Earned media: the power of thought leadership

By Charlotte McLeod, CEO, Allegory Communications

Thought leadership has become a buzz phrase over the last few years, as business leaders look to get their voices heard above the constant hum of social media and a full news agenda. But there is often confusion about just what thought leadership is and how it should be used. Is it a chance for the CEO to pontificate about their pet projects, one more trend that will be forgotten alongside the Snapchat account, or a genuine chance to engage with audiences and put ideas across in a new way?

What is thought leadership?

At Allegory, we have become adept at identifying when clients stand to benefit from using thought leadership, as well as how and where to place it. We also demystify the process, working closely with senior management teams to identify where the best voices for thought leadership can be found, as well as exactly what it is a business wants to say. 

Put simply, thought leadership usually comes in the form of editorials, which might appear in mainstream newspapers, specialist media, selected blog sites or B2B publications. As the name suggests, the main purpose of these articles is to establish an organisation, or an individual within it, as at the forefront of ideas, innovation and leadership.

Thought leadership offers a very different opportunity than a news story or press release, as it is part of an ongoing strategy to grow brand recognition alongside that of the personalities within an organisation. The more you use thought leadership, the more your profile is raised, which leads to yet more opportunities. It truly is something that can snowball when done right. That editorial in a trade publication can be used to leverage a similar article in a national newspaper, which in turn can lead to an appearance on Sky News or BBC radio. 

How Allegory works to develop thought leadership

Thought leadership is, of course, all about pushing ideas forward and (hopefully) changing minds, whether those are of those you wish to influence, from funders and investors to government ministers. But it also creates a footprint of an organisation’s philosophy and ideas, increasing Google profile along with visibility with decision-makers nationally and globally. Some leaders don’t want to put themselves out there in this way, but we believe that this is a mistake. To dismiss this relatively new way of speaking to your audiences is to waste a channel that can bring great rewards. 

At Allegory, we work closely with organisations to hone and develop their thought leadership profile. This means identifying which ideas need to come to the fore, who should be expressing them and who the business needs to speak to. We research audiences and publications, using our extensive media contacts to find the right home for opinion pieces, profiles and commentary. 

We also speak the language of the press. Just because you are a strong leader it does not follow that you already have the skills for this kind of work. We can have as much or as little input as works for you, whether that is ghost-writing editorials, collaborating or simply tidying them up before submission. 

The interpersonal relationship with thought leaders is an important one, but also one we handle with expertise and sensitivity. We recognise that those we are working with are the experts in their field, so we use our own experience to bring that out, while keeping the elements of individuality that make leaders who they are. 

If you can be bold, controversial or break new ground with ideas then so much the better. After all, a national newspaper editor won’t want to simply give you a platform to talk about your new widget, new educational programme or report unless you can offer something that readers will read, digest and discuss. 
For example, in our work with the Open Data Institute we would not dream of claiming the kind of practical and academic expertise that the founder of the world-wide web, one of the UK’s pre-eminent experts on AI or any other members of the extensive senior team have in data infrastructure. But we can hone the way that they put those ideas across, edit to the house style of a national newspaper and speak to top editors about what topics they would most like to hear about.

Tell me about the value of thought leadership

As with all earned media, we believe that this will always have a more powerful impact than advertisements or advertorials. When you are being reported in the news or, perhaps more importantly, expressing your opinions in the opinion columns of the Financial Times, Guardian or Daily Telegraph then people notice and they pay attention. 

It is impossible to put a financial value on an editorial, but even that real estate on the page would be into the £1,000s. Never mind the value of being able to speak directly to policy-makers, the public and to other media. Thought leadership shows potential employees, investors and customers that your organisation is active, influential and opinion-leading. It is part business development, part publicity, part influencing and part brand building. 

Thought leadership is also an economical way to exploit changes in the way that the media works. Journalists are often overworked, underpaid and trying to hit targets for clicks, conversions and content. Gone are the days when they could spend days on one story, as they chase the page views with often onerous targets. So, providing readymade thought leadership, be that as whole editorials or prepared quotes, saves a lot of time for writers and editors.

Finding the right voice for your thought leadership

The more shares and discussion that you can inspire the happier the editor will be and the more likely that they will ask you to write for them again. At Allegory, we recognise that this can often be a difficult path to walk, but we are expert in offering counsel on just how to do that, balancing strength of opinion within the bounds that individuals or organisations are comfortable with. We know that shareholders and stakeholders matter far more to a business than media coverage for a manufactured controversy. 

