How to be a Thought Leader

By Giuseppina Chiaramonte

The Hoffman Agency, San Jose

Thought leadership is one of those buzzwords that gets tossed around a lot in public relations. Everybody talks about it, but what does it really mean, and what are its characteristics?

To me, being a thought leader is kind of like being Socrates. You’re not just an expert in your field (which Socrates very obviously was), but you’re creating and engaging in discussion, sketching a dialectic blueprint that will outline the growth of your industry.

Maybe this definition is a tad lofty, but you can’t say it’s not appealing. Of course we want our clients to be thought leaders. That’s what will raise their brand above and beyond the competition (much in the same way that Socrates stands out among the crop of philosophers that came out of ancient Greece).

But we can’t all be thought leaders just like that. It takes time to build that credibility and reach the apex of industry authority. To really adequately understand what it takes for your clients to make that climb, it helps to do it yourself.

That’s why The Hoffman Agency strives to be a thought leader in PR and implements many of the same tactics we use for our clients. Below are a few placements we’ve gained in recent months and a little description about what they add to our own unique thought leadership campaign.


 What it is: Our GM shares his POV on how the Livestrong Foundation should reinvent its brand.

What it does: Steve’s post considers Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace and its effect on the Livestrong Foundation. More importantly, it states an opinion of its own which forces readers to agree or disagree and elicits a response.


What it is: Our CEO contributes a byline to VentureBeat on Amazon’s brand evolution.

What it does: Lou’s byline investigates Amazon to determine the process of establishing one’s brand identity. The piece wraps up with some advice to startups: establishing brand equity takes incremental steps – the e-commerce giant wasn’t built in a day.


What it is: Our CEO will be keynoting at a PR Newswire conference on storytelling

What it does: If you’ve been around our website, then you’re sure to know that our agency prides itself on storytelling in business. Lou’s participation at PR Newswire’s conference, “How to Employ Multimedia Content for Compelling Storytelling” gives us a chance to mold and lead the discussion on a topic for which we’re passionate and makes sure our message gets out to the right people.


What it is: Our agency released a SlideShare deck on storytelling in business that garnered more than 40,000 views

What it does: We’re serious about this storytelling thing – and we like to have fun with it as well. By creating a SlideShare deck on “The Return of Storytelling vs. Corporate Speak” we’re showcasing our passion for storytelling to the world.


Our thought leadership campaign states opinions, investigates processes, leads discussions, offers solutions and creates content. But at its core, a holistic thought leadership campaign needs at least three things:

1)  It needs to take in third-party media

By applying PR know-how to companies and issues in the news (like Livestrong and Amazon), Steve’s post and Lou’s byline make PR relevant to other audiences.

2)  It needs to speak directly to its target audience

Lou’s participation at PR Newswire’s conference ensures that our message about storytelling in business reaches the people who will want to hear it the most.

3)  It needs to create its own media

When one has passion and knowledge for a subject, one naturally begins to create. We create SlideShare decks and infographics about storytelling not because we have to, but because we want to share our passion with the world.

What about you? What are some tactics you use in your personal thought leadership campaign?

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