Tag Archive for: thought leadership agency

With the emergence of ChatGPT, the world is waking up to changes in content. While these disruptions aren’t always visible to the average reader, top PR agencies have been aware of these changes for quite some time; well before AI-generated content. These changes are impacting all media, including tier one media outlets. These changes aren’t all bad – in fact, for PR savvy B2B companies, leveraging these opportunities can be game-changing. Whether you’re a challenger brand, an emerging industry or Pre-IPO, from CleanTech to HealthTech to Cannabis and AI companies, these are the 2024 B2B media trends leaders need today.

 

2024 B2B Media Trend #1: Thought Leadership, Not Just for CEOs

While CEOs will always play an important role in B2B brand reputation, today’s B2B companies can leverage other brilliant C-Suite leaders to expand their horizons and speak directly to their customer base. Let’s say you’re a SaaS platform for accountants – why not take advantage of thought leadership opportunities for your CFO? Your CEO probably has insights your customers and potential customers would really appreciate, and the signal you’re sending to them is “we get you.”

There’s no reason your C-Suite leaders need even to write their own content, ghost writers do the heavy lifting. In fact, from a brand reputation and thought leadership standpoint, having a ghostwriter is the most optimum choice. Top PR agencies have excellent writers in their ranks and you can take full advantage of their decades of discipline by leveraging that talent to do the heavy lifting of creating content calendars and ideas, not to mention eagle-eye editing.

While owned content remains extremely important, third-party thought leadership opportunities abound today. Never have there been so many opportunities for the C-Suite to make their mark. Today’s ambitious leaders are contributing to Forbes, Newsweek, Entrepreneur, and even industry verticals regularly. And that’s relevant because according to eMarketer, content marketing is the #2 channel driving revenues for B2B companies.

 

2024 B2B Media Trend #2: Give Me The Data

As advertising revenues decrease for top publications, there have been huge swaths of layoffs for journalists. Today’s freelance journalists don’t have the weight of the publication behind them in the same way, and that means gathering marketplace, consumer, or trending data is harder than ever.

B2B companies can double down on earned media by commissioning credible research or leveraging their own data to provide insights to journalists on trending business stories. Remember, even the top business publications are chasing stories of broader interest to the public. Data is the hero of B2B PR—use it.

Not only will using data give you a burst of earned media coverage, but your customers will appreciate it, and it’s the gift that keeps on giving. A well-structured survey will be useful throughout the year and position your company as the top of your industry immediately. Reports like this are also an excellent way to build out your database of potential customers.

Is commissioning credible data expensive? Yes. Is it worth it? Only if you enjoy seeing your company in media outlets like Fortune, Inc., and Bloomberg. Even the Wall Street Journal uses third-party data, and there’s nothing like a quote from your leadership that solidifies a point of view with hard data.

While we’re at it, make PR decisions based on data, too. Modern PR firms have access to data that extends beyond reach and impressions. Identify target KPIs with your PR agency and demand they keep track of those KPIs quarterly. Your stakeholders, like B2B investors, will love this data and allow you to create credibility. Avaans Media uses a combination of social listening and AI to project trends and report on KPIs.

 

2024 B2B Media Trend #3: The Purpose Matters

As 2024 is an election year, there will be ever more eyes on how businesses impact culture. B2B companies can help their customers and themselves by articulating purpose beyond making money. Purpose-driven PR isn’t just for consumer brands anymore. This is especially true for Pre-IPO B2B companies.

Numerous B2B brands have leveraged purpose to distinguish themselves in a crowded marketplace. According to the Harvard Business Review, Purpose-driven companies make more money, have more engaged employees, more loyal customers, and are better at innovation and transformational change.” Purpose is your secret weapon to productivity and PR because purpose gives you another connection to make to timely news stories, especially trending stories like climate and the changing labor force.

If all that isn’t reason enough, because so many B2B leaders shrug off purpose-driven initiatives, it’s a great way to create a competitive advantage, even and especially when there is uncertainty.

