When you want to establish your company as an industry thought leader, thought leadership articles should be a central part of your public relations (PR) strategy. There are a variety of different tactics you (or your PR agency) can take to achieve that goal, but it largely depends on building plenty of content around your expertise.
When most people think about PR, churning out a press release every month or so comes to mind. But, that’s not a true understanding of what public relations is or what a PR specialist does. There are many other things that go into helping you get your message across. One of the most important pieces of that puzzle is placing impactful thought leadership articles in digital or print publications to provide your company more exposure as an expert in the field.
At Brandwidth, we have a tried-and-tested method of securing thought leadership pieces for our clients. Here are the three key pillars of that process:
Building Relationships with Editors
This is arguably the most important part of the process, and I cannot emphasize it enough. Having good relationships with editors of key publications in the relevant field (think trade media outlets that are germane to your space) is imperative.
For example, if your company is in the pharma space, there are a variety of publications focusing on that subject which are read widely by professionals and decision-makers in the industry. You would need to learn what these media outlets are and cultivate good, constructive relationships with one or more editors in each outlet. These relationships are critical to a PR pro, but it’s not an easy thing to do.
You need to work consistently with editors and demonstrate your value as a trustworthy source to them. Only then will they recognize and remember you as someone they can lean on to help bring in valuable content for their publication.
To achieve this, you can prove your worth by connecting editors with the right experts – and by that, I mean thought leaders who can provide fresh perspective. They should have the required experience and training in the industry, title, skills, and creativity to think beyond the typical boundaries of the topic. If you establish yourself as someone who can make those connections, editors will notice you and turn to you when they want input from experts across the field.
Of course, it helps immensely to be friendly – but not too intrusive. You don’t want to be the annoying person who achieves “block contact” status. You need to be respectful of an editor’s time (they have a million emails in their inbox, and most of those are nonsense from ignorant PR people). You also need to be responsive when they contact you. You’ll need to be efficient in coordinating editorials and be inventive. You’ve got to know how to stand out in that sea of emails!
If you can develop those strengths, editors will approach you when they are sourcing experts, and even be willing to work with you on content ideas. Once you’ve gotten to that level as a trustworthy liaison/partner/source, the rest should be smooth sailing (most of the time!). You’ll be able to introduce new subject matter experts to the editors and collaborate with publications to place earned (non-paid) thought leadership pieces that provide exposure to your company.
Proactively Tracking Editorial Calendars
You’ll need to have a good sense of the editorial calendars of publications important to your company and your customer base. These calendars are typically released during Q3 or Q4 of the previous year. Collect editorial calendars until you build a satisfactory database of good topics and content matches for your company. If you don’t see the calendar online, ask the editor or the marketing/advertising staff.
Once you have this collection available, it will be easy for you to identify upcoming opportunities and reach out well ahead of time to an editor about contributing. For example, say you found a topic on drug development that is a perfect fit, and its publication date is 3-4 months in the future – this would be an ideal time to contact the appropriate editor and ask about the possibility of being involved with that feature.
You might say, “Can my company, with expertise in this field, contribute with an opinion or technical piece? Or can we provide valuable input to your staff writer through an interview?” Again, you should be aware of the required lead time and your expert’s availability and knowledge of the topic.
So, having editorial calendars accessible to you and being proactive about tracking relevant topics will certainly help identify good opportunities for thought leadership.
Crafting a Good Pitch
Last, but not least, is the ability to compellingly pitch your own idea. This would entail working with your subject matter expert and drafting a synopsis that can be presented to the editor. Once you’ve started a conversation with an editor and obtained their interest in hearing more, you need to provide a “sneak peek” or a brief summary of what your expert proposes to discuss.
The key to success here is offering unique perspective or a fresh angle on the topic that will be interesting to not only the editor, but most importantly, the readers of that publication and the industry at large. This may be a thought-provoking idea about solving a particular problem in the industry, or how providers in the industry are looking at new technologies and driving them into the future.
Whatever the angle, it should reflect how your company or subject matter expert can be perceived as a leader in the space and it should leave an impact on the readers. (Note that editors may initially be interested and offer an invitation to participate in a feature, but unless you can prove that your expert can add value to their editorial theme, there’s no guarantee of placement).
To confirm and secure the placement, submit a summary that will engage the editor and make them want to publish the contribution or interview your expert. Then you can work from there to draft the article or provide comments within a given deadline.
If you are able to build mutually beneficial relationships with editors and work proactively, efficiently, and creatively to capitalize on editorial opportunities, you will be in a great place to support your company’s efforts in establishing thought leadership in your industry.
Or perhaps this is too much to add to your already-busy plate. If so, contact us. We’ll be happy to discuss how we can help you be seen as a thought leader!
Author – Charya Wickremasinghe, Ph.D
Charya is Head of Public Relations and Senior Writer at Brandwidth Solutions
Brandwidth Solutions serves the healthcare, life sciences, technology, and contract pharma industries. We work with companies that want to make the most of their marketing – who want their marketing empowered to help drive leads – and ultimately sales. If you want to move your product or service forward in a smart way, we want to work with you. Call us at 215.997.8575.