This article is sponsored by Pinpoint PR.
A recent survey we conducted with the Code Red Security PR Network found that 83% of chief information security officers (CISOs) in Singapore would pay a premium to work with cybersecurity vendors that are thought leaders. That is significant, because beyond cybersecurity, even beyond your own products and services, it’s evidence that your buyer wants to know that you have the expertise to solve their problem.
If you want to go on air or in print, to successfully pitch you in, your PR team needs to associate your brand with your expertise. We call it thought leadership. A thought leader intimately knows the problem, the solution to that problem, and can build trust that they have the expertise to solve the problem.
An external communications thought leadership strategy establishes credibility for that expertise, so it’s worth investing in. Here’s why.
What we know about thought leadership is that prospects are more likely to buy from a brand that has visible thought leaders, than from another brand that sells a similar product or service. In the survey mentioned above, Code Red commissioned a report of 819 IT security decision-makers from companies across 10 countries. The importance of thought leadership became evident immediately, as globally, 74% of CISOs confirmed they would be willing to pay a premium to work with a cybersecurity vendor who is a thought leader in its market sector.
Thought leadership is considered a significant marker of quality and helps build the reputations of suppliers. The influence of such content is undeniable, as Code Red found that 42% of CISOs surveyed measured credibility based on whether the content provides detailed information on the subject that they are interested in.
Even once a deal has been struck, thought leadership remains paramount. 35% of CISOs stated that they have even increased their business with an existing supplier because of strong thought leadership. It’s clear that thought leadership content must be treated as a whole funnel tactic, not just top-line awareness.
Establishing thought leadership takes well-considered effort and persistence. Those that commit themselves to this tactical approach gain an important competitive advantage and build value for stakeholders in their own business.
How should you communicate your expertise?
What gets attention from the media are tactical, problem-solving conversations.
Byline editorials communicate how you solve industry challenges, and when published, it’s important to share those articles online so that those opinions are exposed to your customers and prospects. And it doesn’t have to be published in mainstream media: 30% of CISO’s Code Red surveyed read national newspapers, whereas more than 60% of respondents said they read IT and cybersecurity trade media. In Singapore, we have found that to be true for tech conversations in general, not just for cybersecurity.
The top three formats for consuming thought leadership content are trade media, videos, and webinars.
Videos build trust - it’s authentic communication. The audience observes visual cues to build trust in the spokesperson and their message.
With webinars, you can deep dive into thought leadership content. Webinars and roundtable events help tap your prospects to find out what their challenges are, and what they perceive their future moves to be, plus showcase expertise to shape their thinking.
EBooks, white papers and blogs, and podcasts are less popular aspects of thought leadership, although they still play a role.
A full range of content types parlays into direct searches that use keywords to form how people discover relevant thought leadership content. Keywords matter, because your work language can be more technical and centric to the reader than the layman language used in mainstream media. 46% of CISOs we polled used keywords to research particular subjects online.
Sharing online extends your reach to prospects. About 31% of the CISOs we polled said that they had been exposed to thought leadership articles that were shared online by friends and network contacts.
Credibility is a core component of thought leadership: if you are not carrying a message that the audience believes and engages with, how can you actually know that they will even read, watch or listen to what you’re saying?
Precise information, with supporting evidence and the voice of experienced and qualified experts as authors, form the core ingredients in establishing credibility.
Credibility is established by the level of quantifiable evidence used to support statements made in the content, and whether the content provides detailed information on the subject the prospect is interested in. The experience and qualifications of the author matters slightly more than the reputation of the company, or where the content is found.
When developing thought leadership content, it is important to be an actual person, using your own voice, as no one likes narcissistic self-promotion. Cultivate a niche - people want to know your speciality, so you can’t be a thought leader and a generalist. You must appreciate too that your audience has limitations - speak to gain understanding. Don’t be boring, and provide information that is based on evidence, as well as opinion.
And lastly, this is important: Get a good team around you that can help you build your thought leadership profile. Although your experience and training matter, you need proper training to externally communicate well or to tap a team that has that expertise.
It takes time to get noticed. You have to keep plugging at it because your reputation will build over time.
The writer is Illka Gobius, managing director of Pinpoint PR. Pinpoint PR is a consultancy for emerging technology, enterprise technology, and science public relations.
Contact Gobius at Pinpoint PR or on LinkedIN.