2024 B2B Media Trend #4: Re-Thinking Social Media for B2B Companies

For the past two decades, Twitter has been the town hall that gathers VC, potential customers, and media. PR-savvy CEOs took a personal interest in Twitter and knew how to leverage it. What’s more – media outlets LOVED going to Twitter to find sources, take a pulse, and find perspectives. But today, Twitter (X) is a red hot mess. The platform is unstable; the future is uncertain; the bots and trolls have taken over, and media outlets have jumped ship because of reduced credibility. There has been an onslaught of Twitter replacements, from Meta’s Threads to Jack Dorsey’s Blue Sky. But neither of them has quite reached the levels of Twitter (yet). However, LinkedIn is a trusted standby, and more and more professionals, including journalists, are finding refuge there.

LinkedIn has so many ways to improve a B2B brand, but one of our favorites is the LinkedIn newsletter. Leverage this this with premium content gets delivered right to the inboxes of your subscribers. Inboxes that your newsletter doesn’t have access to. LinkedIn is also experimenting with AI-generated content that allows thought leaders to contribute.

2024 B2B Media Trend #5: Use Your PR for Recruitment and Sales

Media coverage provides proof to investors, clients, and the public. But it also provides social proof in recruiting and sales.

From a recruiting standpoint, when your brand is an industry leader, PR helps you attract the best talent. This is especially important for hypergrowth companies who need top talent to take them to the next level or emerging industries that need to establish broader credibility. Your media coverage tells a candidate as much about you as your recruiter does. Plus, ambitious employees like to imagine that there is room for them to be included in media coverage.

PR takes a lot of heat for not being trackable. We disagree, PR is trackable, when your PR is aligned with your business strategies. But nowhere is that more clear than how PR increases revenue. PR helps your current customers stay confident in their choice, reduces friction for new customers, and stimulates potential revenue by allowing you to share solutions that potential customers didn’t even know could be solved.

 

B2B Trend #6: Paid Placements vs. Advertising

Paid placements look different today than they did even three years ago, and some have highly credible thought leadership opportunities. Used strategically, these paid thought leadership opportunities  can provide a platform and opportunity to share a distinctive point of view. Consider these content strategy opportunities within the context of both media coverage and advertising so you can activate and optimize their benefits.

As a C-suite executive, you know the importance of connections. And there comes a time when you may need to connect or reconnect on behalf of your company, be it in the pre-IPO phase or as a solid industry leader. I’m not talking about traditional networking functions where many people shove their cards in your face before scurrying off to find the next victim. No, I’m talking about intimate dinners or events with an exclusive guest list and nowhere to hide; it might be an executive-only thought leadership round table, a fundraiser, or a dinner with journalists. For those times when you find yourself with peers or allies, but you aren’t already connected, it can be a bit nerve-wracking because it may have been a while since you were in a room you didn’t command. Lean into these five tips for executive networking for the C-suite.

 

 Be The Conversation Starter

Whether you’re a master at networking or trying to squash your introversion, this is a fun and easy way to put yourself and others at ease: wearing something notable and reflecting your personality. You’ll stand out, and it puts people at ease and makes it easier to approach you.  For men, this could be a tie or colorful socks. It could be a pin on your lapel or a handkerchief that takes your attire to the next level. For women, this could be a colorful scarf, a pin, or even a bright-colored outfit (it helps to stand out in photos when standing next to a bunch of men in dark suits). Having an immediately obvious conversation starter makes it easier for people to approach you, which might be a welcome break from your own room rotation.

Note to the wise: Comment on the item rather than their looks when you see someone using this tactic. “That’s a fantastic scarf-my wife would appreciate that; where did you get it?” is a great way to start the conversation, charming and disarming.

 

Plan Your Conversation

In advance of the event, read a book or several articles immediately of interest to others at the event; bonus points if it’s mutually relevant. But remember your strategy, what you are doing there – what will your target connections value, and what would make for a memorable conversation. This isn’t the time for conversations around politics or religion.

A quick Google search on the people or organizations you want to meet is also helpful. “I saw you in that Forbes article” is a great starter to any executive networking conversation.

