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How to Build Your Status as a Thought Leader

As a startup, your company likely has the unique opportunity to be an industry pioneer. If you’ve developed a novel technology, are creating a new category of services, are solving an unsolvable problem, or revolutionizing something by doing it faster/cheaper/better, then the industry wants to know what you think.

Just like any other marketing or PR tactic, successful thought leadership needs a strategy and a multi-pronged approach. Since you’ve been producing content you have a library of rich, thought-provoking material to share with the industry. Here are a few tactics that we regularly rely on.

Image of two people speaking in front of a crowd

Build Up Your Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

Your company likely has a few folks who know the industry inside out and backwards. Their expertise is helping to drive the product roadmap and company vision, and they may even be pulled into sales conversations in a consultative role. Shining a light on these internal rock stars is a win-win for both your in-house experts and your company. Making your experts a bit famous not only helps garner earned media mentions, but it adds credibility in the marketplace, and can be a source of inspiration for your content team.

Create SME Sheets

Typically, when a journalist reaches out, the timeline is tight. Having your proverbial ducks in a row in advance will help you take advantage of as many opportunities as possible. We like to create SME Sheets for each of our clients whom we plan on pitching. You can think of this as your SME’s resume for the media. It includes things like descriptions of the subjects your SME is comfortable speaking on, pre-approved quotes, links to authored content and speaking engagements, and social media contact information. If we have a journalist reach out looking for someone to interview for a story, we can shoot back an email with the SME Sheet in a snap.

Looking for some inspiration? Use one of our pre-made SME Sheet templates, formatted in Canva for a polished, professional look: option A, option B, option C.

Try Trusted-Source Pitching

Journalists who write in a particular vertical or segment are always looking for authorities – or “trusted sources” – to interview and quote in articles. Introducing your SMEs to journalists ahead of time helps those journalists build the network of experts they’ll rely on to do their jobs.

The key here is to do your research and carefully curate your list of journalists. Remember how we talked about PR being based on relationships? This is one case where that’s particularly relevant. Choose wisely, nurture the relationship, and watch what the journalist is writing about so you have something meaningful to say. When it’s time to reach out and make the intro, your SME Sheet is a great tool that will make it easy for the journalist to access the information they need as they decide whether they want to speak with your SME or not.

Tap Your SME’s Network, Too

Lastly (and this is frequently the step that gets skipped), make it super easy for your SME to share this content on their own social media channels. As experts, they usually come with enthusiastic followers. They’ll be happy to share their great exposure, and you’ll be happy to get your brand in front of new eyes.

After a new piece of content is published, send them copy-and-paste caption text with the link, hashtags, and handles, all pre-formatted to the correct length for each of their active social channels. They are sharing their network with you - so make it easy!

Above All Else, Remember…

SMEs are busy people. When you do secure a speaking engagement, interview, or op-ed opportunity, do everything you possibly can to make it an easy lift for them. Create thorough opportunity briefs so they know exactly what the media outlet is and what they need to do. Get a list of questions ahead of time from the journalist if possible, and forward them to your SME along with a few recent pieces the journalist wrote. Prepare them with suggested talking points and recent customer or case study data. Whatever you do, don’t send your SME in blind. The easier it is for them to plug into these opportunities successfully, the more willing they’ll be to help you out again when you want to put them on a plane for a day trip across the country to speak on a panel.

Ready to start a thought leadership strategy for your startup? Get Wheels Up’s 5 Tactics for Building PR Buzz to learn more.


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