Berkeley Communications

Putting your passion on the page

The ultimate guide to becoming a thought leader in your industry

Written by Berkeley Communications

7 May 2024


The digital media era has provided many more online outlets for business leaders to get their views across – from blogs and podcasts, to Tweets and LinkedIn posts. But as the opportunities to make your thoughts heard have increased, so too has the competition. To make sure your views and those of your company stand out from the crowd and resonate with your target audience, you need to become not just a good thought leader but a great storyteller.

Thought leadership is far more than just a marketing buzzword. It’s about being able to use storytelling to successfully engage with your peers, customers and prospects, through media and online channels. Focusing solely on pushing out news or self-congratulatory content means you are missing out on the opportunity to become an authoritative voice on what matters most in your industry, steering debate and provoking conversation on key topics through compelling storytelling.

Research from the Financial Times Group suggests that almost nine-in-ten (87%) C-level executives believe that thought leadership influences decision-making. Furthermore, three-fifths (62%) request calls or meetings with companies that produce good quality thought leadership.

Because of this, we work with our clients to help them understand the elements of a successful thought leadership piece and how they can truly ‘own’ the topics that resonate most with potential customers. This includes being able to answer three key questions: What is the challenge facing your customers? What are the steps needed to resolve their business problem; how can you take the reader on that journey? And what does success look like? How will the reader’s world be changed if they resolve this problem?

Answering these questions and getting the balance right is important – your passion and authenticity need to shine through so that your opinions and advice stick with the audience and your story gets re-told, again and again.

By becoming a thought leader, you can elevate your company’s position in the market, punching far above your weight. even in congested and competitive markets. Thought leadership is not about overtly selling your solutions. Instead, show your understanding of important market trends and challenges, bring them to life through Brand Storytelling and you will help your customers to prosper.

Chris Hewitt
CEO, Berkeley Communications

What is thought leadership?

The essence of thought leadership is exactly as it sounds. You lead the way with your thoughts and opinions.

This doesn’t mean that you can simply sound off about every topic that comes to mind. What you say must be relevant to you and your business, rooted in fact and backed up through experience or based on a reliable source – particularly if offering an opinion on the latest trend or making future predictions. In short, it must be a relatable and reliable story, positioning you as a reputable guide and trusted advisor.

At Berkeley, we work with our clients to develop viewpoints, byline articles and commentary on key topics which position their business leaders as experts. This gives them the opportunity to impart their extensive knowledge on the industry, customers and prospects.

Why thought leadership?

The pressure to be a thought leader can often result in rushed attempts at throwaway blogs and off-the-cuff opinion articles. However, it is important to approach it the right way. Powerful storytelling will build credibility with customers, prospects and media channels, so it should be given as much respect as soundbite requests from the Financial Times. Your thought leadership needs to cut through the noise and offer stand-out opinions, as well as grab a journalist’s attention to make it onto the page or screen. Remember, you are not selling your company, but your experience and knowledge.

How to become a successful thought leader

There are five key elements that every successful thought leadership campaign should have in order to position you, or your business leader, as a trailblazer in your industry.

Be compelling and credible

Your expertise in a particular niche will make your content credible and stand out from the crowd. Bring through specific experiences and challenges to evoke passion and provide a different take on a topic. A mere explanation or agreement with an industry trend is likely to draw yawns. That doesn’t mean being overly controversial or shocking but taking a different approach or angle from your competitors will help you stand out in a crowded industry. As long as the information is verified, justified and relevant, then the content will carry huge weight and authority.

Tell a story

Every piece of thought leadership should take readers on a journey – from problem to peace of mind – by providing some form of resolution or inspiring action to be taken. The beauty of thought leadership is the scope to delve into a topic or trend and show the reader how they can overcome a specific challenge by bringing it to life and making it relatable through the power of storytelling.

Stay relevant

The best stories are those that bring something new to the debate and have a good handle on not just the here and now, but also future industry trends and predictions. It’s therefore important to connect your story to what’s going on in your industry and offer insightful and relevant opinions which provoke a call to action or continued debate.

Promote your authority not your business

By its very nature, thought leadership content positions you, and your business, as an authority on key issues and one that can help customers thrive, without the need to be self-serving. It is rubber stamping your credibility. So, don’t talk about what your business is doing, or that new deal you’ve made, instead tell your audience how to solve their problems. Adding an element of subtlety to your company message instils trust from readers and publications alike.

Build a faithful following

As author and Silicon Valley speaker Shel Israel once wrote, “You cannot be a thought leader if others don’t follow”. While not everyone will always agree with your opinions, building a loyal base of people who believe and support your ideas is the ultimate goal of any thought leader. Therefore, once you’ve created your thought leadership campaign, you need to share it with your network to amplify your reach.

Building a strong following will also help gain the attention of the media. Being contacted by the media for your opinions before you contact them is a sign that your views and authority are well respected and the holy grail for every PR professional. Sharing a clear point of view which lets people know what they are going to get is a key part of growing a following and making your mark in the media and your industry.

“Thought leadership content is fundamental to achieving organic PR success. A well-researched and thoroughly planned thought leadership programme adds an extra layer of value to a PR campaign, as it positions the authors as trusted and credible experts on important industry topics. Trade media are always open to accepting thought leadership articles, but their expectations are high – they will not accept anything less than a top-quality piece of content that is relevant and engaging to their target audience. Exclusivity is also becoming more of a priority for editors, so thought leadership coverage success should be measured by the quality (as opposed to quantity) of publications that place it.”

Mike Greenshields
PR Director, Berkeley Communications

It’s time to be a thought leader

By following these five steps, you can be perfectly poised to become more than just a leader within your company but a storyteller and trusted advisor. Sharing your leadership and expertise with the media and wider industry will enable you to elevate your company’s message and help position you as an industry authority.

To find out how we can help you become an industry thought leader, get in touch with our team.