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The Thought Leadership PR Strategy: How To Win at B2B

Are you ready to humble yourself in the service of others?

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

Thought lead­er­ship is a power­ful PR strategy. 

Giving advice is a form of art.

Whether you’re a lead­er giv­ing orders, an industry expert provid­ing advice to cli­ents, or a blog­ger offer­ing insights, there’s more to giv­ing people dir­ec­tion than just telling them what they need to hear.

It’s about advising in the spir­it of ser­vitude.
And that is what thought lead­er­ship is all about.

Of course, thought lead­er­ship is also a great PR strategy.

How do you get it to work?

Step 1: The Foundation

Some might think that thought lead­er­ship is about hand­ing out good advice left and right. But giv­ing good advice is difficult.

The will­ing­ness and abil­ity to serve will trans­form someone who gives good advice into a thought leader.

Why is ser­vitude so important?

Existentialism and Thought Leadership

When it comes to thought lead­er­ship as a PR strategy, I often remind myself of the beau­ti­ful words of the Danish exist­en­tial­ist Soren Kierkegaard:

If one is truly to suc­ceed in lead­ing a per­son to a spe­cif­ic place, one must first and fore­most take care to find him where he is and begin there.

This is the secret in the entire art of help­ing.

Anyone who can­not do this is him­self under a delu­sion if he thinks he is able to help someone else. In order truly to help someone else, I must under­stand more than he — but cer­tainly first and fore­most under­stand what he under­stands.

If I do not do that, my great­er under­stand­ing does not help him. If I nev­er­the­less want to assert my great­er under­stand­ing, then it is because I am vain or proud, then basic­ally instead of bene­fit­ing him I really want to be admired by him.

But all true help­ing begins with a hum­bling.

The help­er must first humble him­self under the per­son he wants to help and thereby under­stand that to help is not to dom­in­ate but to serve, that to help is a not to be the most dom­in­at­ing but the most patient, that to help is a will­ing­ness for the time being to put up with being in the wrong and not under­stand­ing what the oth­er understands.”

You can find people who aspire to lead. And you can find people who can give good advice. But can you find a per­son who pos­sesses both of these traits — and is pre­pared to step into the role of the humble servant?

Servitude is the actu­al found­a­tion for suc­cess for any aspir­ing thought leader.

Learn more: The Thought Leadership PR Strategy: How To Win at B2B

Step 2: The Message

Every thought lead­er must, just like an organ­isa­tion, have a core mes­sage. For many years, my per­son­al core mes­sage as a thought lead­er in the PR industry was that we must adapt to digit­al-first. That core mes­sage was present in everything I said and did.

The secret is not to have a core mes­sage, though. Thought lead­er­ship suc­cess stems from pas­sion­ately com­mu­nic­at­ing that mes­sage repeatedly — while still mov­ing forward.

By divid­ing the core mes­sage into con­tent themes, the thought lead­er can cov­er dis­tinct areas of interest without get­ting stuck:

Content Themes

Let’s use a fic­ti­tious example of an IT com­pany. First, they decide on a prom­ise fil­ter for their con­tent strategy:

Promise fil­ter: We make IT easy to understand.

Then, the IT com­pany breaks their core mes­sage down into four busi­ness-crit­ic­al con­tent themes:

Q1 con­tent theme: We make people under­stand the Internet of Things (IoT).

Q2 con­tent theme: We make people under­stand busi­ness auto­ma­tion.

Q3 con­tent theme: We make people under­stand cloud com­put­ing.

Q4 con­tent theme: We make people under­stand man­aged services.

For each quarterly con­tent theme, they pro­duce con­tent pack­ages. Each con­tent pack­age could con­tain the following:

  • Infographics
  • Blog Articles
  • Whitepapers
  • Social Media Updates
  • Landing Pages
  • Lead Magnets
  • Swipe Files
  • Template Files
  • Content Upgrades
  • Online Courses
  • Podcast Episodes
  • Livestreams
  • Email Send-Outs
  • Events
  • Case Studies
  • Webinars
  • Video Tutorials
  • Interactive Quizzes
  • Press Releases
  • E‑Books
  • Testimonials
  • Influencer Collaborations
  • Mobile Apps
  • Slide Presentations

Learn more: The Content Themes PR Strategy

Step 3: The Structure

Every thought lead­er needs an online base­camp, wheth­er that is a brand web­site or a per­son­al web­site. To get the thought lead­er­ship across, the con­tent must be wisely pub­lished and dis­trib­uted for inbound success.

