How to Identify a New Thought Leader for Your SaaS PR Strategy

When thinking about spokespeople for your organization, you’ll likely start at the top of the organizational tree with the CEO and leadership team members. But, in reality, your thought leaders should go beyond the CEO, and maybe even your leadership team, to cultivate coverage that supports a variety of marketing goals. 

Part of our process to garner coverage that contributes to those goals is setting up story mining sessions with subject matter experts (SME). In addition to traditional spokespeople, like a CEO or founder, our team often looks to story mine with an SME based on the industry the company is looking to target. For example: For brands targeting martech, we may recommend the CMO; for those dealing with GRC, we might recommend someone in compliance/security.

Why?

Because — among other reasons — publications seek out various types of expert sources. 

Depending on your SaaS brand’s key audience and what messages you want to share, the publications your PR team looks to target likely range from top-tier business publications to trade publications targeting either a specific discipline, like marketing, or a specific industry, like logistics. If your team is targeting more than one type of publication — or trying to generate different types of coverage — you’ll want a few different people on your spokesperson bench ready to contribute thought leadership. Here’s how to find them.

Uncovering the right subject matter experts

The right SME is not always a member of the C-suite. It might be someone more ingrained in the day-to-day tactics of a specific department who has perspective on a new best practice. Consider what job titles you want to reach: Is there someone from that same discipline who could speak to their pain points and point to solutions? Consider your industry: Is there someone who really has their finger on the pulse of what’s happening, who could offer perspective on the industry as a whole? These individuals have the potential to contribute to thought leadership efforts as industry-specific SMEs. 

For example, Recruiter.com frequently quotes and shares content from HR leaders whether they be directors, managers, generalists or c-suite executives. The content might discuss HR tech predictions, how to leverage an applicant tracking system or an op-ed about location-based pay. Marketing Land taps CMOs, VPs of marketing and directors in its content. Marketing Land articles cove a variety of trends in marketing tech, data privacy regulations and best practices in ABM strategies.

Guide them through media interactions

Now, you might see some of the examples above and say, “Kelsey, there is no way I can put my HR manager in front of the media!” 

Yes, not everyone at your organization will be ready for a media interview tomorrow — and that’s okay. There are ways to involve new thought leaders, especially those who are not yet ready, trained or comfortable in an interview setting. Work with your PR team to identify opportunities that allow for collaboration and review. Here are some of the ways to leverage new industry-specific SMEs to secure media coverage:

  • Contributed content – This is an easy way for PR professionals to turn a story mining session with an SME into a piece of content. The message is controlled and facilitated through you and your PR team.
  • Pre-approved quotes – In the case of a media contact looking for a story source, they may accept a quote or written answers to questions in lieu of an interview. Again, the messaging is controlled and can usually be facilitated through you and your PR team.

Media interviews are a learned skill and PR teams have media training resources available to help thought leaders nail interviews. Training sessions could include information about the interview process, potential questions, interview “don’ts”, conversation control techniques and mock interviews. With training sessions, those leading overall strategy will have the opportunity to gauge an SME’s level of readiness for interviews and spot areas that might need more work before going on the record.

As SMEs become more experienced in participating in thought leadership opportunities, you can always reconsider what kinds of opportunities they can take on. I recommend starting with opportunities like podcasts or interviews with trade outlets. Then they can graduate to top-tier interviews. You can accelerate this process by developing the thought leader’s media presence with additional training and feedback sessions.

Looking to identify thought leaders for your SaaS organization? We can help! For questions about the right SMEs for your SaaS PR efforts contact our team.

Effective Story Mining with SMEs

It’s no secret that thought leadership is vital for SaaS companies. B2B marketers need to build credibility for their companies, establish trust with customers and potential leads, and create brand value. The inevitable question for many SaaS marketers though is how to get started. 

When it comes to thought leadership, marketers naturally turn to their founders and their chief executive officers. They are, after all, the traditional thought leaders at most companies and the background, context and vision they provide is particularly useful for developing SaaS thought leadership.

