14 Avenues for Establishing Thought Leadership in Science
Thought-leadership campaigns can sometimes appear to have a deceptively simple recipe: Mix one part KOL with a strong overarching narrative and serve piping hot, through multiple distribution channels. But in the life science industry, to be effective, all ingredients must be well strategized and executed. Importantly, choosing how you distribute your brand’s industry-elevating ideas can mean the difference between a campaign that falls flat and one that ripples through all of your core audiences.
Not only does this require knowledge of the potential channels, but it also requires an integrated execution strategy. When do specific content pieces go out? How do you cross-promote on different platforms? Where can content be repurposed and be made more accessible for your audience?
We’re glad you asked.
Here are 14 solid distribution channels that should go into your integrated, thought-leadership campaign recipe, some of their defining characteristics, and opportunities for repurposing or cross-promotion. And if you haven’t considered these for your more traditional marketing strategy, well, the new year is just around the corner. What better time to start!
While Twitter is prone to a lot of meaningless noise, the B2B life science industry and thought leaders in this space are a welcome exception. In the past few years, Twitter has become a popular avenue for free thought and healthy discourse from a sophisticated, scientific audience. It can also be a free-wheeling place to share insights and ideas in a whimsical way. To get the most out of Twitter for your thought leadership, follow best practices and engage, through likes, retweets, and direct messages, with other industry leaders, followers, and your audience. Doing so builds trust and a way to amplify your narrative, organically. And don’t forget hashtags. Depending on what you’re doing on Twitter, you may want to include #scicomm, #sciart, #phdchat, #AcademicTwitter.
Author and researcher, David Sinclair, who studies the biology of aging is a good example. He’s an engaging tweeter and weighs in on the latest research, whether it comes out of his lab or not. This sends a clear message that he’s invested in the advancement of the field as a whole, not just promoting his own work. For more inspiration takes cues from Bruce Booth, Vinay Prasad, and CG Life (worth a shot).
This is likely one of the most popular platforms for B2B life science professionals and one that is natural for a thought-leadership campaign. Your thought leaders can distribute short-form content, long-form posts, links to articles, and video from seminars or webinars to connections and followers. LinkedIn also has company pages and groups where people in the same industry or with similar goals can get together and share content, ideas, etc.
Author and physician-scientist, Eric Topol, MD has done an incredible job of not only promoting his own vision for personalized medicine but also engaging with other followers and thought leaders through likes and comments. As with Twitter, there are some well-established best practices, but the name of the game is engagement! Hashtags are your friend here as well and you can even follow industry-specific hashtags, like #biotech, to stay on top of trending articles or news.
SlideShare offers a way to share visually-engaging slide decks and is an often forgotten, yet powerful, channel for thought leadership. With over 70 million unique visitors per day and the ability to share slide decks through LinkedIn or embed them on other websites, there is a ton of cross-promotion and amplification that can happen. There’s also an added SEO bonus by posting on SlideShare: The platform transcribes all the text in your slide decks, making it accessible by search engines. The success of SlideShare has led to several other platforms that have an updated look and feel and may be another potential avenue for distributing thought-leadership content.
Not all thought leadership needs to be external. After all, true innovation has to come from the inside. Getting your audiences on board with the message you are putting out there means using your internal team as guinea pigs first. Early in the conception of your thought-leadership campaign, speak with your different departments and get a sense for what their pain points are, what they’re hearing out in the field, and what they know about competitors. Once your narratives are a little more baked, trial the messaging on your internal team with corporate newsletters or other communications and use your learnings to improve your externally-facing campaign.
Your Corporate Blog
Your company’s blog isn’t just great for content marketing or bringing organic traffic, but it’s a solid way to build a dedicated following and an email list to distribute content to. Ownership over the content you put out gives you a lot of flexibility with the format and topics of discussion. Your thought leaders can be the subject of interviews, Q&As, roundups, and more. Content your team has developed in the past can also be a resource to draw on: It can be repurposed and incorporated for your new thought leadership.
Speaking of repurposing: One of the simplest ways to repurpose blog content or any other owned content is through Medium. At first glance, it looks like a regular publication and you will find prominent journalists and authors posting a huge range of new content daily. However, it’s also a ‘medium’ for amateur bloggers, thought leaders, artists, and more. There are a few best practices for posting ‘syndicated’ content that was previously posted online so you can avoid duplicate content penalties or other SEO issues. Alternatively, you can post original content – particularly if your company blog is lacking traffic. (Here’s an OG article we posted in May.) Sharing your perspective through channels like Medium gives you access to a whole new audience and drives traffic to your website, where additional thought-leadership content can live.
