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The Difference Between Thought Leadership and Publicity

The Difference Between Thought Leadership and Publicity

by | Sep 4, 2019

Getting media coverage for your company or organization really isn’t complicated. In fact, the ingredients are simple: newsworthy information; the right relationship with a reporter; a concise, timely pitch; and responsiveness.

I’m not implying having all these components is easy, but I am suggesting there is both a straightforward and tried-and-true approach for landing in the newspaper or on TV. If you’ve got the goods, there’s a good chance someone will buy.

And while coverage — even a big splashy feature story — may give you a bump in visibility, interest invariably wanes. Demonstrating your news value to your audiences has its place, of course, in the marketing mix. But true “thought leadership” is a different animal altogether.

A sustained thought-leadership campaign is more intricate, likely more impactful and more challenging to execute. Thought leadership takes dedication from an organization’s top leaders and a willingness to take a stand — an advocacy position on an issue the leader is passionate about and resonates with the organization’s core audiences.

“True thought leadership requires bold stances.”

Thought leadership demands a drum beat of strategic, considerate advocacy. And it takes a variety of forms; guest columns, speaking opportunities and content-rich interviews all help round out an effective program. In the end, it is all about influencing audience attitudes (how individuals think about you and your organization) and behavior (the clicks, calls or other contacts).

Here are four tips to move from inconsistent bumps of flashy coverage to a sustained, meaningful and bottom-line-driven thought-leadership campaign.

#1: Be decisive. And be bold. True thought leadership requires bold stances. Advocating for an obvious solution to a problem is easy, but it won’t help you stand out. Take the time necessary to develop a position that might be a little — dare I say — provocative. Consult with experts inside and outside your organization to vet your position and anticipate what challenges may come your way.  A program like this requires dialogue, and you should be ready to constructively defend your argument.

#2: Do your homework. Determine what sets your position apart from the others in your space looking to make their mark. Consider conducting some primary perception research — for which many providers are offering cost-effective programs — to fuel your advocacy position with proprietary data you can support or contradict.

#3: Play the long game. Develop a sustainable, realistic program and one your team, your PR firm and your advocacy leaders can actually execute. Establishing thought leadership is about planting a flag on an issue and working it, over time and through various channels. Plan at least six-months of focused effort to support the position; a year-long plan is even better.

#4: Rinse and Repeat. One way to know if your thought-leadership program is working is if the thought leader is getting sick of saying the same things over and over. Those in your organization who will help drive this program must get comfortable with repetition. But it isn’t really about repetition, as much as it’s about consistency. As you embark on a thought leadership program, think about having your advocacy leaders trained in spokesperson techniques to make the most of every opportunity.

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