Marketers who rely on the top brass alone to ideate thought leadership are missing out. That’s because the subject matter experts (SMEs) who work in the nitty-gritty often have a better pulse on the day-to-day business. And SMEs with industry-specific expertise (e.g., chief marketing officers, chief compliance officers, chief security officers) are particular gold mines of information. Marketers can learn how to leverage the experience and insights of these SMEs through effective story mining.     

Uncovering Pitchable Topics

Story mining sessions are informal interviews designed to uncover pitchable topics that marketers can use to develop SaaS thought leadership. A story mining session should be a casual, free-flowing conversation but marketers should still prepare questions to ensure they uncover solid ideas. 

Story mining sessions at BLASTmedia typically run 30-45 minutes and cover 4-6 questions. Because their time is valuable, marketers should think through a handful of strategic, open-ended questions that help an industry-specific SME to open up. Consider the following questions to get you started: 

Question #1: What drew you to the company?

One of the best ways to get to know SMEs is to learn about their career journeys. For those who recently joined the team, questions might center around their current roles. If the SME is a longtime company employee, there’s likely a story there as well.

Question #2: How did you get into your job function? What intrigues you about it?

Marketers should also learn how an SME became an expert. An SME might be the vice president of product now but might have started their career as a trained engineer. With this knowledge, a marketer can more effectively mine for thought leadership ideas.

Question #3: What is the competition getting wrong?

Once a marketer has a feel for an SME’s background, it’s time to flesh out differentiators and unique or timely positions. Consider asking SMEs for their opinions or hot takes on their job functions, other industry players or the direction of the industry overall.

Question #4: What trends are you following?

Finally, don’t forget that work is just one aspect of any SME’s life. What does the SME like to do outside of work for fun? Any cool hobbies? What topics interest the SME personally and what trends are they following? A lot of evergreen topics are applicable to SaaS (e.g., innovation, future of work, entrepreneurship, leadership) but not the SME’s day-to-day work. If marketers can identify an SME’s areas of interest, they can pursue thought leadership on those topics. Marketers won’t know what they don’t ask.

Again, story minings should be conversations. Pick and choose questions from the buckets above but be prepared to pivot and follow up as the conversation evolves.

 
Need more help developing SMEs as thought leaders? Reach out to Lindsey Groepper to see how BLASTmedia can implement effective story mining and position your company for SaaS thought leadership. 

Developing Ideas for Thought Leadership: Questions to ask Your Founder

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.

Ideas for Thought Leadership Development: 4 Questions to Ask Your CEO

Thought leadership has grown in prevalence as B2B marketers recognize its value through the purchase funnel. Even to the extent that a 2020 study by SurveyMonkey found thought leadership is “top priority” for two-thirds of marketers. However, only 26% of marketers consider their current thought leadership program to be “very successful.”

Most marketers prioritize thought leadership. But why do such a small amount consider their strategy to be successful? 

Fortunately, developing ideas for thought leadership doesn’t require an entirely new strategy. Most B2B SaaS leaders have a wealth of untapped knowledge to make a great story. It all comes down to asking the right questions. 

The significance of story mining

BLASTmedia uses story mining to uncover insights from key executives — including CEOs — when developing robust thought leadership campaigns. While there’s value in exploring insights from all team members, CEOs act as a natural north star to guide growth and evolution — so they should likely be on the media front lines, gilding the messaging. 

CEOs are uniquely positioned to represent their business’s core values directly from the source. This is, in part, due to their integral role with an organization.

Story mining questions to ask your CEO

Below, we’ve laid out a few questions to get started for those who have not yet conducted a story mining session and why they’re important to ask.

Question #1: Tell us about your career path so far. What inspired you to enter the industry, and what led you to your current position?

It’s essential to keep your opening question as general as possible when looking to uncover new stories. Ask about a CEO’s background and what led them to their company. This lets them steer the conversation to a topic that resonates most. Once this topic is identified, it allows for more probing, in-depth questions throughout the session. 

Question #2: What are the biggest pain points/concerns your industry is facing right now? 

