How to become a thought leader – part 3 – Define your message

Welcome back to part three of our series on how to create a thought leader for your company. We started off by focusing on defining objectives, then moved on to finding the ideal candidates to be developed into thought leaders. In part three, we’ll be looking at how to define and refine the message your thought leaders are delivering.

Thought leaders can add personality to your company’s public image. However, while you want their character to shine through, they still need to be aligned with your messaging and values to create a positive impact that leads to tangible results such as increased site traffic and filling the sales pipeline. 

Develop as a specialist

When trying to establish a reputation in the media and channels such as social media and forums, it can be tempting to simply seize as many opportunities as possible. While all exposure is good, this approach can run the risk of the resulting voice being too diffuse and lacking character. Instead, it can be beneficial to look at building a strong reputation in specific areas. First and foremost, this should align with your company’s primary offering and USPs, but thought leaders should also look to establish their own unique voice and reputation that draws on their expertise.

A thought leader who specialises in threat hunting or financial security and draws on years of experience in the field will have a much better chance of standing out in the crowded security market than a generic security professional.

Rein in the sales-speak and marketing fluff

Sales and marketing professionals tend to have a lot of the communication skills that make a good thought leader. However, while they are likely to have a prominent role in promoting your products and services, it is important to know where to draw the line when it comes to using sales language. Similarly, they should avoid veering into empty marketing fluff at all costs.

Taking a neutral tone and focusing on vendor-agnostic, practical advice is the best approach for media opportunities and is a valuable facet of social media and conference talks as well. They should of course still seize any appropriate opportunity to promote the company but should look to blend this with a position as a neutral industry expert as much as possible. Drawing on personal experience rather than repeating sales pitches can help to deliver the company’s value in a practical way.

Know your target audience  

As discussed in our previous blog, your choice of thought leader will often be dictated by your target audience. C-level executives generally take more notice of other established, senior individuals, while more technical decision makers will resonate with more tech and are less concerned with seniority. Accordingly, thought leaders must be familiar with your target audience and adapt their language appropriately, whether they are addressing security practitioners or non-technical C-level executives.

Care should also be taken when targeting specific vertical sectors such as finance, healthcare or manufacturing. Thought leaders must be well-versed in the key issues for each industry, such as unique pain points, regulatory demands, and recent trends and developments.  While they don’t necessarily need to be an expert in each sector in their own right, they should be able to go beyond a generic surface level of discussion, particularly if they are engaging in an interactive format.

Be aware of local nuances  

Alongside specific industries, thought leaders must also have a good level of knowledge on any target country. While it is ideal to have a thought leader based in the country itself, in many cases they will be engaging with the market from abroad. This is particularly common in smaller companies that are still expanding and growing their operations base overseas, or when the thought leader is a particularly specialised role that is not present elsewhere across global operations.

Whatever the case, different laws and regulations can often significantly change the course of the discussion on cyber security, so thought leaders will need to be aware of any differences that will impact their approach. A US-based thought leader discussing financial security in the UK for example would need to know any differences in approach between the US Securities and Exchange Commission and UK Financial Conduct Authority.

A decent knowledge of local economic and political current affairs can also be important depending on the focus of the campaign, and especially so if the thought leader is engaging in discussion on recent events or taking part in breaking news media activity.

Getting all of these points right requires a combination of individual development and a strong support network. A good PR or marketing team can provide media training to help shift language away from sales speak, as well as helping to shape messaging to bring out the best in in the thought leaders’ expertise. They should also be providing individuals with briefs to ensure they are aware of specific industry and location-based issue.

Next week we’ll be looking at how to boost a thought leaders’ reputation further by developing them into a bona fide content creator.  

How to become a thought leader – part 4 – Developing original content

How to become a thought leader – part 2 – what makes an ideal candidate?