Gini Dietrich

The Power of PR to Build Your Executive Team’s Thought Leadership

By: Gini Dietrich | May 4, 2017 | 

Three Ways to Build Your Executives Thought LeadershipAre your company executives well-respected within your industry?

Or are they relatively unknown outside of the corporate headquarters’ walls?

Traditionally, most PR programs have included some sort of thought leadership component, typically focused on the CEO and one or two other key executives.

This narrow approach is typically a result of budget and time constraints, and can put your business in an awkward position when you lose the equity you’ve built with the media when one of those few anointed thought leaders leave your organization.

Here are three ways you can build the thought leadership of your executive team.

Expand Your Media Training 

In many organizations, the CEO is the only executive who gets hands-on media training.

Or media training is thrown together as a response to securing a broadcast interview.

This is better than not doing any media training, but it’s not enough.

To effectively expand your company’s thought leadership, it’s vital they receive media training before you turn them loose.

Your executives may be experts, but that doesn’t mean they should speak on behalf of the company without going through media training.

Even if they won’t appear on broadcast television, this training is essential.

Media training ensures they are able to articulate and represent the brand’s messaging.

They’ll be able to respond to criticism or tough questions without tarnishing the brand.

And they’ll be able to build relationships with the reporters you want to eventually cover them.

Broaden Your Corporate Blogger Pool

Your company blog is the perfect place to lay the foundation for your executive team members’ thought leadership platforms.

Unlike an interview, you are able to craft the exact message you want and publish it under your executive’s byline.

This is important because many journalists begin their research with a quick web search.

If your blog is regularly publishing thoughtful, targeted content, it can put your internal experts in front of journalists who cover your industry.

Craft your PR content strategy to include a regular cadence of executive-authored content both on your blog and contributed to relevant media sites.

Encourage Your Execs to Use Social

Although there are conflicting reports on how many executives use social media, more than 75 percent of business-to-business buyers and 84 percent of other executives surveyed by IDC use social media to make purchasing decisions.

Given that word-of-mouth is perhaps your most powerful marketing channel, it’s in your best interest to have more of your executives actively engaged in social media.

This allows them to become part of the conversations others are having around your industry.

By being actively engaged on at least one social media platform, your executives have the opportunity to share their expertise and build relationships.

Being accessible in this way greatly increases the likelihood of your organization being top-of-mind when a journalist is looking for a source.

Pulling Thought Leadership Together

Media training prepares your team to join the public conversation.

Blogging gives them the opportunity to lay the foundation for showing their industry expertise.

Engaging on social media allows them to inject their point-of-view into the conversations your industry is having, and begin to build relationships.

The combination of these three elements provides a strong public identity that your PR team can point back to when they’re pitching the media to cover your company.

With journalists increasingly being measured and compensated on the performance of their content, when given the choice, they’d prefer to interview someone who is a known commodity.

Building a strong public presence for your entire executive team increases the opportunities of your company gaining their attention—and earning that coverage.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • I’ve participated in and organized media training in the past and one of the things I’ve noticed is that it’s one thing to know what to do, when to do it, where and how, etc. But it’s another to build that into an executive team’s DNA. Email used to be difficult for senior stakeholders. Crafting, responding, spam-protecting, reply-all-ing… but it took time, mistakes and an understanding of the value it (email, social, blogs, smartphones, apps, etc.) carries. The reason(s) one should be active on “social”, do some blogging, comment on posts, and the manner in which you should do it is easy to relay. Getting them to actually dive in and do it seems to be the trouble.

    That was a really long lead-in to this question: What are some ways you’ve seen that encourage or incentivize executives and stakeholders to actually activate what they’ve been training for?

    • Super good question! I think it depends on the person, unfortunately. Some are VERY willing to put their necks out there and try some new things. Others, however…

      We did some work with a Fortune 5 company and their CEO did NOT want to be on social media. So we had some baby steps. First, we showed him which execs, from his list of targeted companies, were on Twitter. Then we created a social calendar of things he could share while he had a few minutes (waiting for the doors to close on the plane, commuting, in the bathroom). He started to see little wisps of success and today he’s one of the most prolific CEOs (other than he who shall not be named) on Twitter.

      They need to see results and then it’s an easy sell.