Challenges exist within every industry. And CEOs are always looking for the latest problem-solving tactic. Knowing what your CEO sees as top pain points in their industry can lead you to valuable insights on how to overcome them, thus the opportunity to position them as the subject matter expert.

Question #3: What are your short- and long-term growth plans for your business? 

Understanding a CEO’s goals and projections will help you explore potential story angles for company growth and business leadership. It also gives you a sense of where to set priorities in verticals and messaging

Question #4: Where do you see the industry heading in the next 5-10 years?

CEOs always think ahead about the direction of their company and the industry at large. This forward-thinking gives them a unique and sometimes surprising perspective on how their industry is evolving and why. And a hot take on any industry’s future is always relevant, regardless of the timeframe.

Developing ideas for thought leadership should be a strategic process. Questions for CEOs should remain as broad as possible, as the job requires them to focus on the bigger picture and an organization’s overall direction. 

Those conducting story mining sessions need to have a solid understanding of the B2B SaaS CEO role and the conversations happening within a specific industry. Then, the most relevant and timely information can be gained from an interview. After this, you’ll be armed with all the insights you need to develop a powerful CEO thought leadership strategy. 

Interested in learning more about how to leverage story mining? Contact Lindsey Gropper to learn how BLASTmedia can help.

SaaS PR: Agency Insights on What’s Working in 2021

As a SaaS PR agency, we’re always seeking to understand what PR strategies work when it comes to securing media coverage and driving value for B2B SaaS brands. By comparing different strategies implemented across the agency, we’re able to generate insights most internal and agency teams aren’t privy to — after all, our team works with over 60 B2B SaaS brands! 

Curious what we’ve learned so far this year? Take a look at a few of the insights gleaned by members of our SaaS PR agency team in the first few months of 2021:

Pairing announcements with data and thought leadership helps SaaS companies stand out from the noise.

Coming off a year where M&A deals totaled $634 billion, a 91.8% year-over-year increase, the first quarter of 2021 also marked an all-time high for global funding. It’s an exciting time — but all that excitement also leads to a great deal of noise. 

To rise above the chatter, it’s not enough for a SaaS company to simply distribute a press release about funding or a new acquisition.

“Our most successful announcements in Q1 were paired with one of three things:  company metrics like YRR, customer number, valuation; data — earned data, like surveys, owned data like platform metrics or industry like TAM; and access to third-party spokespeople supporting our messaging, such as investors or notable customers,” said BLASTmedia Director of Success Meghan Matheny.

For SaaS companies without company metrics, data or outside spokespeople, making the announcement one piece of a larger campaign can also increase visibility.

“We’ve augmented the success of announcements with thought leadership that enforces the key message surrounding the news,” explained BLASTmedia Director of Success Lydia Beechler. “For example, we highlighted how traditional business intelligence has failed enterprises alongside a data report on the benefits of embedded analytics (a new subset of BI).”

Reacting to competitor IPO news provides a way for SaaS brands to join industry-wide conversations.

Nearly 20 B2B SaaS companies IPOed in 2020, and with companies like Qualtrics and DigitalOcean taking their place on the exchange this year, expect SaaS IPOs to make more headlines in 2021. 

For companies not aiming or ready to go public, news of IPOs within a given industry presents opportunities for building thought leadership.

“We’ve leveraged IPOs — specifically those that saw significant increases in stock prices after their stock market debut — to highlight the relevance of an industry that a client fits into,” said Lydia. “This not only shows the significance of the IPOing company but tips a hat to the potential others in the market have for growth.”

According to BLASTmedia Director of Success Kelsey Sowder, reacting to IPO news “works especially well when our clients have bold stances on companies IPOing. For example, if a client thinks an IPO is happening just for the company to raise capital or if it won’t actually advance the industry, these stances tend to garner more media interest.”

G2 and other review sites provide a jumping-off point for customer quotes and stories.

Known as the world’s leading B2B software-and-services review platform, G2 is a trusted resource many prospects use to vet software solutions. But it’s also a great SaaS PR tool.

