Thoughts on Promoting Thought Leadership

18 Apr Thoughts on Promoting Thought Leadership

Thought Leadership

Many blogs focus on media relations through the lens of news releases. There’s another powerful tool in the PR toolbox — Thought Leadership.

But, what is thought leadership and who constitutes being a leader of thought?

I’ll skip the dictionary definition that often opens a blog post and put it bluntly. A thought leader is someone prominent and who many view as having expertise or exceptional insight regarding a specific topic. Some bigger name examples would be Elon Musk on alternate, high-tech modes of transit (Tesla, SpaceX…), Gary Vaynerchuk on social marketing, or Neil deGrasse Tyson on all things cosmic (that’s gotta be a sweet business card).

What does this mean for a business though and how do you find your thought leaders?

Okay, so while your marketing and communications team was toiling away at that news release about the $3,000 donation delivered to a good cause in the form of a Publisher’s Clearing House giant check, it is very likely you had thought leaders quietly doing their job unnoticed. I’m not here to say stop writing news releases. I am here to say write fewer, better ones and spend more time leveraging your best kept secrets – your thought leaders.

Here are three quick tips to get your thought leadership marketing in motion.


Start with building a list of categories or topics you anticipate the public and/or media having interest in. Balance this with what you feel comfortable putting your brand stamp on. Once this is built, think through your team of onsite experts who have expertise in these areas. Before putting their name in the “hot seat,” ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do they reflect your brand values and do you want them speaking on behalf of your company?
  • Are they articulate? Basically, will TV/radio work, or should they mostly respond via email to online/print queries?
  • How available or responsive are they? Media opportunities come and go fast. A HARO (help a reporter out) request will often go to the quickest responder (so long as they are qualified).


 I never recommend just picking articulate, smart people and sending them into “battle.” Equip them with messaging and train them on how to authentically segue to that messaging and navigate curve-ball questions. Training should be more than an email with messaging or print-out of “communication best practices.” Actually rehearse with them. Ask the really tough questions so everyone has confidence in their ability to tackle interviews successfully.


Get your experts out there! Connect them with your communications team so everyone knows these experts are ready to go.

Here are a couple ideas;

  • Media resource. Make sure your company is signed up for HARO (mentioned above) and tracking media opportunities. Introduce your thought leaders to reporters and editors who cover your industry to show them that they have a new source and perspective on the day’s news.
  • Create content. Either encourage them – or ghost write for them – to draft insightful articles. These can be published as an opinion piece (Op-Ed), on a company blog or their individual LinkedIn profiles. These published pieces should then be marketed across company channels such as social media, newsletters or business development emails.
  • Get your thought leaders on forums, webinar panels and other widely shared spaces to plug them in to their peers and showcase their own expertise and knowledge.

          *Bonus points – These tactics can also have the additional effect of recruiting other savvy leaders to your company.

Now, get up from your computer and find that quiet performer who’s diligently “taking care of business.” Time to put them to work for your marketing team.

Kevin Hartman

Kevin is an Account Manager at LT Public Relations responsible for supporting the communications of several clients, primarily within the financial sector. When he's not blogging about media relations or social media trends, Kevin enjoys eating his way through Portland and spending time with his wife and three kids.

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