When PR and marketing teams collaborate, magical things can happen: Brands can insert impactful, authentic thought leadership into the sales process and build stronger relationships with buyers, influencers and advocates along the way.
Doing so requires PR and marketing teams to embrace a ‘blurring of the lines’ between the two functions to both showcase company expertise and answer pressing buyer questions. This can be accomplished through thought leadership-based content and an integrated dissemination plan that includes earned, owned and paid distribution.
Why is thought leadership content so valuable?
Thought leadership pieces have become some of the most widely disseminated, highly regarded and most consumed forms of content on the internet. According to research by Edelman and LinkedIn, out of 1,200 respondents, 58% read one or more hours of thought leadership per week.
Why does this matter? Consuming thought leadership content clearly impacts purchasing decisions. In fact, 55% of respondents in that same study said they use thought leadership to vet organizations they may hire, and 60% of decision-makers said thought leadership convinced them to buy a product or service they weren’t previously considering.
How to build credible thought leadership that works for both PR and marketing
Successful thought leadership begins with building trust. Establishing a brand’s trustworthiness through timely and targeted thought leadership provides marketers with an authentic voice that can be woven into numerous marketing and PR channels.
But doing so takes time and a strategic approach. Thought leaders must build a notable reputation for making shrewd industry assessments and articulating keen, well-timed insights. PR campaigns at this stage can help your brand develop an audience of industry and media players to validate your position of expertise. As your thought leadership position becomes more established, your content can even become product centric.
Both buyers and media are interested in unique, timely points of view, with compelling evidence supporting these perspectives, even when the content ties back to products and services. With the right approach, editorial, media pitches and content marketing can be both click-worthy and newsworthy.
One way to ensure the credibility of PR and marketing campaigns is through research. According to Survey Monkey:
- 82% of people would rather read an article based on data than the author’s opinion
- 72% think data-based research is more persuasive than an op-ed
- 73% found it more trustworthy
Using research-based content for lead generation takes this idea even further, beyond PR-based thought leadership that builds brand awareness. Both traditional thought leadership and content created for lead generation need to be relevant to your brand and business, but lead gen assets must be more closely aligned with your product’s value proposition—after all, you want to have a reasonable belief that your readers are valid potential customers.
In addition to using research data to create news releases, articles, blog posts, or for speaking engagements, consider creating product-centric content marketing assets, such as ebooks, whitepapers, product demos or case studies. By gating select content, you collect information for valuable prospects who are likely beyond the “awareness stage” of the marketing funnel.
Amplifying thought leadership via paid channels
Leveraging good thought leadership content across as many distribution channels as possible makes for the most efficient and effective PR and marketing plan. Get the most out of your thought leadership campaigns in 2021 with these paid amplification strategies:
Consumers interact with native ads much as they would interact with regular editorial content. The relevant, non-intrusive ads are strategically placed near similar editorial content in top-tier media, but direct back to your content elsewhere. And while these ads look like editorial to readers, they give you all the targeting benefits of advertising.
For as little as $0.10 cost per click, you can drive readers from target demographics or areas of interest to your smart content. And from there you can watch whether they convert to taking additional actions on your website and build out an audience profile to strategically retarget people who have engaged with your content.
LinkedIn is another great way to target specific buyer groups, by company or persona. You can use the platform to drive engagements or capture leads right on LinkedIn, build brand awareness, or drive traffic back to owned content on your website.
Remember that LinkedIn at its core is about professional networking and relationship building, so the most successful ad campaigns provide something of substance that is of real value to readers.
Sponsored content amplifies thought leadership by serving up your content to potential buyers across a wide variety of mainstream or trade media outlets. Distribution can take many formats – from articles to videos, infographics and more. But before you commit to any sponsorship, be sure you are evaluating each opportunity on these key criteria:
- Goal alignment: Sponsored content can support brand awareness or lead generation goals, and many outlets can also do cost-per-lead or ABM (account-based marketing) programs. Be sure you are asking for and evaluating inventory that meets your program needs.
- Audience match: does the publication have a good percentage of readers that match one or more of your buyer personas (profiles?)? Each publication should be able to provide detailed readership demographic information including company size, industry, job title or role, geographic region etc.
- Realistic performance estimates: these may include things like average page views, click throughs and impressions, or even guaranteed leads if your program is designed for lead generation. It’s a red flag if a content outlet can’t or won’t provide this type of information.
All of the prior strategies should drive traffic to your website. And, because 96% or more of first-time website visitors are not ready to buy, it’s essential to find ways to stay in touch with new visitors even after they click away from your content. This is where retargeting comes in. Most people think of retargeting for B2C, but it’s just as effective for B2B, sometimes even more so.
It pays to be very intentional about where you are driving traffic on the front end, which allows you to more effectively retarget visitors once they’ve left your site – it’s all about aligning content with the stage of the buyer journey.
Regardless of what platform you use to retarget, ads should be focused and targeted. For example, visitors who read an article about how to pay restaurant workers more quickly during a pandemic are more likely to respond to an ad for a specific solution, compared to people who visit a more general page on how the pandemic has impacted the financial health of the workforce.
Thought leadership: The key to a super-charged PR and marketing collaboration
From developing an insight-rich and research-heavy content strategy, to effectively disseminating news- and click-worthy messages, 2021 is the year to bring your PR and marketing teams together.
Understanding and leveraging the influence of thought leadership will help you create a powerhouse PR and marketing program that drives brand awareness, engagement and lead generation.
Many leading companies – both B2B and B2C – find that thought leadership content is changing the way they market themselves at each stage of the buyer’s journey. Now is the time to cement your brand’s place among reliable industry experts and use that thought leader status to boost brand influence and sales numbers at the same time.