Our team has been harnessing the power of G2’s platform for years as a way to build thought leadership by securing coverage on G2’s Learning, as well as to showcase brand momentum and credibility by leveraging Grid Reports and other G2 rankings.

In 2021, the team has found new ways to leverage the review platform by identifying customer quotes to include in marketing materials like press releases and award submissions.

Beyond pulling quotes, the team also used G2 as a jumping-off point for identifying possible customer advocates willing to speak to the media and customer stories — an essential SaaS PR tool (more on that in point #4).

“We leveraged G2 reviews as a starting point to identify customers that might be willing to speak to media on behalf of a client,” said Lydia. “If they’re willing to say it on G2, they may be willing to say it to The Wall Street Journal!” 

Incorporating customer stories into press releases and contributed content provides a new avenue for leveraging an essential SaaS PR tool.

We know that customer stories are an essential tool for SaaS marketers. After all, as PR Director Kayleigh Jones recently shared, “as a B2B SaaS company, your customers are your biggest champions. No one is better positioned to advocate for your solution than the organizations using it every day.” 

Meghan agrees. “Customer stories are a key tactic to garner top-tier interest. When beginning work with a new supply chain client, we offered a customer story to Forbes, resulting in coverage (their first piece). Besides giving us the foot in the door with top tier, incorporating use cases (anonymized or not) into quotes and contributed content is a useful way to demonstrate practical application.”

Though some of our clients have customers eager to speak with the press, that isn’t the case for all SaaS brands.

For those new to generating customer stories or dealing with customers who might be hesitant to speak to the press, PR director, Katie Cessna recommends focusing on customer commentary that allows for more touchpoints with the customer to start. “We’ve seen success taking a step-by-step approach with our client’s customers,” explained Katie. “Instead of immediately leveraging them in an interview, we first quoted the customer in a release, scheduled a call to discuss their experience with our client and then used that information to pitch out their story to reporters.”

Kelsey points out integrating a customer story into a piece of contributed content, also known as a byline, is also an option — especially when the customer is concerned with messaging or doesn’t have time to commit to press interviews. “This approach works well because, typically, the information we’re leveraging has already been approved by the customer for use by our clients. And, with bylines, we’re better able to control the message and paint a full picture of the customer’s use case.”

Securing the right coverage to connect with a highly engaged audience might require pursuing opportunities behind a paywall.

More and more, paywalls are becoming part of the typical media landscape. While paywalls can make sharing media coverage challenging and constrict the size of the audience, Meghan says the trade-off is the ability to get in front of a highly engaged audience.

“Many of our clients are embracing the quality of the coverage over the limited eyeballs because it means there is a greater chance of engagement and bringing a prospect into the sales funnel,” said Meghan.

According to BLASTmedia VP Grace Williams, that highly engaged audience can lead to benefits beyond brand awareness: “We’ve seen plenty of clients benefit from coverage behind paywalls. A quick example: After a single contributed piece on Extra Crunch, TechCrunch’s subscription product, our clients are seeing 200-300 referral visits and even a few conversions.” 

This is the year to shop around and pursue newswire alternatives.

As part of her year-end SaaS PR predictions, Grace commented that 2021 would be the year “audiences wise up to newswires — kind of.”

“In 2021, marketing and comms leads will start considering the broad spectrum of places outside of a wire we can place releases,” explained Grace. “A company blog or, if you have some extra budget, a paid posting in a trade publication are valid options to consider and can often have the same impact as a newswire posting (minus the syndications).”

Q1 showed us that these services still have their place — when asked, multiple members of our SaaS PR agency described newswires as “useful.” However, a press release on a newswire service isn’t the only (or even the best) way to show a steady cadence of news.

“For clients in niche industries, we’ve recommended using other avenues like Industry Dive’s press release form,” Katie shared. “The Industry Dive sites are improving their capabilities and looking to provide similar services to a wire service. By posting to specific publications, you have a better chance of reaching your target audience based on what that publication covers.”

