Multi-channel approaches to corporate thought leadership

In today’s fragmented media landscape, capturing and keeping audiences’ attention is a constant challenge but thought leadership remains a vital channel to build trust and enhance reputation.

This is particularly true for organisations that operate in service-based industries, like professional services, where thought leadership is often a key calling card to showcase expertise, technical knowledge and strategic muscle.

A well-placed opinion article in a reputable media publication has been a mainstay of communicating thought leadership insights for decades, and for good reason. However, there are various other channels worth exploring here that could help executive leaders and subject matter experts engage relevant networks, where they are.

Research reports and white papers

Certain tactics are growing in popularity, however it’s essential to take a step back to see how different tactics resonate with clients and prospects and how these can augment an existing marcomms mix.

One method with staying power is the industry white paper, with Forbes Advisor noting that 74% of companies find content marketing to be a proven method of boosting lead generation. Proprietary research on your target industries is an effective tool that marketing, comms & sales teams can use to engage your key audiences.

From a PR perspective, the white paper format lends itself well to exploring deeper dives into research, analytics and complex industry trends, offering useful background to journalists covering multiple beats. Publishing proprietary data uncovered through research is an effective tool to secure journalist interest and open up opportunities for longer-form thought leadership articles.

Conferences and networking opportunities

Conferences and networking events have, for the most part, returned with full force in this post-pandemic era. Host organisations are reaping the rewards, with The Business of Events’ Events Economy Tracker for Q4 2024 showing the annual average revenue per delegate for 2023 was £117.57, a 12% rise from 2022.

Whether spokespeople have been invited to an industry event as a keynote or panel speaker, or are leading the conversation at a roundtable or mixer that your organisation has hosted, these settings can create fresh opportunities for brand and personal brand PR. Hosting or speaking at events means that your business has full control of the messages that you are communicating. This can be a useful tool when dealing with sensitive topics, communicating new insights or educating audiences about a new development. Owned content is becoming increasingly important within the corporate communications stack.

Before embarking on an event it is critical to consider the strategic communications opportunities and challenges. This includes the topics, speaking partners, hosts and guests in the room. These various elements all have potential to impact corporate reputation and business relationships.

Insights sharing through external partners

Another avenue worth exploring is the potential to leverage an organisation’s business networks for mutually beneficial thought leadership. This ‘thought partnership’ approach could involve a foreword in key partners’ or suppliers’ reports, supplementary analysis in industry presentations, or written or video features in partners’ content hubs or enewsletters.

Regardless of the specific format, having thought leadership content published by a third party offers a ringing endorsement from relevant stakeholders, helping to boost corporate reputation amongst their networks and encourage co-created solutions. The key is uncovering interesting topics and debates that remain authentic to both businesses’ expertise, insights and perspectives.

LinkedIn & Social Media profiling

It’s also worth calling out that not all thought leadership is ‘news’. Certain perspectives may make for fruitful industry conversation, or educating networks through demonstrating best practice.

Bespoke thought leadership campaigns on LinkedIn are on the rise. This suggests that those who use the platform merely as a job hunting tool fail to realise its full potential.

Similarly, an anticipated 50% increase in annual podcast listening within the next three years offer high-visibility avenues for spokespeople to unpack complex trends in longer-form conversations than most news bulletin segments would allow.

LinkedIn articles from senior partners and spokespeople within your business are an effective tool to build credibility and engage with key stakeholders from within and outside your industry. As with events & networking, you have the benefits of full message control as well as being able to build relationships via the interactive nature of these channels.

Agility and proactivity: the keys to securing cut-through

For small or mid-size organisations that may find it tricky to build awareness in spaces dominated by market leaders, with long-established brand recognition and more sizeable marketing budgets, agile collaboration with communications specialists that understand your firm’s USPs is key. A steady flow of sharp, topical and credible ‘newsjacking’ comment secured in the right media publication or social platform can open the doors to larger set piece opportunities. Just be sure to avoid joining the likes of Pepsi’s ‘protest’ ad and OneVentures’ IWD social posts, that received backlash for poorly planned piggybacking.

Analysing what success looks like

Of course, thought leadership cannot happen in a vacuum. The most effective profiling and communications activity builds awareness and trust by connecting a spokespersons message with the right audiences at a relevant moment in time. A switched-on PR team can support early on by sharing content, articles and intel to contextualise current industry, government and regulatory debate.

Working with a PR team that understands what ‘good’ looks like against specific thought leadership briefs can make a world of difference. For some firms, this may mean eyeballs on their brand name and successful projects in shiny column inches; for others, it’s handshakes and conversations in spaces where they hold credibility and authority.

Though measuring the qualitative success of authority-building campaigns was once a common critique of the PR industry, data-driven tools measuring brand equity, commercial impact and digital traction, such as our tailored reporting & measurement tool PULSE, offer approaches to measuring tangible business impact.

Ultimately, multi-channel thought leadership strategies should ladder back to and drive home your organisation’s brand messaging, connect meaningfully with key audiences, and deliver tangible results. Without strong strategic communications foundations, your business could just be adding to the noise.

Get in touch with our corporate communications specialists today.

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