Media releases, whilst not entirely dead as a means of generating media coverage as part of a public relations strategy, are these days nowhere near as effective as establishing a thought leadership platform.

Establishing this platform helps generate media coverage through media utilisation of op-eds (opinion pieces) and, because the organisation/individual becomes known as an expert (or ‘talent’) on this topic, they actually call you for comment, rather than the other way around: every public relations professional’s dream come true!

Most media is tired of product announcements through media releases, but they can still be captivated by issues-driven campaigns underpinned by thought leadership (Craig Badings’ blog is a great resource on this topic). Three fundamental precepts of meaningful media coverage for thought leadership include:

  • strategically targeting media relevant to organisational target audiences (appropriate vertical B2B media, mainstream metro, talkback radio etc). There is no point (other than ticking fatuous media coverage KPI boxes) in coverage for the sake of it. The KPIs should be driven by business and communication needs
  • focusing on issues platforms relevant to organisational target audiences and, even if not all the time, they should be consistently relevant to the company’s service/product offering
  • choosing wisely who will front the thought leadership campaign. Will it be one person or more? From a brand consistency perspective it is better to have one person, but it provides brand ‘insurance’ if more than one person is utilised, as employees can leave at any time. It is also possible to use different spokespersons for different sorts of campaigns in a customised manner (e.g. a technical, customer-facing person for technical issues and the CEO for broader issues such as supply and demand in the marketplace or sustainability).

There are a range of ways, or ‘steps’ if you like, to help develop thought leadership platforms. These include:

  • undertaking ‘desktop’ research into key areas relevant to the organisation through the internet/media; looking overseas to identify useful information and potential platforms that can be refined for Australia (the recycling and recontextualising and freshening up of platforms/information is fine – in fact, it’s smart!)
  • talk to any potentially relevant person you can in the organisation – marketing, business, technical etc – to inform you as to what the organisational needs and opportunities are, including for thought leadership itself; what are the target audiences looking for expertise on?
  • holding workshops/brainstorming sessions with senior leadership: identify their interests and passions, both professional and non-vocational specific; what are they obsessed about/experts in? Don’t be afraid to probe and push and use what you have come up with in the preliminary research stage
  • A combination of the above approaches is, of course, the best practice way to go.

When coming up with a draft list of thoughts, and this might be pre or post the leadership workshop, it is absolutely a good idea to have a chat with a few journos who are ultimately being targeted. Get their feedback on some of the thoughts/issues you have conceptualised to see if they would be interested in a point of view on it/them.

You need some themes/content to back up the question so you sound more credible, but it is okay to position it as a WIP. This is good for a relationship-building exercise with the media. Only use journos you trust for this, bearing in mind it is also a great way to build trust.

You should undertake this interaction before spending large amounts of time (i.e. client/employer money) developing the content anyway, as you may decide to drop an approach or dramatically reconfigure it to more closely meet media needs/interests.

An op-ed is a great way to kick off the thought leadership campaign. Different elements of the thought leadership platform can be focused on over a long period of time in different op-eds.

In future posts I’ll talk about leveraging the media interest generated by an op-ed placement and, in particular, how op-eds have an even greater opportunity in B2B media.

So, what are your thoughts on information in this post? Have you applied any of these approaches? How did they go? What have I missed out on that is crucial in undertaking these approaches?