How to Approach Thought Leadership

If you had a dollar for every time your Communications team has uttered the phrase “Thought Leadership”, you’d probably be able to buy your dream vacation home.

In nearly every industry, being recognized as an expert on the issues relating to your products and services is an aspirational goal. As such, some of our clients invest a lot in their PR Thought Leadership programs – they build in-depth reports around strategic topics, mobilize spokespeople to share their messaging, and otherwise invest substantial time and resources into becoming a company the industry looks to for new thinking.

However, despite the importance these programs can play in building a brand and creating media success, we’ve found that some companies have invested a lot in their Thought Leadership initiatives without a reliable way to track how they perform.

A strong Thought Leadership strategy is characterized by sustained media coverage, reader engagement, and influencer pick-up. Metrics addressing these aspects of your program can go a long way toward gauging how successful it is.

Can your team answer the 3 crucial Thought Leadership questions below?

 

1) Is our Thought Leadership generating sustained coverage by the media?

One of our clients in the Business Services industry chooses to track individual reports over time. This analysis gives their team the ability to compare reports to one another, providing insight into which topics seem to be working best. The ability to examine trends in specific reports and topics has helped the client to sharpen their publishing strategies.

Secondary Questions to Answer:
• Which report has the media reacted to most favorably this past year?
• When does our Thought Leadership coverage ultimately die out, on average?
• How frequently (and how sustainably) do top-tier outlets cover us compared to lower-stature outlets?

The following chart displays the daily potential impressions for coverage pertaining to three Thought Leadership reports, all released by our client around the same time.

 

Potential impressions for coverage on thought leadership programs
The chart shows over-time Potential Impressions for 3 reports released last month by a client in the Business Services Industry.

 

2) How do readers engage with our Thought Leadership coverage on Social Media?

Understanding how readers react to your Thought Leadership releases is an important data point for Communications teams.  Measuring how much your audience is engaging with your content (and on which social platforms) can help you improve your strategy for future releases.

Secondary Questions to Answer:tlblog_3_2016_10_25
• Which social platforms show upward trends in engagement over time?
• Which social platforms historically do not trend well with our Thought Leadership content?
• Are there specific influencers in social media who help our content gain positive attention? Or negative attention?

Doing this analysis has revealed interesting data for many of our clients. Some have discovered that their content doesn’t become popular on Facebook until a few weeks after a Thought Leadership release, or that Twitter coverage is strong initially and then dies quickly. These pieces of information can help your team develop aspirational and well-informed plans to engage audiences when and where it will be most effective for your team.

 

3) Are the right authors picking up our Thought Leadership content at the right times?

It’s likely there’s a group of top influencers your company hopes to build a relationship with in relation to Thought Leadership initiatives. By gathering metrics on frequency of pick up by key Thought Leadership influencers, your team can assess how often it’s getting content in front of the right audiences and look for opportunities to make pitching more effective.

Secondary Questions to Answer:
• What caused us to meet our pitching goals in certain months?
• Which pitching strategies provided results and which didn’t?
• How much penetration do we achieve with our key authors compared to our competitors?

Top influencers and articles for thought leadership coverage
The chart shows all Thought Leadership coverage for a client in the Business Services industry during a 5-week period. Green represents coverage written by identified “Top Authors”, whereas Blue represents all other coverage.

Pulling this data for our Business Services client revealed some interesting insights. After identifying the top reporters they hoped to gain attention from, our metrics revealed that a majority of coverage pertaining to Thought Leadership wasn’t generated by that influential group. This data drove home the need to make a change in strategy and refocus on the set of influencers offering the best audience for the client’s ideas.

 

Investing time and resources into Thought Leadership can lead to huge wins for your team. But these rewards may prove elusive unless you are also tracking metrics that will help you optimize the performance of your content.

Measuring coverage sustainability, how readers react to your Thought Leadership, and the relative impact of different authors will give you the data you need to get the most from your Thought Leadership investment

ARTICLE AUTHOR
Eric Koefoot

Eric Koefoot

President & CEO
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