Thought leaders sit at the top of the food chain at most companies, driving your business forward. They’re the ones taking meetings, negotiating the big deals, overseeing teams and keeping the lights on. In other words, they have a huge amount of experience, industry expertise and company mindshare. They have amazing opinions and points of view. But they rarely have time to sit down and write a blog post or even get on Twitter for 15 minutes.
Here are three approaches to generating quality content from the C-suite.
Before jumping in, let me clarify what I mean by “thought leader,” an overused, misused and misunderstood buzzword. I agree with SAP’s Michael Brenner, who defines thought leaderships as, “Becoming an authority on relevant topics by delivering the answers to the biggest questions on the minds of your target audience. While it can include your unique perspective on hot topics relevant for your customers, the key for me is that the agenda is set by your audience.”
Guess who knows exactly what potential customers are asking? That’s right, the folks going into business development meetings.
So, how do you get their attention and focus?
1. Be the ghost [writer] in the room
Some executives have a background in copywriting or editorial or simply enjoy writing. They may even be published. Others are not. Either way, chances are good that your executive team has a lot to say. GO TALK TO THEM.
Get 20-30 minutes on each person’s calendar every quarter, at the least. Arrive prepared with five specific questions and alternate topics. Listen to them talk, record the conversation and do the write-up. Then run it by them as a courtesy to find out if they’d like to change or add anything.
2. Rogue email
Can’t get on the calendar? CEO’s always traveling? CTO can’t be bothered? Email three very specific questions to your executives at a time of day they’re likely to respond (often first thing in the morning or early evening). If you catch someone when they have 10 minutes to respond, they usually will.
It’s helpful to make your emails very leading. Provide your observations on the topic so they have something to react to and then recognize their expertise and be gracious. For example:
Yes: Hi Jeff, We’re writing an article on topic X, and we’re hoping you can validate a couple of things for us based on your conversations with [Company Y]. We’re seeing… Do you agree? Anything to add? I know you’re traveling right now, so thank you in advance for your fast response.
No: Hi Jeff, We’re writing an article on topic X. Can you share your thoughts? Thanks!
3. The PR approach
A point of view around a topic will often emerge organically from your company’s vision and mission. When you want that opinion to come from an executive as the public face of your company, write it up for them and get their approval. Public relations firms make a lot of money doing things this way, and as long as your execs know the content is coming for approvals (and they like the writer), things go smoothly.
Even better, get to the heart of what your executives say during all-hands and investor meetings. Get presentations in advance if possible and pull the most important quotes. Then turn that content into a blog post or white paper, or consider how you could use a beefy quote as the headline of an infographic. Work with your PR team if they’re involved so you can create a cohesive campaign worth promoting across channels.