Five Ways to Improve Your Thought Leadership in Public Safety

As we all know, no one can speak eloquently on every topic, to every audience. So how do you do thought leadership right when talking to those in public safety? After all, when done well, it’s a powerful marketing tactic.

Thought leadership calls to mind the Pied Piper, someone whose “tune” so entices an audience that they’re soon trailing behind, anxious to hear more. At its best, it is like that. Really good thought leadership content teaches you something you didn’t know before, whether that’s wholly new information or a different perspective on something you thought you understood.

In Edelman’s 2020 Thought Leadership Study, 89% of B2B decision-makers said they believe “thought leadership can be effective in enhancing their perceptions of an organization.” More than half of the survey’s 3,275 respondents said that it’s a “more trustworthy basis for assessing [a company’s] capabilities” than marketing materials. (If you’ve read our previous blogs, you already know how much we stress the importance of building trust and credibility to reach leaders in public safety.)

Just as encouraging, 42% of those who took the Edelman survey said they’d pay a premium to work with an organization that produces thought leadership as compared to one that doesn’t. And nearly half said this type of content influences their purchasing decisions.

So you know it’s valuable. And you also know there’s a lot of noise calling itself “thought leadership.” How do you create meaningful content that truly helps others and makes your company stand out? Here are five things to do toward becoming an effective influencer in the minds of public safety leaders making purchasing decisions.

5 Ways to Become an Effective Influencer with Public Safety Audiences

DO share your special sauce.

It’s one thing to open up about the detailed specs of your game-changing software for law enforcement (no one is asking you to do that). It’s quite another to generously share your expertise with those who can use it to address some of the same challenges you’ve faced. As a thought leader, that might mean telling the specifics of how you weathered a market downturn to come out ahead, or summing up the biggest lessons you learned (including failures along the way) before your startup was in the black. Or maybe your insights are more forward-looking, talking about where you see the use of technology by public safety in five years. Your special (not secret) sauce is what makes you credible and it is your differentiator. And you should always be loud and proud about that.

DO resist the sell.

This may seem like an obvious “don’t,” but it still happens. Your role as a thought leader is to educate prospects, not sell to them. As organizational psychologist and TED speaker Adam Grant defines it, “creating knowledge for the purpose of sharing it is thought leadership.” Sweet and simple.

If you’re working with your marketing department to come up with topics, here are some thought-starters: Talk about the issues on your mind and on the minds of your customers, provide a new perspective on current trends or talk about your organization’s vision for the future, not the products, but where you think future trends may be and the impacts those will have on your public safety customers.

Whatever you decide to speak or write about, make it your own. We’re all busy, so your content should help your readers lift their head and look up from their day-to-day to see the world in a different way, whether big or small. Don’t waste that precious opportunity to hawk your products or services.

DO stay in your lane.

No one is good at everything. Similarly, you may be passionately interested in a topic, but your greatest strength as a thought leader will be in talking about what you are expert in. It’s the intersection of that skill and your credible, thoughtful and articulate insights that will bring in new business and keep current customers coming back. Be sure to tie your messaging back to what you do and also offer clear connections that will resonate for public safety.

It’s worth mentioning that whatever you decide to talk about doesn’t have to be last word on that topic. It does mean, though, that you should have a clear perspective that’s informed by all the things that make anyone credible—namely, experience, skill, education/training and a good reputation.

If thought leadership is often about offering ideas and insights to help your audience understand and solve problems or reconceive truly tough questions, no one could have the last word, right? In choosing what you want to talk about, consider this: What you’re trying to do is not provide a definitive answer but to start a dialogue. It may help to think that what you’re creating is a conversation for public safety leaders more than anything else. And by creating the opportunity for those conversations, you make you and your organization relevant to anyone searching for help on that subject.

DO grow new thought leaders.

Worthy, useful, insightful content can and should come from all levels of your company, not just the C-suite. Not only is it difficult for most senior-level managers to find time to create thought leadership content to share on the regular, there are almost certainly employees at various levels, across departments, who have sound advice and solutions about challenges your customers are facing—the ones your staff is helping them solve every day.

Don’t only pick their brains for ideas, but give them a chance to shine in reaching out to current and potential customers in EMS, the fire service, law enforcement and beyond. By growing a stable of thought leaders, your organization—rather than a single person—is likelier to be a source of compelling insights. (Of course not all thought leadership information is shared via the written word. If you want to be a better presenter yourself or nurture staff to become more compelling speakers, read “How to Be the Rock Star Event Speaker Your Company Needs.”)

DO know your audience.

The first question you should ask yourself about any thought leadership is, “Who is this for?” All good storytelling begins with knowing your audience. Talking to a general public safety audience is very different from trying to reach, say, a sheriff’s association or 911 telecommunicators or EMS professionals. Take the time to tailor your message to the discipline/specialty of the audience you want to connect with. Those in public safety want most to hear from others who are expert in their world, who have much the same experience they have and truly understand what they do.

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