 

Introduce Yourself to Organizers

When hosting professional networking events, I always appreciated people who told me it was their first time or asked me if I was the organizer. It gave me a moment to stop and have a conversation with someone, and I was always able to make a mutually beneficial introduction; after all, I knew almost everyone. Make this work for you as well – many people will forget to connect with the organizer because that’s not who they came to connect with, but you can rest assured, they’re the most connected to the people IN the room. Another small and easy way to stand out and lubricate introductions is to email the organizer in advance asking a question that puts the organizer in the “connected expert position;” something like “What’s the recommended attire?” is easy to ask and answer for the organizer, and yet allows you to stand out in advance.

Introduce Yourself As a Person, Not a Company

While this sounds like “networking 101” because C-suite execs are used to being introduced or used to commanding the room, many miss this essential step. When introducing yourself, start by introducing yourself with your first and last name, and do it every time someone joins the conversation so others hear your name repeatedly. When you introduce yourself, say your first and last name, wait a beat, then say your company name. Many of us rush through our introductions, and we don’t give others a chance to hear or understand, which puts them in an awkward position.  And when introducing others, remember to introduce them before anyone else, including the CEO. Clients should always feel embraced and cherished, which is an easy way to do so.

An easy way to connect with someone is by offering to send them something in the mail. Most people can’t resist getting something in the mail. It could be a sample of your latest, buzzworthy product, a book you recently read, or that excellent protein powder that you swear boosts your energy all day. Whatever it is, make it personal and relevant.

While we’re at it – keep your business cards in your pocket until you’ve established a mutual connection and reason to get in touch in the future; better yet, request a business card. Maybe you don’t have a business card; connect on LinkedIn or send an email before you leave the conversation. Steer clear of asking for someone’s phone number at an executive networking event; it’s inappropriate for a first business meeting and puts people on edge when asked in that venue.

Work the Room without Working the Room

Depending on the location, there are a couple of strategic places you can stand where you will inevitably meet people you might not have otherwise; this is executive networking that looks calm, cool and collected. The first is the bar. Almost everyone hits the bar right away, so being there earlier in the event gives you a chance to connect initially with a few people or at the very least, get a sense of who is at the dinner and who might wish to approach. It gives you that 3-second opportunity to review the situation before approaching.

Another location is kitty-corner from the door. If you stand there all evening, you will have the chance to see almost everyone who walks in – and if you’re there with a welcoming smile and willingness to strike up a conversation, people will be relieved to have someone to talk to in the immediately awkward moments of walking into a room.

Follow Up with Flair

Following up with a short, handwritten note after meeting someone is a masterclass in executive visability. The handwritten note is a lost art, so it’s incredibly memorable. But at the very least, send an email or a note on LinkedIn. You might also consider finding a recent article relevant to your conversation and passing that along as well. And don’t forget to send that item (the book, the product, etc.) too. People are always pleasantly surprised when people do as they said they would.

 

Executive-level visibility is high-stakes. Making the most of any in-person opportunity is good business. So when you’re networking in exclusive situations, make the most of your time, while also valuing the time of others and you’ll find executive networking more enjoyable and effective.

Perhaps one of the greatest PR stories in history is about lifestyle icon Martha Stewart. Martha Stewart’s PR playbook is vast, and it’s nimble. She knows how to stay modern and adjust her PR strategies to the cultural temperature. From her early days as a model turned stockbroker turned caterer, Stewart has shown an uncanny ability to tap into our culture and even our forgiveness. Martha Stewart’s PR lessons for any consumer brand work from product promotion to thought leadership; Martha Stewart has PR lessons for every consumer product entrepreneur.

She Owns It
Martha Stewart became a consumer and lifestyle scion because she boldly suggested ambitious ideas without apology. She knows who she is and she knows when she leans into it, it captures the imagination, creates conversation, and gives her brand character.

In the early days of the insider trading accusations, the press skewered Martha Stewart for conducting interviews on a kitchen set. One journalist called it comical and said it was a bad PR move because it connected the scandal to her lifestyle image. But looking back at it, that was a fantastic choice. Martha Stewart always maintained her innocence throughout her trial and sentence. By calmly and coolly talking about the situation on her home turf, doing things she was comfortable doing, she takes the air out of the accusations and speaks straight to her fans. Stewart’s famously coy aloofness also helped. When she smiles, there’s always been this subtext that she knows more than she’s telling. That’s her superpower, and it leaves everyone hanging on for the next great recipe or design idea. Martha’s clever use of mystery is PR wielded in an expert fashion, despite over-exposure to her consumer products.

