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Defining Leadership

Thought Leadership Can Move your Company to the Head of the Class

Gene Young asked:

Senior executives have years of experience in management and often have spent their career within their present or primary industry. Because they have been through the cyclical ups and downs and are intimately familiar with the trends and dynamics that affect their industries, they are often sought out for their clear insights and observations.

However, achieving such a lofty status does not occur overnight. It should be done with skillful strategy and planning in mind. Your internal public relations director (if you have one), or your outside PR consultants or agency should be charged with creating a strategic plan that will enable you to become the source of meaningful information. They can help research and prepare thought-leadership articles that are timely and of strong interest to your publics. The articles may address present customers and prospective customers as well as other key audiences that may include suppliers and government agencies or municipal officials.

For example, let’s assume your company’s long-range goal is to build a plant to supply parts or services to the soon-to-be-booming personal jet industry. A well-prepared article in a locally read business weekly or monthly publication can condition the market for the benefits the new plant will bring and help to create awareness. As a recognized industry expert in aviation services, your insights on employment, technology, skilled positions, and their long-term affect on the local economy may be read with great interest. Follow-on with speaking engagements, roundtables, TV interviews, podcasts, etc. and you can quickly become the knowledgeable go-to expert in your markets.

Trying to influence strategic decision makers is often easier this way and more efficient than getting to them one-to-one at critical-stage meetings. If you carefully define the audiences you need to address and prepare an article or speaking opporunity that provides valuable new information or speaks directly to their concerns, you’re likely to reach your strategic objectives much sooner and at less cost.

Start by listing the topics or subjects you are qualified to address. Your PR team can research the latest editorial calendars of leading local or national publications. They can also prepare a brief or abstract of the topics you can cover, along with a bio sheet providing your curriculum vitae. This summary of your professional qualifications should make clear why you are best suited to discuss these topics. Be prepared to offer an exclusive opportunity to one publication. Set a time limit for acceptance and if the publication is not interested take it to another publication. Trade publications thrive on bringing new and timely information to their audiences and your paper may be precisely what their readers are most interested in.

Outstanding examples of thought leaders in the investment world are the “Oracle of Omaha”, Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. It seems no article on careful, long-term investing is complete without a common- sense quote from the master investor. Bill Gates, discussing the future of technology has been Microsoft’s mainstay thought leader since the personal computer industry began. Likewise, Steven Jobs with Apple Computer, has achieved nearly star status as he introduces amazing, people–friendly products each year. Sandy Weil, former CEO of CitiGroup had achieved similar status in investment banking and financial markets.

Becoming a thought leader in your category may also lead you to achieving “expert status.” Your PR team, through skillful media relations, can keep publishers, editors and reporters aware of the topics they should seek you as the expert on if they are building a story or article on a particular topic. Again, this should be done strategically so that it contributes to your overall status as a “thought leader.”

It takes work and planning to achieve thought leadership and achieve expert status, but the rewards for your company can be substantial and long-lasting. Ask your PR firm about how to begin the process for your industry.

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