Sporadic tweets, the occasional blog post, or distributing a one-off press release and believing that, “if you write it, they will come,” simply does not work when it comes to establishing industry thought leadership.
For a company to be seen as an innovator in telehealth, it’s vital that you have a holistic strategy for positioning your CEO (or other execs) in the public eye. But building credibility and clout is not as easy as just “being there.” He or she must demonstrate a willingness to take a stand on critical (and sometimes controversial) telehealth issues and be a sentinel for where telehealth delivery is headed.
Here are five tips for helping your company stand out in the crowded market by positioning your CEO as a true thought leader.
- Define Your Thought Leader’s Brand
CEOs (and their personalities) come in all shapes and sizes. Before doing anything else, the CEO and communications team must work together to understand and define the executive’s brand and tone of voice.
Research shows that 90 percent of consumers view authenticity as an important factor when choosing brands to support. Your CEO’s personal brand should be true to their own personality, strengths and vision—both personally and professionally.
At Merritt Group, we do custom persona building to help build an executive’s persona, as well as the channels that will be most effective to communicate with audiences through. For example, is the CEO a medical provider? An academic? A technical innovator? What are they passionate about? What is their vision? Are they casual or formal? Pragmatic or idealistic? The answers to these questions determine the topics, channels and opportunities most appropriate to deliver the thought leadership platform and your CEO’s message.
- Have a Compelling and Consistent Point of View
Nobody wants to hear more of the same. Help your CEO flip norms on their head, take a counter-intuitive approach and be edgy. Audiences want a fresh take, so position your CEO as the leading authority to listen to.
To develop a unique voice and point of view (POV), use tools such as BuzzSumo and Google Trends to search for trending topics and identify ones that are most important to your target audiences — such as providers, medical professionals and insurers. From there, develop a solid message platform (value proposition, elevator pitch, positioning statements, proof points, etc.) to determine how those topics are discussed externally—from industry or customer challenges to competitive differentiators—and the unique perspective the CEO adds to the discussion. Where possible, infuse new data and research into your messaging to back your POV to add something new to the conversation and lend credibility.
Update and refine the CEO platform as needed, but the key messages should always be clear and consistent with supporting talking points or soundbites to match. Whether it’s a virtual webinar, an op-ed, a media interview or LinkedIn post, any public remarks from the CEO should reflect the central message of his or her key POV. CEO thought leadership is most effective when it’s consistent across all channels.
- Master the Art of the Soundbite
Thought leadership isn’t just about what you say, it’s also about how you say it. With the CEO’s personal brand, tone of voice and unique perspective defined, it’s time to focus on their delivery.
As much as your CEO wants to pontificate on their favorite topics, media train your CEO to talk in short, punchy phrases that have a greater likelihood of being picked up by media—and understood by customers. Work out those quotes in advance alongside your messaging platform and put your executives in the “hot seat” to practice.
Conducting mock interviews can help refine their delivery skills, but also get executives comfortable with key message points so delivery is more natural and powerful. Keep practicing the key messages and soundbites until it becomes second nature.
- Drive Home Thought Leadership via Earned, Paid and Owned Channels
Your perfect soundbites mean nothing if no one can hear or see them.
Whether your buyer is reading an online article, listening to a podcast or watching a publication video, your CEO/execs need to be front and center. Develop PR platforms for your executives around key telehealth issues and trends and bring those to market in leading healthcare publications your buyers are reading, such as Healthcare Innovation, Modern Healthcare and others.
Focus your thought leadership campaign on multiple strategies, including proactive media pitches, bylines, rapid response, paid content, (virtual) events and social media platforms. For example:
- Leverage breaking news stories, data and timely hooks to connect to develop media pitches, op-eds and bylines that showcase your CEO’s fresh perspective.
- Use your company’s owned channels to create thought leadership-driven assets like blog posts, LinkedIn content and videos that use the CEO’s platform to deliver the company’s vision and approach to the market.
- Have your CEO meet your prospects and peers where they are online, from landing a keynote at now virtual conferences like ATA2020 and HIMSS21 to hosting an intimate remote roundtable discussion with press and/or analysts on the latest telehealth trends.
- Use paid promotion via social, SEM and programmatic media buying as a complementary tool to amplify the CEO content you create.
- Stay Engaged
A proper thought leadership campaign takes time and effort—building credibility and visibility doesn’t happen overnight. To achieve the ultimate goal of reporters coming to your CEO for comment and perspective (versus you pitching them), you’ll need to keep your foot on the gas. This includes reading news headlines and social media feeds to proactively develop commentary that showcases the CEO’s perspective on important issues through some of the tactics above.
Above all else, make sure you’re regularly checking in with your CEO and adjusting your efforts as the business evolves. Your campaign will lack authenticity if it doesn’t reflect their current thinking, and key audiences can tell when thought leaders are truly knowledgeable and passionate about a topic (or not).