Skewered as she was, Wall Street believed in her. While she was in prison, her Martha Stewart Living (MSLO) stock jumped 70%. When Stewart emerged from her five-month jail sentence, she didn’t hide as many people would have. She went straight to the daytime talk shows and showed everyone her ankle bracelet. By the time she launches her show, a mere six months after her release, she premiers the show as “free and unfettered,” now that her ankle bracelet is gone. Throughout the entire experience, Stewart refused to be shamed, even when she was found guilty. It takes courage to pull that off, but Stewart never wavered, and it worked for her.

She Says “Yes”

There are two strategies for building a brand. The first is cool aloofness, and the second is relentless exposure. Stewart is the second, she is a consumer brand PR maven. Being a caterer sounds like a sexy job but also incredible work. But Stewart kept saying yes. As a caterer, Steward contributed to The New York Times and served as the newspaper’s food and entertainment editor. Six years after launching her successful celebrity catering company, she published her first book and never stopped working. She publishes more books—99 at this writing, a monthly magazine, and pre-and post—jail time TV shows, not to mention thousands of media interviews and call-ins to everyone from Howard Stern to Sirius talk radio shows after launching her talk radio show, Martha Stewart is the hardest working woman in show business. Build success upon success; that’s this PR lesson for consumer brands.

But it’s more than that. She makes her brand work for her, instead of working for her brand. Stewart elevates accessible partners like Kmart and Walmart with affordable lifestyle merchandise without losing her aspirational panache. The Martha Stewart PR lesson for consumer brands is to create an aspirational brand and then make it accessible once the brand is established.

 

She’s In on The Joke

Another consumer product PR lesson is to partner wisely. At 80 years old, she partnered with Snoop Dog in ads for Bic lighters. Again, her coy presence gives it charm, while Snoop Dog gives it an edge. Their partnership created more press than the lighter itself, but I don’t think Bic minds sharing the real estate with two completely different lifestyle icons.

When Stewart was sentenced to jail, Saturday Night Live famously debuted a cold open of a topless Martha Stewart. Her response? Once she was released from prison, she was mad that her parole officer wouldn’t let her host the famously cheeky show. She’s said that one of her “big (career) regrets” is not hosting the show yet. Martha Stewart knows certain cultural touchstones resonate and lock in your place in lifestyle history – SNL is one of those, and she’s not done reaching.

Martha Stewart was always in on the joke, and that allowed her to have fun with her brand – another excellent consumer product PR lesson.

Still the “Guru of Good Taste,” Martha Stewart knows she’s not 42 anymore, but she also knows she can bust down boundaries with her timeless approach to humor.

Bazaar magazine called her the “original influencer,” the New York Times called her ageless for her “coquettish, goofy, rambunctious video ads” for Cle’ de Peau, a makeup brand, on TikTok.

Martha Stewart has been celebrated, vilified, laughed at, and skewered, but with a remarkable eye on PR, she’s turned all of that into an asset for herself. Today, Martha Stewart Living Omnicom is a publicly traded company worth billions, and she has a net worth of around $400 million. From thought leadership to consumer product scion, Martha Stewart has captured our imaginations with savvy consumer PR strategies.

What comes to mind when you think about the thought leaders you admire the most? Is it book tours, massive stages, TED Talks, keynote appearances, or even YouTube accounts and Instagram profiles? There is no shortage of distinct insights and perspectives in the modern digital world; yet, even if someone expresses their beliefs online eloquently only sometimes qualify them as a thought leader. The distinct qualities of a thought leader make them stand out from others.

So, Who Is a Thought Leader?

Highly respected, a thought leader is an individual with expertise and innovative ideas in a particular field, the one everyone looks to for guidance and inspiration. Known for their ability to think creatively and develop fresh perspectives and solutions to problems, they may be researchers, educators, executives, or other professionals who can effectively communicate their ideas, inspire others to think differently, and consider new possibilities.