For SaaS companies looking to stick with a traditional wire service, Katie says there are options. “We’ve started to see clients use other wire services (WebWire, NewswireNext) that are more affordable and get the news out there beyond their site.”

Looking for more SaaS PR insights? Contact Lindsey Groepper to learn more about partnering with our SaaS PR agency.

Becoming a Thought Leader: Taking a Stance

Voicing your opinion is now easier than ever before, which may be why it seems like every B2B SaaS company has a thought leader on hand these days. When comments are a commodity, it can be hard for SaaS thought leaders to stand out in a crowded space, much less lead the conversation.

Sure, anyone can call themselves a thought leader, but building a strong thought leadership presence is so much more than slapping your name on a blog post here and there or being quoted in a company press release each quarter. True thought leadership offers an opportunity to showcase your expertise and provide valuable information that can help other leaders overcome the obstacles impeding their success.  

  
Chances are you have untapped industry experience and insights that are incredibly valuable to your audience. By putting a bold, contrarian or unique spin on run-of-the-mill conversations, you can differentiate yourself from the competition and stand out in a sea of stale comments and traditional how-tos. 

Challenge the status quo

One way to take a stance sure to be remembered is by calling out the status quo. In this Barron’s article on the future of education, Katie Sievers, customer success manager at Credly, and Harvard University professor Chris Dede pose the idea that digital credentials will replace proxies like a college degree as the baseline requirement when vetting top talent.   

By challenging the status quo, thought leaders can call out areas ripe for growth or reconstruction, then demonstrate their expertise by offering ways to execute that innovation. Shining a light on how our normal way of doing things needs to evolve establishes you as an industry expert leading the charge. 

Make a statement, and make it bold

We’re all drawn to a bold headline or a punchy quote; it’s the curiosity in us. A huge part of thought leadership is grabbing everyone’s attention in the first place — and saying the same thing as everyone else isn’t going to cut it. Thought leaders must cut through the noise with a statement worth exploring. 

Take this Fast Company article by ScoutRFP’s Michaela Dempsey as an example. In her piece, Michaela brings attention to the fact that males lead the majority of tech companies. To be more precise, only 11% of executive positions in Silicon Valley are held by women. Thought leaders willing to say something bold — like “Silicon Valley is where women go to fail” — will stand out among the generic “we need more diversity in executive positions” tracktalk and spark a critical conversation around important topics. 

Shine a light on what makes you special 

No two thought leaders are the same, which means no two have the exact same experience. Since we learn by watching others, SaaS thought leaders can examine their specific journey to produce tangible advice for people experiencing similar situations. 

This Forbes article featuring Michael Lagoni, the CEO of Stackline, is a great example. Here, Michael discusses how he took a chance on his vision to create a platform with all the tools needed to track and manage an e-commerce business and founded Stackline with just $300 in the bank. As a SaaS thought leader, sharing those unique aspects of your experience gives your audience a fresh perspective on how to reach their own goals.   

Today, being a thought leader is much more than bolstering your brand or solution; it’s about providing your audience with the insights and information they need to succeed. To ensure your SaaS thought leaders can stand out from the competition with a strong thought leadership presence, start with this Thought Leadership Checklist.

Bring the Magic of Voice to Your Thought Leadership Content

Why is this sentence captivating:

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away.”

And this one, well, not so much?

“It is important to remember that not only is life not measured by the number of breaths you take but it is also measured by the moments that take your breath away.”

These sounded different in your head, didn’t they? Welcome to the magic of voice. (And wow, did Maya Angelou have an incredible voice.)

Content creators need to know their voices inside and out. But oftentimes, thought leaders-in-training get tossed to the content wolves before they’re ready. Writing bylines and thought leadership articles differs from writing sales copy. And voice is a key differentiator.

So, how do we find our voice, and how do we deploy it in our writing to captivate our readers?

Voice In Brief

Thought leadership and the universe of content it spawned has added words like voice, tone and brand to our business vocabulary. Sorting through them can get confusing.

