“What is a thought leadership program, exactly?” That’s a question I hear all the time. Thought leadership is one of those terms that gets casually (and erroneously) applied to a broad set of marketing and PR activities. It does encompass a variety of components, all designed to educate and insert a perspective into the industry conversation. Thought leadership is NOT about selling, it’s about sharing your knowledge.
Put simply, a thought leadership program is the process to present your company and executives as industry thought leaders. It’s a multifaceted effort designed to position your organization and its leaders as expert resources, with observations and tips on industry trends and developments. Not surprisingly, the 2016 Federal Government Contractor study found that 75 percent of government contractors believe that thought leadership is an effective marketing tool to influence their audience.
Here are eight components of a thought leadership program to propel your organization from invisible to expert:
- Articles and Interviews. Bylined articles and executive interviews with the press connect the expertise of your company to government trends and contracts. Press hits help to increase the visibility of your company in a way that’s much more credible than advertising.
- Case Studies. Sharing stories of your customers’ success is an opportunity to describe your company and team strengths, in your customers’ words. Case studies can be used on your website, blog and social media and also proposals. They can demonstrate your strengths while helping potential customers solve their similar challenges.
- White Papers and eBooks. Federal government employees are busy and it’s tough to keep up with everything that’s going on. Your (educational) white papers and eBooks can be tremendous resources to explain new approaches and technologies.
- Research and Surveys. Results of your own market research are tremendous assets. By measuring the pulse of an issue in your industry, you become a go-to source for information. Customer surveys can also inform your thought leadership program, by giving you real feedback from real customers about real challenges they are working to solve.
- Content Marketing. Digital media has helped to level the playing field when it comes to marketing. Smaller companies have a chance to appear much larger by consistently distributing relevant information, or content, to customers and the press. Tips, infographics and survey results are all easy-to-consume bits of information that can be posted online. Educational content is helpful to your constituents while reinforcing your organization as a go-to resource.
- Speaking and Sponsorships. While it’s tough to get a speaking engagement at government industry events without a sponsorship, the combination is an excellent opportunity for your experts to share an important perspective or finding.
- Social Media and Blogs. Social engagement is a must, these days. By posting, sharing, retweeting and actively participating in social conversations, your leaders and your organization amplify their presence in the industry.
- Awards. There’s no doubt that industry awards help you stand out. Third-party recognition can bolster how others view your expertise, lending credibility long after the award is won.