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How to Become a Thought Leader: 5 Ways to Build Your Online Reputation to Get More PR


leader-of-thoughtsIn a recent survey from Edelman, 58 percent of decision makers said they’d awarded business to a company with executives who exhibited thought leadership (this citation is evidence: we’re quoting another PR firm because of its thought leadership!). 

They did so for good reason – having a presence as a thought leader shows your current and potential customers that you do more than sell a product or service; it shows that you’re deeply invested in solving their problems. 

But actively engaging in thought leadership can do more than impress potential business partners. It can also get journalists to notice you, which can lead to interviews in publications that your customers read.

How? Journalists regularly Google topics related to their stories to find expert sources. If you have a presence online, you may show up in their search results.

Here are five strategies you can start using right away to build your online presence and reputation and prove to journalists that you’re worth covering.

1. Write a blog

Most people start research projects with a Google search, and journalists are no different. If you’re creating fresh, insightful content about a topic you’re an expert on, a journalist might come across it when they’re researching that subject. 

When they see you’re an expert, they may ask you to be a source for their story.

Not sure where to start? Try addressing the aches and pains your prospects are having.

You can also use it to share your thoughts on current events (which can get the attention of a journalist working on a timely story), an update about your company, or anything else that readers might find interesting.

Pro tip: take care of SEO basics on your blog to improve your odds of ranking in search and being found by a journalist.

2. Work with other thought leaders

Know who the key influencers are in your industry, especially the ones who have been mentioned in the media.

Offer to publish one of their blog posts on your website. Who knows? They may ask the same of you. As you build a relationship, you might consider writing an article or blog post together. 

This can help you reach a new audience and boost your credibility with journalists who follow the influencer you’re working with.

3. Post on LinkedIn

If you’re not up to creating your own blog, LinkedIn is a great alternative. Anyone with a profile can publish occasional articles that are findable through normal Google searches – and if a journalist comes across you that way, your entire bio is right there, which makes it easy to reach out.

In addition to publishing through LinkedIn’s native blogging platform, use these strategies to show reporters that you’re the real deal:

  • Post thoughts about current events: Weigh in on events relevant to your business and offer a “take” on whatever happened.
  • Post content related to your company’s services: Use this opportunity to explain that you observed a problem and put the pieces in place to solve it.
  • Share blog posts, case studies, or other pieces of content relevant to your industry: Include the top three takeaways in your post so busy scrollers can get the main idea without clicking through.
  • Like, share, and comment on posts from your connections to show that you’re engaged in other conversations.

Pro tip: Invite conversation by asking open-ended questions in your posts. If it makes sense, tag connections who might be interested.

4. Tweet

Journalists love Twitter. In fact, 27 percent consider it their primary news source. 

Because of that, this social platform can be instrumental in showing journalists that you pay attention to (and make!) news in your industry. Use it to share that news, a blog post you just wrote, and, of course, a couple pictures of your dog.

Go a step further by following reporters you want to build a relationship with, and like, retweet, and comment on interesting posts that are relevant to the work you do.

Before you know it, your Twitter feed could lead to a published article. Don’t believe me? Ask PR master Michael Smart!

Note: If you can’t commit to tweeting consistently, delete your Twitter. A static account suggests that you’re not tuned in to the current conversation, which undermines your credibility as a thought leader.

5. Pitch your ideas to the media

Don’t stop with writing for your own blog or LinkedIn page, though. Many news sites accept articles from contributors who are experts in their fields. Contributing to a publication gives you access to a large audience of people who could be potential customers.

It’s also a valuable third-party endorsement and credibility builder because it shows that the publication in question trusts you enough to post your content on their site.

How do you pitch your ideas?

  • Figure out which publications you want to be in. Hint: It should be the ones that your customers read.
  • Pitch your idea to the publication’s editor – explain why your article would be relevant or interesting for its readers.

Once your piece is published, remember to leverage it for maximum impact.

Rule of Thumb: Quality over Quantity

One final caveat on all of this: quality matters. Don’t post on social media or write a blog post just to do it – journalists and customers alike want to see that you’re more than a sales pitch. As the saying goes, speak only when you have something to say, and you’ll train people to listen.

If you’re not sure what you want to say, try one of these strategies:

  • Be contrarian. Make a bold claim that contradicts the accepted wisdom.
  • Say something new or secret. It’s called “news” for a reason.
  • Say something surprising – you know, the kind of stuff people will want to hear more about or share later with their friends.
  • Teach people something.