In this guest blog, Scott Rosenblum discusses why "thought leadership" is still essential for fintechs in 2023.
As we are almost at the end of Q1, it is still early enough for fintechs and their marketing executives (or publicists) to engage or refine their thought leadership efforts for the year. For those who are not already engaging the media this way, now is a good time to consider some key points before the year gets too far ahead of initial planning efforts.
Using credibility to fill the gaps
Thought leadership remains essential for fintechs in 2023. It is still one of the best ways for an executive/company founder to gain visibility and establish their expertise and credibility in their given markets. Like any other type of media coverage, a quote in a trend piece or a well-written opinion article (op-ed) can be used for a company’s marketing, blogging and social media efforts, as well as help with SEO purposes. Also, a well-trained sales team can weaponize this kind of media coverage in their prospecting emails and can use it to stay in touch with current clients (reassure them of the company’s continued relevance, upsell products/solutions, etc.).
For unknown founders, thought leadership is a great way to keep a company’s brand out there at times when its news pipeline is on the thin side, as it is unlikely that most of these founders will get the profile treatment immediately in a top-tier publication. There is a steady need from reporters at various business and trade publications for expert commentary, so founders' thought leadership can fill this void. For reporters, hearing from founders they are unfamiliar with that have interesting commentary can help keep their contact lists of sources fresh, as they usually don’t want to quote the same experts all the time if they don’t have to. Thus, thought leadership becomes a win-win for both sides.
And over time if an expert gets quoted enough or their articles get cited in high-traffic websites, Medium posts, Twitter, etc., that person can garner a following and become an influencer in their field. These efforts become a self-fulling prophecy, as they can lead to speaking, media, and interview opportunities.
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Be brave, thought leader
If an executive is considering this (or working with a PR firm that is on her behalf), it is helpful for her to keep these 3 key things in mind:
1) Have strong feelings and opinions about your industry and expertise – Though there is still demand for “best practices” articles, there are already too many “10 Best tips for XX” pieces online and you can only take your brand expertise so far if your opinions are limited to this type of commentary (and yes, I respect the irony that these are tips I am giving here!).
If you have strong opinions on a topic, especially one that is counterintuitive to the prevalent wisdom about a topic, this is something that will help you stand out from the pack and increase your chances of being quoted by a reporter in a trend piece or having an op-ed placed in a key publication. This is important because even if you are an expert in an obscure field, there are always other experts out there who are competing for the collective mindshare of the same reporters covering the space, especially if they are reporters from top-tier media outlets.
2) Timeliness matters! – Not every thought leadership opportunity is based on a breaking news item, but if you have something to say about a topic, the sooner you can get it to the media the better – particularly if the reporter has attached a hard deadline for a reactive query. The early bird doesn’t always get the worm, but it can increase your chances for consideration when considering all the competition for the same attention.
3) Be mindful about when to comment – In some cases, the best move with thought leadership is not to do it all. This is usually because:
the topic is too tangential to your domain expertise
it doesn’t really connect with you or your company’s messaging
you may not be fully confident in the matter to give an opinion that would be considered “expert level”
the topic is too controversial and there may be more downsides than upsides to offering an opinion, and
the field will be too crowded with too many talking heads, making it difficult to compete with other experts.
At the end of the day, however, the best bet for an executive or founder is, to be honest with themselves about thought leadership. Even when an executive knows her field, sometimes they are not exceptionally passionate about it or they don’t feel comfortable putting themselves out in the public domain. If this is the case and said the executive is asking her PR firm “what do you think I should say about it?”, then thought leadership might not be for her.
And that is okay, as not everyone wants or should be a thought leader.
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About the author: Scott Rosenblum is the President/Founder of LEVEL PR, a boutique public relations agency that works primarily with fintech startups. With over 20 years as a PR professional working with a variety of BtoB and BtoC technology clients, Scott brings a wide range of media knowledge and strategic experience to help these companies raise their brand awareness and reach their target audiences. Scott is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University.