TEN3 Public Relations founder and CEO Sharon Robustelli tells Doug Simon she is "really amazed" that so few agencies treat thought leadership as a standalone service.
"There are a number of companies that come to us who aren't in a position or don't fully yet need a full marketing communications program, but they do need to be able to share their point of view, show why they're different than the competition and often a thought leadership program on its own is the way to do that," Robustelli says.
How can you tell when a thought leadership or executive visibility program is the right fit for a company? One key indicator, she says, is "if a company is in sort of a parity industry, where it's difficult to distinguish one company from another." Companies about to hit such milestones as reaching a significant revenue goal or embarking on a fundraising round can also be good candidates.
Robustelli talks about how to make sure you're spotlighting the right leader—in the right way—in your thought leadership efforts. "For someone who may not be comfortable in front of the camera," she says that written communications, such as bylined articles, can be a good way to go.
She also stresses the importance of using thought leadership to communicate a company's openness to, and effort toward, change—whether the company is a "younger startup" or an established player.
More mature companies, Robustelli tells Simon, need to show that they are "recognizing and changing with the times. If you're doing a lot of internal programs and you're working on, let's say, your diversity initiatives, then it's really important to have someone within your company, your leadership, talk about what you're doing, because people would love to know that a brand that they've supported over years or generations is actually paying attention to their needs."
To measure how well their thought leadership efforts are performing, Robustelli suggests that commnicators go beyond "the standard kind of PR metrics such as impressions and social engagement" and look at such direct factors as "Did you attract new business, new clients?" or "Are you attracting new team members?"
She also says that thought leadership should include all of a company's leaders—not just the CEO. "Look at the people within your organization as your first asset, your first leveragable asset. So if you're a startup and you're still building that business, think about how your leadership can be out there talking about what you're doing, sharing those wins that you're having while you're continuing to build that business."
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