One power­ful way to struc­ture thought lead­er­ship con­tent is to opt for a deep con­tent structure:

Deep Content

Above is an example of an online con­tent struc­ture that’s five levels deep.

In the example above, five lay­ers of ever­green con­tent are stacked:

  • Level 1: Articles
  • Level 2: Content Upgrade
  • Level 3: Resource/​Lead Magnet
  • Level 4: Ebook
  • Level 5: Online Course

Deep con­tent is centred around provid­ing increas­ingly high­er qual­ity to con­tent divers since they’re more valu­able than sur­face browsers.

As for the import­ance of struc­ture and depth, the logic is the same as for ice­berg pub­lish­ing and con­tent themes.

Learn more: The Deep Content PR Strategy

Step 4: The Resilience

For any­one in a pos­i­tion of superi­or­ity, be it a lead­er or an adviser or both, accept­ing the role of a ser­vant is the true chal­lenge in thought lead­er­ship. As such, it’s not an easy path to take.

Long-term resi­li­ence is most import­ant for a thought lead­er who wants people to listen. The thought lead­er must be ready to take the high road and per­sist — even seek­ing the path with the most obstacles.

The Stoic PR Professional

I’m fas­cin­ated by Stoicism and I’m inspired by the idea of trans­lat­ing clas­sic­al Stoic vir­tues (wis­dom, cour­age, justice, tem­per­ance) and apply­ing them to pub­lic rela­tions:

The Wisdom Pitch

A Stoic is someone who trans­forms fear into prudence, pain into trans­form­a­tion, mis­takes into ini­ti­ation, and desires into under­tak­ing.”
— Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Tell stor­ies of how organ­isa­tions can be wise and over­come obstacles that have stopped oth­ers in their tracks.

Convey the PR mes­sage of how to apply wis­dom, know­ledge, and experience.

The Courage Pitch

We can­not choose our cir­cum­stances, but we can always choose how we respond to them.”
— Epictetus

Tell stor­ies of brands that nev­er back down in the face of hard­ships that would lay waste to oth­er organisations.

Convey the PR mes­sage of how an organ­isa­tion can be right­eous even when storms are raging.

The Justice Pitch

Concentrate every minute on doing what’s in front of you with pre­cise and genu­ine ser­i­ous­ness, ten­derly, will­ingly, with justice.”
— Marcus Aurelius

Tell stor­ies of how organ­isa­tions relent­lessly can strive for hon­esty and trans­par­ency — even when uncomfortable.

Convey the PR mes­sage of how all brands, without excep­tion, can rid them­selves of dis­hon­esty and incompetence.

The Temperance Pitch

It’s not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, who is poor.”
— Seneca

Tell stor­ies of organ­isa­tions that strive for high­er val­ues in a world where all oth­er organ­isa­tions suf­fer shortsightedness.

Convey the PR mes­sage of organ­isa­tions pre­pared to abstain from short-term gains to make the world a bet­ter place for all.

Learn more: Stoic Philosophy for PR Professionals


Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing it with oth­er PR- and com­mu­nic­a­tion pro­fes­sion­als. For ques­tions or PR sup­port, con­tact me via jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

PR Resource: How To Identify a Good PR Strategy

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Spin for the win.

How To Identify a Good PR Strategy

Your PR strategy should answer one simple question:

  • Does this strategy provide a guid­ing prin­ciple for how our organ­isa­tion should win the war for atten­tion, trust, and sup­port in our com­pet­it­ive landscape?

If your PR strategy fails to answer this ques­tion, it’s just orna­ment­a­tion (i.e. cor­por­ate cringe).

Learn more: Your Bullshit PR Strategy is Cringe, Sorry

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Learn more: How to Create a PR Strategy That Actually Works

Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

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