strategy+business magazine’s former EIC, Joel Kurtzman, defined the concept of thought leadership in 1994. He said, “A thought leader is recognized by peers, customers and industry experts as someone who deeply understands the business they are in, the needs of their customers and the broader marketplace in which they operate.”
As thought leaders, company founders have an opportunity to cultivate trustworthy relationships with their current and potential customers and generate loyalty. A trusted thought leader can help to raise their company’s profiles by telling stories to craft bylines and messages that resonate with their audiences.
Company founders are invaluable resources when developing a SaaS thought leadership campaign because they offer PR professionals a new perspective on what’s happening in the marketplace. Talking to founders allows us to differentiate brands and focus on issues important to the company’s customers.
Thought leadership has evolved to become a powerful marketing tool by generating information in alignment with audience needs and wants. At BLASTmedia, we use story mining for a variety of reasons, such as uncovering information and ideas to inform our pitches, contributed content and other materials. This simple exercise — a conversation guided by well-designed questions — offers incredible value.
Developing SaaS thought leadership topics
Asking good questions balances the art and science of uncovering pitchable topics and writing exceptional copy. PR agencies use content to relay ideas from brands rather than explicitly sell products or services. Here at BLAST, we use content to drive engagement by working with brands to help them tell effective, compelling stories of interest to their target audiences.
Who better to tell those stories than the brands’ founders? Finding those stories may require some serious sleuthing — and the willingness to deviate from the planned conversation.
That said, the conversation has to start somewhere. Here’s a list of questions that — while general — provide a good place to start:
Question #1: What about your background and career path led you to your current position/role as a founder?
Starting with an open-ended, more general question helps put the leader at ease — and allows them to choose what they share. Plus it allows you to uncover nuggets worth following via more probing questions during the story mining session.
Question #2: What makes a good leader?
This question provides an opening to learn the founder’s opinion and gain insight into the company culture. From here, you might find the discussion naturally evolving to include talking about the value of mentoring, too.
Question #3: What motivated you to found this company? What problem(s) are you trying to solve? How does your approach separate your company from the competition?
Asking this question allows you to learn more about the founder’s thought processes. The follow-up questions also open doors to exploring possible topics or angles to pitch — especially important since one of your OKRs is likely to help elevate the company above others in its space.
Question #4: What’s the biggest challenge facing your industry now? And where do you see your company/industry in a year? Five years? Ten years?
A great opportunity to learn about where the founder hopes to take their company, this question also lets you identify potential trends or external factors influencing the company’s market or sector.
Look for interesting story angles by asking questions that delve into a brand’s uniqueness and personality. Craft your questions with an eye toward telling a story and positioning the thought leader as the storyteller — and always have an ear (or eye) out for trending conversations.
Having your finger on the pulse of current topics offers a great resource for developing thought leadership talking points. A thoughtfully planned, well-executed story mining session pays dividends. Need help getting started with story mining? Contact us to learn more about building your SaaS brand’s thought leadership strategy.