What Does a Thought Leader Do?

So, what does a thought leader do? Well, thought leaders are pioneers and innovators at the forefront of new developments and trends, known for their knowledge and expertise in areas of focus. They consistently seek further information to expand their understanding. Besides sharing ideas and insights through various mediums, thought leaders may also hold other responsibilities, such as teaching, researching, or leading an organization.

Characteristics of a Thought Leader

When an individual backs up their words with their actions, and others believe what they say, that person gains credibility, respect, and a thought leadership position. Here are some key characteristics of a thought leader and what sets these individuals apart as true thought leaders in their field:

(1) Deep Knowledge and Expertise 

One of the critical characteristics of a thought leader is their deep knowledge and expertise in their area of focus-thoroughly understanding the subject and staying current with the latest research and developments in the field. Thought leaders constantly learn and seek new information to expand their knowledge and stay ahead of the curve.

(2) Ability to Communicate Ideas Effectively

Another characteristic of a thought leader is their ability to communicate their ideas effectively. Including being able to articulate complex concepts clearly and concisely, having strong writing skills, and the ability to engage an audience. Generally, thought leaders use a variety of mediums, such as writing articles, giving talks, or using social media, to share ideas and insights.

(3) Creative and Innovative Thinking

In addition to their knowledge and communication skills, thought leaders are also known for their creativity and innovative thinking. Nearly all thought leaders think outside the box and come up with fresh perspectives and solutions to problems. They are fearless in challenging the status quo and propose new ideas, even controversial or unconventional ones.

(4) Vision and Strategic Thinking

Thought leaders have a crystal clear picture of the future and can think strategically about how to accomplish the objectives that they have set for themselves. They take in the whole situation and consider how their choices will affect the greater picture in the long run while outlining a path to achievement and motivating others to follow it to achieve ultimate success.

(5) Strong Leadership Skills

As the name suggests, thought leaders inspire and encourage individuals to succeed. They can establish a productive and cooperative working atmosphere that encourages creative and innovative thinking. They can successfully delegate responsibilities to others, which allows them to develop trust and credibility within the team and the stakeholders.

(6) Ability to Build Relationships

Those considered thought leaders can cultivate robust ties and extensive networks within their respective fields. They can form connections with other individuals and work together on various projects and activities. They can leverage their networks to get information and insights and keep up with the most recent advances in their industry, allowing them to remain updated.

(7) Dedication and Passion

Thought leaders are fully devoted to their area and highly enthusiastic about their job. They are motivated by a strong sense of purpose and the desire to have a good influence on the world. They are also committed to putting in the long hours and showing the devotion necessary to accomplish their objectives and positively impact their respective field.

(8) Ethical and Values-Driven

Strong ethical principles and a dedication to always acting in the most morally commendable manner are other characteristics common among thought leaders. Dedicated to fostering a bright and sustaintainable future, they make their choices in a way open to scrutiny and actively seek improvements. Also, they balance the company’s requirements and duties toward society and the environment.

(9) Adaptability and Resilience

Thought leaders are resilient in the face of adversity and can adjust their approach to new situations effectively. They can draw valuable lessons from their mistakes and turn them into chances for personal development and advancement for themselves and others. Thought leaders concentrate on their objectives and keep moving ahead despite fundamental challenges.

(10) Authenticity and Humility

Thought leaders always maintain a high level of authenticity and sincerity in their interactions with others while earning respect and credibility from those around them. They are confident in who they are and don’t have any issues with being themselves in public. Finally, they are modest leaders who acknowledge the contributions of others and make an effort to learn from whoever comes across them.

A Note on CEO Thought Leadership

CEO thought leadership is a specific form of thought leadership that occurs at the highest levels of an organization. As far as the definition is concerned, a CEO thought leader is an executive who not only has a deep understanding of their particular industry and company but also can inspire and motivate others to achieve success. These individuals can effectively communicate their vision and strategy to the team and stakeholders and build buy-in and support for their ideas.

In addition to their role within their organization, CEO thought leaders also often have a broader impact on their industry and society. They may be called upon to speak at conferences or be featured in media outlets, and their ideas and insights are often highly sought after.