Here’s our approach:

  • Voice is you. It’s the sum of your experiences and expertise and how you choose to communicate it to the world.
  • Tone is a part of voice. It relates to how you convey an emotional state in your writing. Paired with cadence and diction, it creates your voice. (See Abbey Woodcock’s work on the elements of voice in copywriting for more.)
  • Brand is the promotion of a company’s voice — how it presents itself to current and potential customers. We can also include “personal brand,” or how you promote yourself and your ideas.

Thought leaders consider all of this when creating content, but understanding their particular contributions to the conversation informs their voice. It’s the unique perspective they bring to a topic relevant to their experiences.

Mining For Your Voice’s Golden Nuggets

Now, how do we translate your uniqueness into captivating content? We’ll often see thought leaders separate their personalities from their business writing. Thinking they have to maintain a certain “sound” or “air” to their work-related articles, they exclude the key bits that make them them. Every thought leader has a personality — and voice is how you introduce it to readers and present your business case without sounding like auto-generated sales text. 

To find your voice’s peculiarities, let’s don our hard hats and mine your past content for gold. And yes, even if you haven’t written anything before, we can still dig. Here’s how you start prospecting:

  • Read. Content you’ve written before is a great place to start — which includes LinkedIn posts as much as it does published articles. But really, the more words you see, the better you get at arranging them. So, read everything: your company’s blog, your competitors’ blogs, industry publications and content you simply enjoy reading.
  • Listen. Have you been a podcast guest? Or had a summit presentation recorded? Listen to yourself and focus on your speech patterns, rhythms, attitude and tone. Do the same for other thought leaders you admire, too.
  • Write. Would a baseball player step up to home plate and swing if he didn’t spend endless hours in the batting cage beforehand? If you want to hit home runs, practice the writing muscle. Try freewriting, journaling or anything else to get your fingers typing.

With your voice’s golden nuggets in hand, you can infuse them in your writing. Your voice then shines through, and you bring a unique perspective to a business topic.

Writing With Voice

Writing thought leadership articles is your voice’s weight bench. It’s how you train, learn and improve your communication with the world. Practice it and, over time, you’ll build your voice muscle. You’ll not only write better content, but you’ll be clearer with your message — and clarity in thought leadership matters most of all. Plus, you’ll grow your thought leadership presence and attract potential customers through interesting, insightful content. 

So, the first step in practicing voice? Write. Do your research, find your angle, draft content and repeat. 

Tips to consider as you write:

Outline first.

While you might be tempted to leap right into an article and fill pages with your knowledge, build a box for yourself: 

  • Do you want a short 500-word post or 2,000+ words? 
  • Is this for your company blog or do you want media outlet coverage?
  • Who’s your ideal reader? Customers looking to buy, industry experts, the general public? 
  • How deep is your knowledge of the subject?

Answering these questions makes creating a short content outline much easier. You’ll know your key message and how much room you’ll have to communicate it. Instead of fretting over what you’ll say, you can focus your energy on how you’ll say it (i.e. portraying your voice).

Read the room.

Consider your tone before you draft. Keep things light if that’s your style, but as good comedians know, different environments change how jokes land.

For example, suppose you’re being sued (generally regarded as bad news). You hire a top-notch defense attorney, and she emails you about your case:

Hey Thought Leader!

How ‘bout dem Colts? What a game last night! Anyhow, the plaintiff on your case will subpoena you by EOD. Let’s hop on the phone and chat about your options!

How much would you freak out? 

Content is much the same way. Context matters: there’s time for lighthearted takes and time for serious discussion. Depending on your thought leadership topic choice, consider your tone carefully. Review other content in the space if you’re stuck.

Don’t fear the rewrite.

You wrote your first draft — congrats! But after reading it a few times, you realize you sound like Microsoft Sam

To fix this (apart from having more cowbell), rewrite one paragraph. And then more paragraphs. Keep doing this until you feel it’s right. Read it aloud to yourself and listen to the flow of your words. If they sound good to your ear, you’re on the right track.

Then, ask someone else to read it and use their feedback for more improvement. Give yourself a deadline to submit or publish the article — it’s easy to park something in eternal revision limbo — but seek feedback. You can try a free solution like Slick Write to map your content’s flow if other readers are scarce.

