By Jodi Amendola, CEO and co-founder, Amendola Communications
December 2021 – Centering content on thought leadership remains a tried-and-true strategy for generating interest among customers, peers and investors that will continue to pay dividends in 2022—and beyond.
Understanding exactly what thought leadership is and consistently generating engaging thought leadership-based content that is of interest to your key stakeholders and prospects will also continue to be a focus for company executives, as well as marketing, communications and public relations professionals.
Without question, public relations has evolved in recent years, as media outlets continue on the years-long path of budget cuts to offset declining advertising revenues. As a result, there simply aren’t as many opportunities for executives to secure interviews with journalists, no matter how compelling the message.
Fortunately, thought leadership remains the glue that holds it all together. Thought leadership programs represent a critical part of virtually any PR plan and, when well-executed, can serve as a tremendous asset to your brand. Thought leadership programs can position a company’s management team as influencers and industry leaders, while also creating familiarity and trust with the audiences of highest value to company executives. The awareness created by your thought leadership program will pave the way for more successful marketing and new business initiatives.
The media coverage you secure for executives’ thought leadership is called “earned media.” That’s because if your thought leadership content meets a media outlet’s needs and the interests of its audience, they will be happy to publish it and take the clicks that come along with it. Meanwhile, your thought leader—and company—have the credibility of a well-known media brand behind your content.
Thought exercise: What makes your company unique?
For most companies, there is an easy, worthwhile and advantageous place to begin developing a strategy around thought leadership. It’s a place you may know well: your own organizational expertise.
Sure, you have competitors, but you have something they don’t: a unique mix of experts, knowledge, products, perspectives and customers. Take advantage of this uniqueness by developing a well-planned, coherent and consistent thought leadership program that highlights your organizational expertise by communicating your vision of the industry, along with its challenges and solutions, to customers and prospects. The trick is to do it through earned media by placing bylines and blog posts, for example, with target publications, as opposed to buying advertisements or placements.
Here are five steps to get started on developing a thought leadership strategy for 2022:
- Start with the news: Unsure of how to join the conversations occurring around your niche in the industry? Figure out what’s going on in the news within that niche and how you can relate your messaging to it. Maybe your company helps payers and providers collaborate on value-based care contracts. Perform a Google News search on “value-based care” and you’ll surface numerous articles that deliver messaging that is likely consistent with your own, such as one on a study that revealed that Medicare Advantage patients receiving value-based care had better outcomes overall, along with lower costs and more preventive care. Incorporate this news into your own messaging about creating better outcomes through value-based programs. Come up with a few more keyword searches, then rinse and repeat.
- It’s about industry trends, not your products: Editors aren’t interested in running articles that masquerade as advertisements for your products; they would prefer to sell you an ad for that. Editors want to publish articles that their readers are interested in and will click on to boost their websites’ page views. Think big picture: What are the problems that keep your customers awake at night?
- Say what others won’t: Now’s the time to tap into your inner contrarian. If you’re simply parroting the cliches or obvious conclusions that others are (“Artificial intelligence can improve healthcare worker productivity!”) you aren’t likely to attract much interest. What about your niche is something others aren’t already talking about? What’s a provocative take in the area that will capture others’ attention? Be bold. There are likely others who feel the same way as you but aren’t willing to share their views.
- Variety is the spice: While much of the subject of thought leadership focuses on producing bylines, don’t neglect other forms of content that can effectively convey your message. This may include blog posts, eBooks, white papers, podcasts, social media, videos and letter-to-the-editor responses to articles other industry leaders have published.
- Think “green”: Never forget the importance – and efficiency gains – of recycling, reusing and refreshing existing content. You work hard on your content, so it’s important to get as much mileage out of it as possible. For example, long-form content such as white papers and eBooks can be repackaged as a byline, blog post, infographic, landing page and social media content. Too often, companies expend valuable time and resources on developing content from scratch, which is unnecessary and inefficient. Don’t make life so hard on yourself.
Attracting and maintaining the attention of customers, prospects and peers is always a challenge, but for many companies that lack gargantuan marketing budgets, thought leadership is the key that opens the door. Apply these lessons to your thought leadership program in 2022 and my crystal balls indicates you will gain more visibility and recognition as a visionary and industry thought leader. Happy New Year!
About the Author
Jodi Amendola is a healthcare/healthcare IT marketing and communications strategist and thought leader. A 30-year industry veteran, Jodi is CEO and co-founder of Amendola Communications, a national, award-winning public relations, social media, content marketing and marketing communications agency serving healthcare, health IT and life sciences organizations. She is also a Forbes Agency Contributor.