We are living in an increasingly connected, digitally-influenced world. For business leaders, there has never been a time where they have basked under the spotlight of the industry, competitors, stakeholders, and consumers. Being a thought leader can profoundly impact your company’s public relations (PR) strategy in such a transparent and open business landscape.
A thought leader is an individual or organisation recognised as a trusted expert in their field, offering valuable insights, guidance, and solutions. Thought leadership can help to build trust, establish credibility, and drive engagement with your target audience, making it an essential component of any effective PR strategy. After all, you want a charismatic, dynamic, influential figure as the face of your business – one who can sway public opinion and develop a trustworthy relationship with the audience.
According to a survey by Edelman, 63% of consumers trust a brand more if it has a positive reputation, and that reputation is often established through PR (Source: Edelman, 2021). This is where a robust thought leadership strategy can provide PR with a massive edge. In this blog, you will learn how famous thought leaders have made thought leadership their blueprint for PR success and how you can follow suit.
Harnessing Thought Leadership as Part of Your PR Strategy
Cultivating thought leadership is a deliberate and ongoing process that requires effort, dedication, and commitment. Here are three critical strategies for building and maintaining a solid reputation as a thought leader:
Thought leaders are defined by their ability to offer valuable insights and solutions to their target audience. To be a successful thought leader, you must articulate your ideas clearly, concisely, and compellingly and offer real value to your audience. This may involve conducting research, analysing data, sharing your findings, or offering expert commentary on industry trends and challenges. Whatever approach you take, the key is to provide insights and ideas that are truly valuable to your target audience. This is a crucial tenet of value-based leadership that seeks to engage positively with one’s audience and build brand loyalty.
Take, for instance, how Sanjiv Bajaj – the Chairman and Managing Director of Bajaj Finserv – came to be regarded as one of the most famous thought leaders in the country. After shifting from the auto business to the newly-established financial services sector, Sanjiv Bajaj sought to transform the organisation at every level. He drove real value by hiring entrepreneurial leaders, investing in innovation, targeting the oft-ignored underserved markets, and building differentiation. That led him to the position of becoming a real changemaker in the financial services sector in India. Today, as the President of CII (2022-23), he continues to embolden the industry with his breakthrough ideas and bold vision. Bajaj’s audiences and industry stakeholders find his well-researched analysis and forecast revelational, translating into Bajaj being a visionary organisation in the sector!
Embracing Originality and Authenticity
Authenticity is vital when it comes to thought leadership. Your target audience is looking for genuine, honest, and trustworthy leaders who are willing to stand up for their beliefs and values. To be an authentic thought leader, you must be true to yourself and always be willing to speak your mind, even when it is not popular. Most importantly, you must be consistent with your brand’s tonality and vision. This makes you a part of a cohesive whole, thus heightening the relatability factor for audiences. By being authentic, you will build a strong reputation as a trusted expert and establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.
This is where we have to mention inspirational business leaders like Rahul Bajaj – the former Chairman of Bajaj Auto and the father of Sanjiv Bajaj. Many considered him to be one of the most outspoken presidents of CII, the industry lobby. His ideas and opinions had a transformative impact on the rise of the automobile industry in the country, making him one of India’s first authentic thought leaders who was never afraid to speak his mind.
Gunning for Consistency
Thought leadership is not a one-time event. To be truly effective, you must be able to share your insights and ideas consistently over time. This may involve writing articles, giving speeches, participating in industry events, or offering expert commentary in the media. Whatever approach you take, the key is to be consistent and always share valuable insights and ideas with your target audience.
Anand Mahindra, the Chairman of the Mahindra Group, has made quite a name for himself as an outspoken thought leader in India. Being incredibly active on social media and regularly sharing interesting facts, stories and insights have enabled him to consistently engage audiences and shape the perception of Mahindra as a consumer-centric brand. Doing so has been great for his PR, increasing his popularity amongst the masses and increasing confidence in the products and services offered by his brands.
Another Indian thought leader who has successfully leveraged a thought leadership strategy for PR is Mukesh Ambani, the chairman of Reliance Industries. Ambani’s approach focuses on leveraging his expertise and vision to transform the Indian economy and make it self-reliant. He has been a strong advocate of digital transformation, and his efforts have played a significant role in making India a hub for digital innovation. Ambani is also a prolific speaker, regularly addressing industry events and sharing his thoughts on the future of technology and its impact on business and society. By consistently sharing his ideas and opinions, Ambani has built a solid personal brand and a reputation as a visionary leader, which has greatly benefited the image and perception of his company and the Indian economy as a whole.
In a Nutshell: 7 Transformative Benefits of Thought Leadership for PR
- Establishes expertise: Thought leadership helps establish an individual or organisation as a subject matter expert in a particular field or industry.
- Builds credibility: By demonstrating expertise and thought leadership, organisations can build credibility and trust with their stakeholders.
- Enhances reputation: Thought leadership can help improve an organisation’s reputation by showcasing its unique perspective and thought process.
- Attracts media attention: Thought leadership content is often seen as newsworthy and can attract media attention and coverage.
- Generate leads: Thought leadership can be used to generate leads and build relationships with potential customers.
- Differentiates from competitors: By showcasing thought leadership, organisations can differentiate themselves from their competitors and stand out in their market.
- Supports long-term brand building: Thought leadership is a long-term brand-building strategy that can help organisations establish a strong, sustainable brand presence.
For audiences today, a business is only as good as its leader. While that may sound like a challenge to many, it is an incredible opportunity to shape your persona as a thought leader and directly impact your organisation’s awareness, reputation and growth. Isn’t that what every good PR strategy aims to deliver?
By building trust, establishing credibility, and driving engagement with your target audience, you, as a thought leader, become the centrepiece of bringing more value to your organisation. Keep it original, consistent and insightful, and you will reap the benefits for decades to come! Thus, with a healthy thought leadership strategy, many transformational leaders in business have been able to accelerate their PR success.