Written by Josh Westerman
If you’re a B2B marketeer, the concept of thought leadership is almost certainly one you’ll have come across. After all, when your product or service is much more complex than the norm, the expertise you can offer alongside your product becomes all the more important.
One of the challenges we often face in B2B PR is that most brands within a given specialist industry will feel they can lay claim to being the bona fide leaders in their field. After all, how many times do you see a product or brand described as ‘industry-leading’? For many of these brands, reflecting this in their PR campaigns becomes a necessity and this is where being an industry leader needs to translate into being a thought leader too.
In the world of B2B PR, a brand will often have a desire to position itself as a legitimate thought leader, attracting prospects not only to their product or service, but also to their invaluable expertise, insights, and industry knowledge. After all, people buy people – or so the saying goes.
The issue with the concept of a leader, of course, is that there can be only one. And with the battle for thought leadership status so fierce, careful consideration needs to go into what you need to offer your customers or prospects for them to legitimately see your brand as the leading light within its industry. It may not come as a surprise to hear that there is a lot more to this than creating a quick LinkedIn post or two.
So, what does the concept of thought leadership actually mean, and how can you leverage it for effective B2B PR campaigns?
What is thought leadership PR?
Put simply, a thought leader is a single individual or business which is recognised within its industry sector as being the most inspiring, insightful or knowledgeable presence to draw from. Just like beauty, thought leadership status is very much in the eye of the beholder.
Thought leadership PR takes these concepts of inspiration, insight and knowledge and applies them to content, essentially arming your brand with a suite of material designed to educate, inform or advise your existing customers and those prospects you’re eager to work with.
That’s the theory covered. But what does this mean in practice?
How can your B2B brand become the genuine thought leader of its industry?
Demonstrating thought leadership through a PR campaign is often simpler than it might sound. What is vital is that you consider the needs of your audience, which, in the world of B2B, often stem from challenges they are trying to overcome or issues they are eager to resolve. This could involve anything from how they can make their production line more efficient, to the steps they need to take to comply with emerging legislation. At this point, your PR campaign centres around offering the opinion, advice and insights that your target audience will find valuable in achieving their goals.
Once you have identified an issue that really engages your target audience and that you can offer them some helpful insight on, you have the ingredients for a successful thought leadership campaign. This could be based around an industry report, a how-to guide, an opinion-led article, a series of videos, or ideally, all of the above – which are created to offer some genuine value to your target audience.
Remember though, one swallow doesn’t make a summer and one blog doesn’t make a thought leader either. For your brand to genuinely become recognised as the thought leader in your industry, you need to be practical and prolific.
After all, if the content you offer is of genuine interest or use by your target audience, why wouldn’t they keep coming back for more?
The icing on the cake: showing as well as telling
Unfortunately, many B2B campaigns fail to convert prospects into leads because they don’t quite offer the assurances that the brand knows it stuff nor has a proven track record of delivering for real life customers. Most businesses have a degree of expertise they can draw upon to create content, but not nearly as many can offer proof points to win a prospect’s trust.
This is where showing what your business has done (and can do), as well as telling your prospects what they need to know, becomes vital. The best thought leaders use evidence to explain how their knowledge and expertise have been applied in practice. Evidence in the form of case studies can stand alone as pieces of content in their own right, but when combined with the sort of thought leadership we discussed earlier, the results can be very powerful indeed.
Take industrial property developer, Chancerygate, for example. The business has a wealth of expertise in tackling complex refurbishments of listed buildings, as demonstrated in this article. James Tinkler, the article’s author, could have simply provided a checklist of actions his team completed when working on such a project, which would have offered plenty of proof that they have ample knowledge of the subject. He didn’t stop there though.
James’s article explains the considerations that need to be made within the context of the Klinger Building, a Grade II Listed Building in south-east London, thus proving that the business has applied its expert knowledge to one of the best refurbishment projects of recent years. And how do we know that it was such an objectively good project? Because the article also references its refit/refurbishment of the year accolade at the Insider South East Property Awards.
The point here is that expertise is a huge asset for any B2B brand, but readers, viewers, or listeners of your content need to know why they should trust your expertise. And with so many brands and media outlets vying for our attention, evidence, proof, data and testimonials can really help to cut through all that noise.
So next time you consider how you can really achieve thought leadership status in your industry, give some thought to the evidence you can show to your prospects as well as the information you can tell them.
If you need help shaping your thought leadership strategy to enhance your B2B marketing efforts, please get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.