Thought leadership earned through established outlets requires an integrated approach, blending a meaningful platform with a healthy dose of public relations. There are two plays here, both stemming from a healthy relationships with their team. First, you can position your KOLs (or yourself) as a go-to resource for reporters. To do this, make it as easy as possible for them to contact you on a tight deadline (i.e. via a direct cell line, not a PR email address) and make sure you share valuable knowledge about the topic rather than talking about yourself. The other play is to earn a spot for your own contributed bylines and ongoing content, like a monthly column. Getting earned content in specific trade publications gets you in front of a well-defined, relevant audience and access to a regular readership. Once achieved, this can be an additional avenue for repurposing content.
Conferences and Trade Shows
PR can also help secure speaking engagements at trade shows and conferences. Remember the overarching narrative for your thought campaign and infuse that into all of your speaking engagements. Getting strategic speaking spots can be a feed-forward process that can really drive itself. Once you get a few opportunities, you may get people reaching out to your thought leaders for panels, networking events, and more. Record the speaking events for repurposing and chop them up for use on Twitter, LinkedIn, your blog, etc. And if you’re spending the money for a booth, make sure you bring hard copies of some of your content from PR and digital efforts.
Done well, webinars can do wonders for your email list and for amplifying your thought leadership. The ability to create engaging visual content with a voice-over from your KOLs can be difficult to execute but enables your audience to hear your thought-leadership campaign directly from the horse’s mouth. Attendees can also engage through Q&A sessions afterward. Webinars also come with ample opportunities for repurposing. Slide decks can be put on SlideShare, recordings of the webinar can be chopped up and used on social media, and Q&As can be used to create spin-off blog content or valuable downloadables.
If only there was a central place to put all this great video content you’re developing. YouTube is the 2nd most popular search engine in the world, with over 1.5 billion logged-in users per month. With well-executed video SEO and engaging video content from your trade show appearances, speaking engagements, and webinars you can tap into some of this audience and get great organic exposure, driving traffic back to your website and getting eyeballs on your thought-leadership content.
Industry-Defining Reports, Resources, and Surveys
Instead of joining an existing debate, consider whether you can generate some original data or talking points from time-to-time. Creating a resource that the industry benefits from can be a game-changer. You can do simple surveys on Twitter or more extensive ones through email. Or, crunch some available data and present it in an easy-to-digest way, such as infographic, with a touch of original insight. This can then be distributed through social media and other channels. As one example, CG Life published several “JP Morgan Survival Guides,” helping people navigate the chaos of the conference. The utility of resources like this can make you an indispensable resource for your industry.
Reddit, the self-described “front page of the internet,” has become an important place to expand your audience, especially given that it is one of the most visited sites on the planet (top 5 in the US, top 20 globally). That said, what truly distinguishes Reddit is that it is number one when it comes to time spent and total pages explored per visit. U.S. users spent nearly twice as much time on Reddit as they do on YouTube and Google in a given day. Reddit is organized through an enormous collection of subreddits that operate around specific topics, complete with their own rules, moderators, and followers. The subreddit r/science has a whopping 22.8 million followers, who engage in highly specialized and macro-level discussions and debate. Reddit is also famous for its Ask Me Anything (AMAs), where individuals make themselves available to the community to answer a wide number questions about their field, work, and interests – along with some less obvious Reddit favorites like “would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or 1 horse-sized duck?”
ResearchGate is a niche social media site, but it’s one filled with millions of world-leading researchers and scientists. On ResearchGate, you can follow specific research topics, share work, answer highly specific technical questions, and connect with individuals. All of these actions can help improve your visibility and connect you with others. Impressively, it offers users analytics that track who’s reading and citing your work. In addition, these culminate to produce an RG-score, which you can use to track your overall citation performance. These analytics features make it relatively easy to measure your performance as you continue to produce information and engage the community.
Commentary and Opinion
It’s strange but true: To be heard, you need to listen. To establish yourself as an industry leader, you need to be plugged into the debates, interacting with the existing community and recognizing the different perspectives. A great way to do this is by informally commenting on high-traffic articles. Here, you can subtly insert your viewpoint knowing your target audience will already be on the page. It’s also possible to learn and share your expertise via platforms such as Quora, or through the Q&A function of ResearchGate. To be really old-school, you can even commend people offline, at conferences or following a presentation.
With all those channels to digest it may feel like Thanksgiving all over again. But if you’re considering a thought leadership campaign in the new year, drop us a line. We can help shape and boost thought-leadership campaigns with a full range of marketing and communications tactics.