Thought Leader Perfect Fit

The demand for subject matter experts is at an all-time high as more companies invest in digital content and live events to engage their audience.

Considering that LinkedIn has just celebrated its 1 millionth writer, it might seem like there are more than enough influencers available to fill the demand. However, while there are a lot of people who have a lot to say, true thought leaders are hard to come by.

As discussed in the blog post “How to Identify Your Brand’s Thought Leaders,” you likely have a number of individuals within your own organization whose unique expertise and voice can help you in your brand marketing efforts.

There are times, though, when it benefits you to work with an expert outside of your brand whose personal successes and failures can be used to educate others and evolve your industry.

Micah Liebowitz, PR Newswire’s Director of Digital and Events, has firsthand experience with the trials and tribulations of identifying the right experts to collaborate with, some of which include:

  • Finding experts who are well-established and respected
  • Securing coveted thought leaders ahead of competing vendors
  • Ensuring that personal perspectives coincide with key brand messages
  • Finding the next great thought leader with a fresh perspective

Here are Micah’s top tips on how to weed out the noisemakers and find third-party thought leaders who can help boost your brand’s reputation and business goals.

1. Reach out to experts you’ve worked with in the past. Make sure their expertise fits the topic and that they haven’t spoken on that topic too recently. You can also enlist the help of your sales teams or agency partners to reach out to clients who might fit the bill.

2. Try to secure more than one expert. With regards to live events and webinars, in particular, some experts might be well-versed in niche subject areas while others cover a broader audience base. A combination of both can help drive registration numbers.

3. Research the expert’s online footprint. YouTube videos of live presentations, for example, can help you gauge a speaker’s ability to articulate their knowledge. As Micah explains, if you want people to take time out of their day to attend a presentation or a webinar, the featured guest has to have cachet or the company that they work for should be considered a thought leader.

“An interesting topic has to have an interesting speaker,” he says. “They have to be a luminary in their field and they have to have a message that’s important.”

4. Discover up-and-coming experts outside of your known network. The volume of content being produced continues to grow exponentially each year. And while it’s helpful to have a speaker who is on point with your brand’s message, your audience wants diversity and will grow tired if you use the same event speakers over and over.

Because of this, Micah cautions, the well of qualified experts available within your personal network can dry up quickly. The subsequent challenge is finding emerging thought leaders who are sharing new and interesting ideas within your industry’s speaker circuit.

Submitting an expert query through a service like ProfNet can also help you uncover new talent for digital content and speaking engagements.

5. Interview every speaker before signing an agreement. Never engage with someone who is not going to carry out your message. Before moving ahead on a project, discuss the most important topics you want to cover and listen to their reactions to determine how well they understand and will contribute to it.

6. Follow up with a thank-you note. Be sure to keep your relationship intact with the experts who successfully complement your brand. The relationship could lead to additional opportunities such as guest blogging, sharing leads and more.

You need to carefully select the thought leaders your company works with, explains Micah, because a successful collaboration between brands and external thought leaders is mutually beneficial.

“People trust brands less than they used to,” he says. “Having an outside person vouch for your message rings much louder and is beneficial from an engagement standpoint, moving existing business through the funnel and getting your own thought leaders recognized.”

For the experts, speaking on behalf of other organizations gives them an opportunity to boost their public profile, qualify for awards and validate investments in their own brands.

To keep up with ever-evolving business demands, today’s public relations and marketing professionals need to reconsider how they plan their campaigns. Read more PR strategy tips in our white paper High-Impact PR Planning that Drives ROI & Supports Demand Generation.

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