CEO thought leadership requires a combination of knowledge, communication skills, strategic thinking, and leadership abilities to create a positive, collaborative work environment that fosters innovation and progress. Simply put, CEO thought leaders significantly impact their organization and industry and are an invaluable asset to any company—and we couldn’t agree more.

How to Become a Thought Leader?

Here are a few steps you can take to become a thought leader in your respective field:

  • Identify your area of expertise: To become a thought leader, you must deeply understand a particular subject. Identify the areas in which you have the most knowledge and expertise.
  • Build your credibility: To be seen as a thought leader, you must establish yourself as a credible source of information. This can be done through speaking engagements, writing articles or books, and sharing your expertise through social media or other online platforms.
  • Engage with your audience: Thought leaders are experts and thought starters. Thus, to become one, you must engage with your audience by asking and answering questions, starting conversations, and seeking opportunities to share your expertise with others.
  • Network and collaborate with other thought leaders: Thought leaders are often part of a larger community of experts. Build relationships with other thought leaders in your field and collaborate with them on projects or initiatives. You can also connect with them on LinkedIn.
  • Stay current: Thought leaders constantly learn about the latest developments in their field. Continually educate yourself and stay current on the latest trends and research.

By following these steps, you can establish yourself as a respected expert and have the opportunity to shape public opinion, influence decision-making, and positively impact your field.

Famous Thought Leaders to Follow

Each of these thought leaders is an expert in their fields, but they have also used the PR tools at their disposal to become industry or household names.

  • Malcolm Gladwell: Malcolm Timothy Gladwell is a best-selling author and Canadian journalist who writes about the social sciences, psychology, and human behavior.
  • Simon Sinek: Simon Oliver Sinek is a British-born American motivational speaker and author known for his work on leadership and organizational behavior and multiple best-sellers.
  • Brené Brown: Casandra Brené Brown is a researcher, professor, lecturer, author, speaker, and Podcast host, who focuses on topics such as vulnerability, shame, and empathy.
  • Tim Ferriss: Timothy Ferriss is an American investor, entrepreneur, podcaster, lifestyle guru, and author who writes about productivity, time management, and self-improvement.
  • Seth Godin: Seth W. Godin is an American entrepreneur, former dot com business executive, speaker, and author who writes about marketing, branding, and business strategy.
  • Maria Popova: Popova is a Bulgarian-born, American-based essayist, writer, and editor who curates and comments on interesting articles, books, and other media on her blog.
  • Daniel Kahneman: Kahneman is an Israeli-American notable Nobel laureate and psychologist known for his work on decision-making, behavioral economics, and cognitive psychology.
  • Jim Collins: James C. “Jim” Collins is an American researcher, speaker, author, and business consultant known for his corporate strategy and leadership work in the corporate sector.

The Future of Thought Leadership

It is difficult to predict the future of thought leadership, as various factors, including technological advances, societal changes, and shifts in industries and markets, influence it. However, the role of thought leadership will likely continue to evolve and expand in the coming years. One potential trend is increased technology and social media use in thought leadership.

As more people turn to the internet for information and connection, thought leaders may find new ways to use online platforms to share ideas and engage with their audience. This may include using social media websites like YouTube or Facebook, blogging platforms, or creating online courses, Podcasts, or webinars. Another trend may be the rise of diverse and inclusive thought leadership.

As society becomes more diverse and globalized, there will likely be greater demand for thought leaders from various backgrounds and experiences, including thought leaders from underrepresented groups. Overall, the future of thought leadership will continue to be shaped by society’s changing needs, and thought leadership will play a crucial role in addressing these challenges and finding innovative solutions. It will continue to be a driving force for progress and change.

Final Thoughts

As you probably know by now, a well-rounded individual who is not bothered by being the focus of attention among the public is a thought leader. Believe it or not, it’s not a role for everyone, so before you pursue thought leadership status, be sure you’ve found the appropriate individual with all the characteristics of a thought leader to set your business on the right track toward success.

Finally, this brings us to the end of this blog; now it’s time to hear from you. Any questions or comments? Or maybe there’s something we missed? Either way, feel free to leave a comment below.