I had an honor of connecting with Pam Abrahamsson, the founder of PRA Public Relations, one of the top 19 PR agencies. Pam teaches the discipline of communications to her Fortune 500 clients, and serves as an advisor to many emerging enterprises. I had a pleasure of observing Pam’s amazing work in action as our partner. Today she shared her perspective on thought leadership with us.
“When people look at someone who has created success, or earned acknowledgement for their expertise, so many times you’ll hear them exclaim how (fill in the blank) they are. That fill-in-the-blank adjective is pretty much a reference to one key characteristic that person is thought to possess: skill, determination, talent, education, you name it.
The reality is, well, thought leadership is much more like a sandwich. And, just like that lunch-time staple requires several layers of bread, condiments and fillings to turn a diverse collection of edible items into a delicious whole, so it takes several strategic layers to drive thought leadership.
While I wouldn’t compare myself to a pastrami on rye, I’d certainly take a look at my length and breadth of my career, and identify how several layers of strategy combined to help earn the modicum of industry experience I enjoy today.
So, let’s deconstruct The Success Thought Leadership Sandwich, and see what can be learned about expertise and thought leadership, shall we?
Step 1: The Filling: Knowledge & Experience Combo
Just as no decent sandwich can land on a lunch plate without a substantive middle, so can no thought leader emerge without a strong foundation of knowledge and perspective. While I conveniently graduated from college feeling pretty certain I knew everything, it turns out that it took a big helping of life experience, hands-on work and the constant learning from mentors to create the solid base of public relations know-how I bring to my clients today. If you’re seeking to be a thought leader, take some time to inventory, and thoroughly understand, your level of knowledge, and patch in those gaps so your “filling” is a robust one.
Step 2: Bring the Bread: the communications carrier
Whether it’s a PBJ or a ham and cheese, no self-respecting sandwich is going to get far without it’s outer layers to transport the delicious filling deliverable. So it goes with thought leadership, although I swap out my two slices of sourdough for a smartly-crafted combination of social and digital communications strategy. The reality is thought leadership needs to be shared, and your communications acumen is the best vehicle to achieving this goal. In my field, I use these self-same strategies daily for my clients. Whether it’s sharing knowledge through the credible, third-party power of earned media, or creating the ripple effect of interaction across social and digital channels such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, email and more, the value of effective communications tools in sharing knowledge is long-lasting and cumulative.
Step 3: Saucing it Up: External data delivers extra delicious
Let’s face it, a steady diet of bread and bologna can get pretty monotonous. So can ongoing servings of your uninterrupted musings. That’s why external data, simply put, information from sources other than your (admittedly knowledgeable) self, is as critically important to thought leadership as that spicy Dijon mustard is to your lunchtime offering. Incorporating third-party sources into your industry expertise plays a variety of roles:
- Expanding insight: your understanding of your industry and issues can be greatly seasoned by looking at third-party opinion, research and data.
- Credible confirmation: Citing credible research statistics and third-party references brings your thought leadership out of the realm of “interesting idea” to “trusted statement.’
- The interest of others: data can also review the priorities and understanding of the communities you are seeking to connect with: using data to ferret out journalists’ coverage areas (called beats), trending topics in social media or simply consumer preferences can go a long way in ensuring your thought leadership is aligned with market need and interest.
Hopefully, I’ve made you hungry; not just for lunch, but for the power, impact and gratification that comes with being a trusted, accessible source of information and expertise in your industry, and the value of layering knowledge, communications and external information into a deliciously layered combination.
Thanks for your time, and one last question; are you going to eat those chips?”
More about Pam Abrahamsson
Founder of an award-winning, top 19-ranked public relations agency, PRA Public Relations, serving the technology communities, Pam brings 16+ years of digital communications experience to the table. Featured speaker, writer and interviewed public relations source, Pam oversees clients ranging from Fortune 500 to emerging enterprise. Pam mentors and teaches the discipline of communications, and serves as an advisor to TenX, a national Top 20 business accelerator. www.prapublicrelations.com