company growth (in terms of employees, customers, sales, stock, etc.) and/or clear, quantifiable customer impact, among other factors. “Intangible” remains less definable but just as critical. That’s what we explore through our in-depth conversations, when an executive articulates a well-formulated and supported opinion which we haven’t heard before – perhaps a methodology for resolving customer pain points which hasn’t appeared in the press yet. When we realize both of the tangible/intangible requirements are satisfied, we know we have a strong, distinguished message to take publicly.

We check it out. Once we conclude that we likely have a great story to tell, we’ll seek the many reporters and analysts with whom we’ve maintained longstanding, productive relationships. We’ll run our messaging proposals by them to see not only if they pass “the smell test,” but if they resonate. Better to pursue this level of vetting early on, rather than have everything fall apart after the campaign is launched.

We come up with an action plan. After we’re locked in on the core message, we then assemble multiple strategies for getting it out. Some agencies are fully capable of “blasting the megaphone” only when the client “real” news to report, such as a new, great survey.

We’ll do this too. But we’re also keen on building an ongoing campaign which doesn’t require an attention-grabbing survey. We stay in top of industry-news developments to land publication placements based upon demand for executives to weigh in on various, breaking events. We’ll cultivate relationships with decision-making editors so we can produce a steady stream of executive-bylined thought pieces, as generated by our content-marketing division.

For these and other efforts, we’re always sure to “sell” here based upon our client’s command of the topic, as opposed to overtly promoting IT products and services. Otherwise, we’d damage our credibility. Our valued press contacts would quit taking our calls, and we’d end up with nothing. We refuse to take such a risk.

When a client quote and/or Thought Leadership piece dominates the news – which happens quite frequently for us – we walk away even more satisfied. Because we know we did it the right way, and that we resisted pushing out a “screaming headline” for the sake of immediate payoff.

After all, with the extent of due diligence that we put in, we don’t have to settle for fast, cheap and easy. This better serves our clients for the long haul.


Tony Welz is Principal and Co-Founder of W2 Communications.