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Julie discusses Thought leadership

This May, our founder Julie was discussing thought leadership on the marketing podcast Big Ideas Tiny Details – available on Spotify. Thought leadership is a big part of what we do at Frame PR for our B2B clients, usually making up a big part of our monthly PR programmes. But as the host Carly says on this podcast it’s a term that also carries “weight and intimidation”. This chat gave us the chance to delve into the meaning behind this slightly grand and old-fashioned phrase and think about how it can be relevant to businesses today.

How can we keep content formats fresh – and real – in a world increasingly populated by AI generated “thought pieces” and so called gurus? How can we ensure cut-through to the media at a time when editors are ever more sceptical and exacting about what they’ll publish?

Let’s start with what ‘thought-leadership’ actually means; or how ‘intelligent thoughts in someone’s head’ can be transposed to a PR or content tactic that can be of use to a company in its marketing.

The huge majority of the content PRs put out is actually fact-based. Think statements or press releases. But thought leadership breaks that mould in that it’s opinion-led – often backed up by science or fact, but coming from a more subjective place. It might take the form of bylined articles of around 800 words – the type of piece you’d see in a business or trade magazine or the ‘Voices’ section of a national paper, social posts, podcasts, or even Keynote speeches.

If it’s to cut through to getting published in the media, it has to be original, punchy, and impactful. According to the Financial Times, who take contributed or bylined articles, they only consider articles ‘thought leadership’ if they meet the criteria of original opinion that makes a “lasting impact” on a reader and “connects” with them. 

So there goes any thought of plagiarising a well worn idea, or using ChatGPT to knock out a quick piece. (Sadly, there are some agencies doing just this). Articles have to come from a place and a person of authority, they have to be persuasive and based around a topic of current interest.

What sort of content can be classed as thought leadership?

Bylined articles in the media, Linkedin posts or newsletters from founders and leaders, podcast discussions, and TV and radio interviews also come under the banner. In simple terms, thought leadership involves people who really know what they’re talking about and have earned their stripes sharing their expertise and original thought with a wider audience, often through the medium of the press.  

For anyone whose business is lucky enough to be in a ‘hot button’ area, thought leadership can end up making up a big part of a PR campaign or wider marketing strategy. It also means companies who find themselves without traditional ‘news’ – releases, partnerships or say funding news to put out can still get a consistent and really significant share of voice in their market through sharing their expertise.

Who can be a thought leader?

In the era of the ‘personal brand’ on Linkedin, and of questionable influencers and ‘experts’ it might seem like just anyone can have a go at being a thought leader.

The companies we engage thought leadership campaigns for tend to have leaders at the top who are genuine giants or experts in their field. They’re people who have both the expertise and original thoughts to be able to engage the media and its consumers in a series of compelling pieces of writing or verbal discussion.

Although we often think of thought leaders as older business people, like men with OBEs or other letters after their names, the media is actually keen to redress the balance and feature women and a range of younger or more diverse voices. Note the BBC’s 50/50 spokesperson initiative for example which aims to ensure women make up half their outside spokespeople.

In this podcast we mention the careers and workplace commentator and author Christine Armstrong as being a great example of someone doing thought leadership differently through short jokey videos on Linkedin.

What makes great thought leadership and how can our PR team help?

We know brilliant thinkers aren’t always confident writers. A person can be a top notch thought leader without being the best writer in the room. We can help with the writing, and the TV or podcast interviews and briefings.

We will put together a strategy for you, usually based on an editorial calendar in addition to events or other dates that are notable or big in your particular industry. 

Because we have ex business journalists and senior PRs on our team, we understand what’s going to cut through to the media: an original argument or thought, persuasively told and backed up by fact. 

We can help hone thoughts, for example having a half hour call that will turn your experts’ bullet points of ideas into compelling narratives. One of the pieces we helped edit and placed this year on behalf of a client was even described as ‘brilliant’ by a business editor.