Great thought leadership doesn’t come easily, and airing your voice is a scary proposition. But so long as you’re curious about your topic of interest, and you’re fearless in sharing your opinion with the world, your voice will shine through. The next time you draft a thought leadership piece, try these tips and see how much of you you can include.

Still stumped on voice? Don’t panic! We can help. Contact Lindsey Groepper at BLASTmedia for more information about our approach to thought leadership.

What makes a good quote?

Quotes are an essential part of thought leadership. You’ll find a PR agency may use them as a stand-alone asset or in a press release as valuable collateral to provide unique insight that can push the envelope more so than contributed content. They’re also great support to thought-leadership initiatives by helping to build credibility for individual spokespeople.

That said, there’s an art to creating a strong quote that earns media interest. We typically find quotes spokespeople draft themselves are either too promotional or too timid – basically reading as vanilla. 

Here are a few examples of quotes that push the envelope on behalf of our clients.

Whilst social media was the cool club we all wanted to be in ten years ago, the original promise of some of those platforms to connect the world and create a better society haven’t materialized in the way we had envisioned. Facebook turned into just another way to bombard consumers with ads, often eerily personalized due to data practices that have now come under pressure from privacy regulators and civil rights groups….We believe that social media networks, with news feeds powered by algorithms that consumers don’t fully understand, have contributed to the polarization of society. Furthermore the failure of Facebook in particular to address fake news, hate speech and online bullying have further created an unhealthy environment, exacerbated by the dopamine fueling social validation that helps drive engagement that research has shown to have consequences for mental health. The lack of action addressing these issues has made it an easy decision for us to halt our ad spend with Facebook, joining many of our customers including Vans, Starbucks and The North Face. We continue to encourage marketers to shift dollars away from social advertising to initiatives that foster direct customer relationships such as loyalty programs.” – Richard Jones, CMO of Cheetah Digital

“This funding round is a testament to the continued belief of our investors in the future of LogicGate and what we’re building. ,” said Matt Kunkel, LogicGate’s CEO. “Combined with Emily Heath’s addition to the board, the investment underscores the fact that the market is ready for a flexible GRC solution that helps risk, compliance and security professionals make strategic, informed choices every day.” – Matt Kunkel, CEO of LogicGate

“Atlassian’s acquisition of Halp is yet another proof point cloud giants are recognizing the importance of taking a conversational approach to getting work done, highlighting the importance of a conversational user interface. However, Halp does nothing more than change the location where service agents are addressing help tickets. There’s nothing about the approach that Shifts Left. To truly take a transformative approach to addressing helpdesk tickets, actually reducing the number of tickets a live agent has to troubleshoot, organizations need to combine a conversational user interface with AI. AI can answer questions ranging from a company’s location to pricing information about its product without having to involve the support team at all. Furthermore, the more questions and answers in its knowledge base, and the more automations the AI is capable of executing, the more time AI can save human representatives, creating even more ROI. Without true AI, the technology is just a shiny veneer.” – David Karandish, CEO of Capacity

What makes these three quotes stand out? They’re not vanilla – they’re hot and spicy. Here’s what I mean by that.

They say something

We have a running joke in the office about common cliche quotes. After all, how many times have you read about a CEO being “humbled and honored” to receive an award? Or “thrilled” to announce their Series A round? These types of quotes are obvious assumptions anyone reading a piece of news could make. Of course anyone receiving an award feels honored and humbled. Of course a CEO who recently secured funding is thrilled. Avoid these generalizations and look for unique ideas instead. For example, Matt’s quote affirms LogicGate’s product-market fit.

They move the conversation forward

What’s the purpose of a quote if it’s just a reiteration of fact? A great quote always answers the “So what?” of any topic, providing industry insight that might not be found anywhere else. Let’s look at a section of David’s quote about Atlassian’s acquisition of Halp. 

