Developing Thought Leaders

Explore what makes thought/opinion leaders successful and how to get them there


Developing a spokesperson into an industry-respected thought or opinion leader can benefit the brand awareness of a company immensely. To explore why, I'm joined by Samantha Dybac, founder of The PR Hub and podcast host of Influence Unlocked. We cover the challenges and opportunities of developing the profile of a thought leader, whether it's imperative they have social media platforms and an existing media profile plus, how to manage expectations.


By having a notable thought leader comment on industry trends and developments, you're able to generate and leverage additional media coverage opportunities otherwise not available"

Listen to the full episode on The PR Pod podcast for more about developing thought leaders. You'll also find this episode on your fave podcast players, just search "The PR Pod".



WHAT IS THE BENEFIT OF DEVELOPING A THOUGHT LEADER?

  • Ultimately, there has to be a goal attached to building the personal brand or profile of a spokesperson. Generally, that goal is tied to increasing the awareness of their company as being credible and trustworthy among the target market. By leveraging the spokesperson, you're able to help drive key messages and brand awareness.

  • By developing credibility and trust in that person, they become more desirable as a spokesperson for their sector or industry which then allows you to add value to the company.

  • As a consumer, we don't necessarily just look at a product. We connect to a story and a relatable experience, and a spokesperson can help drive that for a company.


HOW DO YOU ASSESS WHETHER SOMEONE COULD BE AN EFFECTIVE THOUGHT LEADER?

  • Look at what they have achieved professionally so far. Do they have experience and expertise which would make them a desirable candidate for commentary?

  • If they have built up a profile already, what platforms have they leveraged previously? Are they utilising company blogs or LinkedIn articles, do they have a social media presence, have they any prior media experience? They don't need to have any of this but it's helpful to know where you're starting from.

  • Have a realistic idea of what opportunities you could secure for the person, understand the time-frame associated to do so and ensure the client is on the same page as you. If they have unrealistic expectations, you will need to provide context as to why your expectations are different to theirs.

  • Is the person willing to put in the time and effort you require of them? They need to be responsive and motivated and if not, the strategy and results will be affected.

  • Look at their competitors. A SWOT analysis is a great place to start, so you understand the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats from those competitors, and have a clear idea of what opportunities may exist for your spokesperson. Present it to the client so they can see where they sit.


HOW DO YOU DETERMINE WHAT NICHE MAY EXIST FOR A SPOKESPERSON?

Review their experience to date and see where there strengths are, what they're passionate about as well as what's happening in the industry at the moment.

Determine what will differentiate this spokesperson within this sector or niche from other thought leaders of similar experience?



IS ANYONE COACHABLE TO BECOME A THOUGHT LEADER?

If they're willing to give it a go and understand there is a strategic process then it's a good place to start. They need to understand it takes time to establish their credibility. They also need to understand the opportunities will be broad, especially at the start of the campaign. They won't be doing high-profile interviews on a weekly basis from the get-go. If they respect the strategy, you're heading in the right direction.



DO THEY NEED TO HAVE A STRONG SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE?

It depends on the person and the industry they're in. If they're not proactively using those platforms already and don't have the capacity, interest or time to do so, then it doesn't make sense to add this to their workload. However, they will need to understand there may be opportunities they miss out on or may go to a competitor, if they're not prepared to be on social media.


WHAT TIPS DO YOU HAVE FOR DEVELOPING THOUGHT LEADERS?

  • Spend time doing a thorough review of what opportunities and challenges you will be faced with and identify the measurable goals you want or need to achieve. Your strategy needs to be reflective of these things.

  • It's about being proactive and reactive. Yes, you need to be aware of what opportunities already exist in the form of regular segments in radio or television, Q&As and op-eds, but you also have to be reactive to news opportunities. Which means you need to be reading the news a couple of times a day so you can leverage those opportunities, quickly. You need to understand the nuances of the different media outlets available, the target audience of each of those outlets and make sure the opportunities you pitch for are in line with the company and campaign goals.

  • Do media training. Ensure the training is as targeted as possible as your spokesperson needs to be able to integrate key messages and themes that tie into the broader company goals, into any interview opportunity.

  • Your spokesperson has to be available. If you're identifying relevant opportunities regularly and the person is never available or doesn't identify those opportunities as being strategically important, it will be challenging. You need to be on the same page with the importance of embracing opportunities.

  • You need to provide media with some background as to why the spokesperson could comment on a particular topic. What experience do they have that's pertinent to the topic/sector/industry and what value can the spokesperson provide to the media outlet's audience, with commentary?


If you would like some tips on creating an interview schedule for a brand spokesperson, check out this episode.