In short, we believe that thought leadership is something that every business, charity, university or organisation needs in their arsenal. There are far too many advantages for it to be ignored as this year’s trend or something that you can leave to rivals. It is a way to speak directly, forthrightly and in your own voice. And there can be few ways of communicating that are more satisfying or more valuable.

If you would like to hear more about how Allegory Communications have worked with clients to help them become thought leaders and how we could do that for you, please get in touch via bizdev@allegoryagency.co.uk.


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New client announcement: The Alan Turing Institute

We are delighted to announce that the Alan Turing Institute joined Allegory’s roster of clients in August 2020.

The Alan Turing Institute is the UK’s national institute for data science and artificial intelligence.

Named after the pioneering mathematician, computer scientist, philosopher, code-breaker and icon of the 20th Century, Alan Turing, the Institute carries out world class research, and collaborates with Government, academia and industry, to help solve real-world problems, like working to tackle Covid-19.

Allegory’s role will be to strengthen the Turing’s voice in the national conversation on data science and AI and highlight its research in the media.

Emma Thwaites, Allegory’s founder and CEO, said:

“Allegory has been working with organisations in the data sector for over eight years. We are proud that our experience in simplifying and communicating complex stories so that the right people can understand them has led to this exciting new relationship with the Turing. Many people know Alan Turing’s name, but they might not yet know about the vital work the Turing is doing.”

Sophie McIvor, Director of Communications and Engagement at the Alan Turing Institute, said:

“Data science and artificial intelligence are challenging areas of science for communications. Allegory’s previous expertise in securing high-profile thought leadership media coverage shone through, and we are looking forward to working with them to highlight the groundbreaking research that we carry out at the Turing.”

Here’s a short explainer video that tells you more about the Alan Turing Institute:

How thought leadership can elevate your brand

To depict thought leadership

High quality thought leadership enables organisations to build their profile, credibility and reputation.

 

So what exactly is thought leadership?

Thought leadership is the demonstration and communication of original or expert knowledge, that can be delivered across a wide range of owned and earned channels, or at speaking opportunities. 

For organisations, it can be a highly effective business development strategy that elevates them above competitors. This can help them attract the best talent, generate leads, and secure investment. Businesses with strong thought leadership programmes can also command a higher premium for their services or products. 

Thought leaders give organisations a human voice that can deliver a message directly to target audiences. The human connection makes this type of marketing potentially more powerful than any other type of advertising or marketing output. 

How communication agencies can help organisations with thought leadership campaigns

Implementing thought leadership campaigns is one of the most effective ways that communication agencies, such as Allegory, can raise the profile of our clients. 

We work with senior leadership and subject matter experts within our client’s organisations to develop thought leadership content, and then use our extensive relationships in the press to secure media coverage. 

As an experienced communications agency, we can manage the entire process, from planning through to delivery. This often includes: drafting of topics to pre-pitch to journalists to assess their levels of interest; interviewing subject matter experts; ghost-writing or copy editing; then pitching the final story to journalists.

Since 2012, Allegory has been helping businesses grow through thousands of pieces of thought leadership coverage in the press and at speaking engagements

We have a team of seasoned experts who have helped to build the reputations of our clients, by using the expertise and knowledge that already exists within their organisations.

How we can help you secure top tier media coverage

Finding relevance to the news agenda (through media monitoring and horizon scanning) is crucial in identifying the best opportunities. But having the agility to respond in time is the key to securing top tier coverage.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, we worked closely with The Open Data Institute, to place several high profile thought leadership pieces. The pieces related to the outbreak and subsequent data issues around privacy and tracking that have arisen. Our speed in pivoting to the current news agenda helped us secure coverage in The Telegraph, Guardian, Financial Times, and the BBC.

Should everyone be doing it?

Thought leadership is as important for younger brands wishing to build their reputation, as it is for more established brands looking to explore new sectors and industries. When the Allegory team is developing a thought leadership campaign for our clients, these are some of the questions that we would try to answer:

  1. How can thought leadership support the goals of their organisation?
  2. What new or unique knowledge can they bring to the conversation?
  3. Is there anyone else already ‘thought leading’ in this space? If they are, then could a collaboration on content have more impact with their target audiences (who are likely to be similar)?
  4. Are they justified in positioning themselves as a ‘thought leader’ in this sector?
  5. Are they aiming for a national audience, or are they trying to target a specific audience, for example through trade publications?
  6. Who actually has the thought leading view? In other words, who gets the byline for the piece?

You can find out more about the organisations that we have helped through media relations and thought leadership campaigns, here

If you want to explore how a thought leadership campaign could benefit your organisation, please get in contact with our business development manager, Simon Davies