“Halp does nothing more than change the location where service agents are addressing help tickets. There’s nothing about the approach that Shifts Left. To truly take a transformative approach to addressing helpdesk tickets, actually reducing the number of tickets a live agent has to troubleshoot, organizations need to combine a conversational user interface with AI.”

While Atlassian’s acquisition of Halp was widely publicized because of Atlassian’s big name, David’s commentary explains why the acquisition didn’t actually promise a greater user experience or a better product. It’s an industry-specific insight others weren’t offering, which made David stand out.

They provide insight not being shared elsewhere

Take a look at this section from Richard’s quote above: “Furthermore the failure of Facebook in particular to address fake news, hate speech and online bullying have further created an unhealthy environment, exacerbated by the dopamine fueling social validation that helps drive engagement that research has shown to have consequences for mental health.” 

The fact that the CEO of a martech company made this statement is unique because social media is part of the marketing mix and you’d expect he would preach that it needs to remain so. But, Richard’s contrarian view was unique to that of other martech providers, making him stand out.

Each of the components listed above is essential to securing media placement for a quote because they’re among the hardest types of coverage to generate. In our analysis of the top 25 of the SaaS 1000, just 2.28% percent of all coverage was quotes. Though hard to garner coverage for, it’s not impossible. 

And, that’s what your SaaS PR agency is for – to help you create content that pushes the boundaries. For more information about how BLASTmedia can help your organization create hot and spicy quotes, contact Lindsey Groepper.

3 Things Every Impactful Thought Leader Has in Common

It’s a common assumption that a thought leader can be built from the ground up. And, while the tactical elements of this are true — like contributing more articles to industry magazines or improving the way you’re represented on social media — there are a few … shall we say, soft skills… every successful thought leader needs that can’t be put in place by a PR team.

Do you have what it takes to become a true thought leader? Here at BLASTmedia, we are more than just media relations experts. We’re research pros. So, we “reverse-engineered” a handful of great SaaS thought leaders and identified a few traits they all have in common:

  1. Thought leaders have talk-tracks that aren’t about product
    A thought leader must have thoughts that aren’t based on carefully-crafted product messaging. Having a non-product-focused talk-track doesn’t mean you have to totally detach from your industry, it just means you need to detach from tying everything back to why your product can solve the problem in the end. A great example of this comes from HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan. Halligan is known for his thoughts around a flywheel vs funnel sales model. Sure, converting prospects through the buyer journey ultimately ties back to HubSpot’s space, but the actual talk-track Halligan works through isn’t focused on using the product to solve all your sales stage needs.

  2. Thought leaders know their personal values
    Let’s face it: many voices in the tech world are basically saying the same thing. I mean, how many times have you heard someone talk about building a company culture that puts employees first like it’s revolutionary? That’s why taking a strong stance on an issue will encourage people to listen to you. It’s not easy to have a strong stance if you don’t know your personal values, though. As you establish these personal beliefs, it will make it easier to jump on important conversations and passionately deliver your insights. From time to time, this may even intertwine with talking about your industry as whole or your product directly — for example, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki recently held true to her personal values around her children’s media consumption, noting that she only allows her children to watch YouTube Kids and limits the amount of time they spend watching videos.

  3. Thought leaders have a personality outside of their profession
    Sure, people want to hear about your professional accomplishments and great ideas — but you won’t be able to solidify a place in their memory without showing the personality that makes you human. Some of my favorite thought leaders have worked their way onto my list of go-to sources for industry trends simply by being a real human. Take Moz CEO Sarah Bird for example: she not only passionately shares her vision for the company, but voraciously speaks on societal issues in which she’s personally invested and even partakes in the occasional “Amazon Prime vs HBO” conversation.

Becoming a thought leader takes time and a whole lot of conversations with media to build a foundation — but it also takes inflection and, dare we say, thought. By establishing a talk-track that sets you apart from your product, identifying your personal values and letting your human shine through, you’ll be able to set yourself apart from the rest of the noise. After all, literally anyone could be a thought leader if all it came down to was a few blog posts about your product.

Once you’ve done some introspection, hone these thought leader soft skills and check out how you can tactically amp up your presence.