Thought Leadership: Handle With Care

Lately, there has been a lot written on the subject of ‘thought leadership’ – as a PR, inbound or content tool, thought leadership is very much in vogue. It’s easy to see why – undertaking a considered thought leadership programme allows a firm to expand on its expertise, and address customer pain points from a knowledgeable, problem-solving, and solution driven point of view.

Trade or vertical media offers unrivalled opportunities for ambitious and confident firms and individuals to project and amplify their thought leadership to their target audience. Frequently, editors and publishers are looking for considered and knowledgeable opinions on subjects which concern or challenge their audience. Features lists are full of thought leadership opportunities, and putting together good, data- or research-based submissions will always be welcomed.

Indeed, a firm can quickly get a reputation among editors for offering good, insightful opinion on a range of issues which affect their particular target audience. Take Eiratech Robotics - who I have been lucky enough to work with – as an example. Eiratech went from a position of having their initial approaches for such articles rebuffed, to having them occasionally published, to being actively sought out for their views by important industry publications on a recurring basis, all in a 6 – 9 month period through the simple expedient of offering well argued, research-backed and timely submissions on topics that editors knew would be of interest to their target audience.

And as a marketing tactic, thought leadership clearly works: a 2017 US survey of 1,300 B2B business decision makers and C-suite execs conducted by Edelman, found that many decision makers (37%) and C-suite execs (47%) said that ‘thought leadership’ had directly affected their decision to invite a firm they hadn't previously considered to pitch against incumbents.

Where’s the downside? In fact it turns out that this same survey also uncovered significant numbers going in the opposite direction, with 86% of thought leadership considered to be merely ‘good’, ‘mediocre’ or even ‘poor’. And this too impacted on RFPs and business: 45% of decision makers and 53% of C-suite execs responded that poor thought leadership content resulted in loss of respect for an organisation or company, with 30% of decision makers considering removing companies from RFPs because of poor content, while the same figure for C-suite execs was 35%.

So, what to do? Your vertical or trade media can have a crucial role here – because in the case of thought leadership like opinion pieces or features, companies can rely on the expertise and critical faculties of editors and publishers. Although for a lot of inbound and content activity, getting unfiltered and direct access to the client is considered an advantage, in ‘thought leadership’ as we have seen this is not the case. Having an objective, independent, critical and informed filter – especially an industry editor – is a distinct advantage. As gatekeepers of their own content, they will not allow substandard, badly researched or poorly expressed opinion on their pages - they can quite literally save you from yourself.

The advantages of thought leadership are clear, and it remains a highly valuable brand and reputation building and enhancing tool. Equally though, the dangers are clear so travel with care!

If you are interested in developing a communications programme which includes thought leadership elements, please contact me here at

(Pic: Whitechurch Stream)

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