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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 by Jerry Silfwer (Instagram)

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.

Read also: 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 core message for their content strategy:

Core message: 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.

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

Read also: How Content Themes Works—And Why You Should Use Them

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

Here’s an example of an online content structure that’s five levels deep:

In the example, 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.

Read also: 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.

Stoic Philosophy for PR Professionals - Doctor Spin - The PR Blog
Marcus Aurelius (created by AI).

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 it’s 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.

Read also: Stoic Philosophy for PR Professionals

Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://www.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.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Yes, it is!

    I’m grateful for all our brief conversations. They always help me think further, broader, deeper. And bit by bit, I feel they contribute to both my personal and professional development.

    Blogging helped me find you. As far as I’m concerned, that alone is something worth blogging for.

    Thank you!

    • Likewise Micco! 

      And if nothing else, I find blogging to be a way of giving back to those who share valuable insights. Maybe I can’t add knowledge or insights all the time, but with my own platform, I can at least help good content to get well-deserved attention. And as a blogger, at least I have one thing that no-one else has, and that’s my personal perspective which I can add to the mix. And all the perspectives added together, I think they reveal the true value of being a blogger, a value that goes beyond having tons and tons of readers.

      And for YOU who reads this now; check out https://micco.se/ (SWE), it’s by far the best blog on branding in my Reader!

  2. Yes, it is!

    I’m grateful for all our brief conversations. They always help me think further, broader, deeper. And bit by bit, I feel they contribute to both my personal and professional development.

    Blogging helped me find you. As far as I’m concerned, that alone is something worth blogging for.

    Thank you!

  3. Excellent post. This is why I am not a blogger. I am a web designer, making simple but useful website templates that I give away for free. The site happens to have a blog, which happens to be one of the most linked blogs in the world. But that’s beside the point. I could do advanced and really cool webdesign stuff like the web design superstars do. But when I started learning, I learned from the simple stuff. And I have learned that a lot of people want basic stuff that they themselves can learn from. It is far from being any kind of wisdom, it is just common sense. Somebody has to do the basic stuff. Just as somebody has to write the common everyday blogs that many people still love to read, even if each such blog only have a few readers. It is helpfulness-optimization, if there can be such a term…

    • Inspiring! And by doing so, I also know that you carry a lot of respect in all the right places.

      Helpfulness-optimization. Makes me think of another term, SMO – social media optimization. I think they should be synonymous since, well… sharing is caring!

  4. Excellent post. This is why I am not a blogger. I am a web designer, making simple but useful website templates that I give away for free. The site happens to have a blog, which happens to be one of the most linked blogs in the world. But that’s beside the point. I could do advanced and really cool webdesign stuff like the web design superstars do. But when I started learning, I learned from the simple stuff. And I have learned that a lot of people want basic stuff that they themselves can learn from. It is far from being any kind of wisdom, it is just common sense. Somebody has to do the basic stuff. Just as somebody has to write the common everyday blogs that many people still love to read, even if each such blog only have a few readers. It is helpfulness-optimization, if there can be such a term…

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