Building thought leadership takes commitment from both industry experts and their employers

Thought leadership can grow organically if you just happen to be a particularly interesting expert in your field. However, sometimes you need a more systematic approach. At its best, building a personal brand as a well-known, established industry expert is rewarding and even increases the person’s value in the job market, but it also takes hard work.

“We want our experts to be interviewed by the media whenever they’re discussing themes that are important to us. Like Mikko Hyppönen is interviewed whenever journalists need someone who knows about computer security.”

We’ve received similar briefs from quite a few organisations that are interested in growing their media coverage in a systematic manner. We call it thought leadership.

Thought leadership is a form of communication that connects your organisation to societal discussions, indicates responsibility, and shows that your organisation knows the industry thoroughly. Thought leadership is built between brand communications, corporate communications and tactical marketing, and it’s usually associated with a specific person who works for the organisation. For example, think of an organisation or person who journalists contact first when they need an expert statement or professional analysis for a story or piece of news.

Thought leadership takes commitment

A spokesperson lends their face to their employer but also builds their own brand as an industry expert. Sometimes interesting experts become thought leaders naturally – and sometimes it takes a more systematic approach to succeed. Real-life thought leaders like Mikko Hyppönen actively take part in public discussions in traditional or social media and convey their organisation’s views as credible experts.

Being a public figure can be demanding, so when it’s part of an expert’s job, the employer should also offer them support. Nonetheless, building a position as an established expert commentator can be very rewarding and even increase the expert’s value in the job market.

Long-term efforts and occasional quick wins

Building thought leadership and expert brands for spokespeople takes patience and sustained effort. To maintain top-of-mind awareness among journalists, an industry expert must keep up continuous, active and open communication. Your expert must have the ability and willingness to discuss the development of your industry or societal questions relevant to your organisation in public, whether it’s on social media, in your organisation’s own channels or with journalists who work for traditional media.

Publicity attracts more publicity: the more your expert is featured in media, the more likely it is for journalists to contact them when in need of an expert statement. On occasion, quick wins may result from media coverage immediately, but real thought leadership requires long-term efforts.

How Miltton can help your experts become thought leaders

We’ve trained experts from numerous organisations representing various sectors and industries and helped them become thought leaders.

First, we help you identify the themes most relevant to your organisation’s thought leadership: in which topics do you want to be heard, and in which conversations would you be able to offer valuable input? Having identified the themes and your key messages, we will train your selected experts to discuss the topics in traditional or social media.

We monitor public discussions and trends that are bubbling under the surface and plan tailored communications activities to match them. As a result, your organisation’s expert may end up commenting on your chosen theme on the news, writing an op-ed for a newspaper or sparking up a lively debate on Twitter.

Oona Kasslin is the Director of public relations and social media at Miltton. She is excited about personality-driven communications.

This blog is the final part of a three-part series. The first part covers internal ambassadors in organisations – read it here. The second part discussing external ambassadors on social media can be found here.

For more information, please contact

Miikka Huhta
Employee experience and communications