Thought Leadership: How to Uncover Pitchable Topics

thought leadership

To keep any brand in the news, marketing and PR teams must present the media with compelling and relevant content, data and perspective on a regular basis — a tall order for any small department.

If your team is struggling to maintain a steady pipeline of thought leadership stories that share interesting industry perspective and actionable expertise, they might need more access to company executives, customers and subject matter experts. Meaningful content can’t be created in a silo.

Following the below steps — ask, aggregate, amplify — will help you develop insightful thought leadership content that can be used across your sales team, with the media and on your company website.

Ask questions to uncover relevant stories that appeal to a target audience

A recent article on MarketingProfs shared the staggering fact that “only 40% of sales organizations clearly understand a customer’s issues before proposing a solution.” While some of that blame falls on the sales team, marketing and PR can’t just wash their hands of the problem. Marketing is also responsible for helping to create a value connection between a buyer’s problem and a proposed solution; your team should be building that bridge by creating thoughtfully-targeted selling content.

To get the share-worthy story ideas that audiences crave, you have to start asking the right questions. Plan a story mining session with key executives, sales team leads, product managers or other potential thought leaders within your organization, and discuss ideas that will spark a conversation. Come to the table with prepared questions, but don’t be afraid to follow the discussion down a rabbit hole. Since you don’t have a destination in mind, you shouldn’t get flustered or upset if you get off track.

Center the discussion, and your questions, around a singular topic, person, project or idea, and leverage the expertise of your interviewee to help guide the questions you bring to the table. For example, if you’re sitting down with the head of product at a marketing SaaS company, you might ask the following:

  1. Your product solves a problem, but do your prospects know that the problem exists?
  2. What are prospects’ biggest hesitations in buying?
  3. What is the number one benefit of your product, and what surprises people about the product?
  4. What is the biggest complaint about the product, and why do customers cancel?
  5. What are the must have features that prospects ask for?

The “ask” stage in story mining is all about volume. Just like you wouldn’t immediately shoot down an idea during a company brainstorm, you shouldn’t disengage when your story mining subject goes off script.

Aggregate ideas that focus on the why, not the what or how

Pull your notes together and group them by category or idea. Look for common themes throughout and use them to come up with content campaigns to fuel blog, email newsletter and most of all, your contributed content pipeline. Then, try to poke holes in your plan.

The ultimate goal for any brand journalist is to differentiate your brand and affiliate with your audience. Does this message help you do that? Does it address an audience need? Will it help you connect to your prospects in a meaningful way? Keep in mind: simply having an idea doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

Good ideas are timely, relevant and compelling. If your campaign checks all three boxes, pass go and collect $200.

Amplify content that will inform, educate and enlighten your readers

If a tree falls in the forest and nobody’s around to hear it, it doesn’t make a sound. Not unlike that old philosophical thought experiment, your painstakingly crafted content has little to no positive impact on your brand (or pipeline) if it doesn’t reach the right audiences.

Ask your customers where they get their industry news, and reach out to those publications, along with any existing media friendlies, offering your content as a contributed article. Make it easy for contacts to say “yes” by removing any ad-like mentions of your brand, and providing an original version. Make sure the article you send is in line with their contributor guidelines, and be understanding that they likely already have an existing content editorial calendar to work your piece into. A media relations agency with experience placing contributed content can help you build valuable relationships with the press, resulting in powerful thought leadership placements month after month.

Share results with sales executives, investors and prospects

Sometimes all it takes is one giant step backward to move your brand forward. Remove yourself from the daily grind of customer care and project management and ask your team the tough questions. Or, ask an outsider to share their perspective instead. Engaging with a B2B pr firm that sees messaging from the industry at large on a regular basis, and knows how to ask the right questions inside your organization, can help you create best-messaged content.

Our account teams boast expertise across multiple verticals including IT, marketing, cloud security, retail and more. Recently, we put our story mining skills to good use during a call with ChRiS Gomersall, CEO of Atlanta-based ATOMIZED, a cloud-based visual content calendar for brand marketers.

After uncovering topics that ChRiS was passionate about, and sharing a few of his real-world, relatable experiences, we were able to garner interest for contributed content from popular marketing trade publications like Marketing Land and Chief Marketer, and interview requests from top tier business outlets like Business Insider and CNBC. Three months after engaging with BLASTmedia, ATOMIZED saw a significant increase in contributed content placements, company profiles and product coverage — 23 pieces to be exact.

Read our ATOMIZED case study on thought leadership to learn about our planning process, pitch topics and 90-day results.

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About Grace Williams

As a director of accounts with a background in innovative content creation, Grace oversees the planning and implementation of creative media relations strategy on B2B client accounts. Through strategic relationship building and targeted outreach, Grace has led her team to secure consistent coverage for SaaS clients in both trade publications and top tier media outlets. The proud owner of a SoBro bungalow, Grace can usually be found at Lowes, gearing up for her next project (or at Starbucks, fueling up with caffeine instead).

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