Thought leadership is very important in public relations. It is incredibly powerful when your client is seen an an expert in his or her field, and it makes earned media coverage much easier to secure.
But sometimes clients assume that thought leadership is simply a process PR pros have mastered, when it really starts with them. Some can’t devote much time to PR activities that don’t specifically tout their company. Others are very conservative with public statements, and avoid taking a clear position on issues affecting their market.
That may be appropriate in certain situations, but it does not lead to thought leadership.
Successful thought leadership requires four things:
- Deep market understanding
- Time invested into supporting the PR effort
- The willingness and ability to articulate interesting positions on relevant issues
- The ability to execute quickly
Recently one of my clients had a success that demonstrates well how the process can work. The client is GovDelivery, and Scott Burns is the CEO and Co-Founder. www.govdelivery.com
A couple of months ago there was an excellent post from Tim Lee in Ars Technica about a research paper out of Princeton University. Basically the paper was saying that government web sites were failures and the focus should be on sharing better structured information directly with the public: http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20080603-study-gov-websites-should-focus-on-rss-xmlnot-redesigns.html
Because GovDelivery serves so many federal, state and local government entities, Scott has a clear, front line understanding of the challenges government web masters face. While the Princeton paper raised some good points, it is flat out wrong about the failure of government web sites to serve the public.
So Scott invested the time to write a detailed post on his Reach the Public blog, clearly expressing his views and taking issue with the Princeton paper:
That post in turn attracted the attention of Federal Computer Week, which offered Scott a contributed article based on his blog post. The column ran on August 4:
Know your market, invest the time, articulate an interesting position — and then execute. This kind of success is exactly what we mean at Strategic Communications Group when we talk about “great work for great clients.”
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