How to Identify and Prepare Thought Leaders for Your SaaS PR Strategy

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Author: Kelsey Sowder
Kelsey Sowder
How to Identify and Prepare Thought Leaders for Your SaaS PR Strategy graphic
How to Identify and Prepare Thought Leaders for Your SaaS PR Strategy graphic

When thinking about spokespeople for your organization, you’ll likely start at the top of the organizational tree with the CEO and leadership team members. But, in reality, your thought leaders should go beyond the CEO, and maybe even your leadership team, to cultivate coverage that supports a variety of marketing goals.

Part of our process to garner coverage that contributes to those goals is setting up story mining sessions with subject matter experts (SME). In addition to traditional spokespeople, like a CEO or founder, our team often looks to story mine with an SME based on the industry the company is looking to target. For example: For brands targeting martech, we may recommend the CMO; for those dealing with GRC, we might recommend someone in compliance/security.


Because — among other reasons — publications seek out various industry expert sources.

Depending on your SaaS brand’s target audience and what messages you want to share, the publications your PR team looks to target likely range from top-tier business publications to trade publications targeting either a specific discipline, like marketing, or a specific industry, like logistics. If your team is targeting more than one type of publication — or trying to generate different types of coverage — you’ll want a few different people on your spokesperson bench ready to contribute thought leadership content.

Here’s how to find them.

Uncovering the right subject matter experts

The right SME is not always a member of the C-suite. It might be someone more ingrained in the day-to-day tactics of a specific department who has perspective on a new best practice. Consider what job titles you want to reach: Is there someone from that same discipline who could speak to their pain points and point to solutions? Consider your industry: Is there someone who really has their finger on the pulse of what’s happening, who could offer perspective on the industry as a whole? These individuals have the potential to contribute to thought leadership content efforts as industry-specific SMEs.

For example, frequently quotes and shares content from HR leaders whether they be directors, managers, generalists or c-suite executives. The content might discuss HR tech predictions, how to leverage an applicant tracking system or an op-ed about location-based pay. Marketing Land taps CMOs, VPs of marketing and directors in its content. Marketing Land articles cover a variety of trends in marketing tech, data privacy regulations and best practices in ABM strategies.

Guide them through media interactions

Now, you might see some of the examples above and say, “Kelsey, there is no way I can put my HR manager in front of the media!”

Yes, not everyone at your organization will be ready for a media interview tomorrow — and that’s okay. There are ways to involve new thought leaders, especially those who are not yet ready, trained or comfortable in an interview setting. Work with your PR team to identify opportunities that allow for collaboration and review. Here are some of the ways to leverage new industry-specific SMEs to secure media coverage:

  • Contributed content This is an easy way for PR professionals to turn a story mining session with an SME into a piece of content. The message is controlled and facilitated through you and your PR team.
  • Pre-approved quotes In the case of a media contact looking for a story source, they may accept a quote or written answers to questions in lieu of an interview. Again, the messaging is controlled and can usually be facilitated through you and your PR team.

Media interviews are a learned skill and PR teams have media training resources available to help key opinion leaders nail interviews. Training sessions could include information about the interview process, potential questions, interview “don’ts,” conversation control techniques and mock interviews. With training sessions, those leading overall strategy will have the opportunity to gauge an SME’s level of readiness for interviews and spot areas that might need more work before going on the record.

As SMEs become more experienced in participating in thought leadership content opportunities, you can always reconsider what kinds of opportunities they can take on. I recommend starting with opportunities like podcasts or interviews with trade outlets. Then they can graduate to top-tier interviews. You can accelerate this process by developing the thought leader’s media presence with additional training and feedback sessions.

Looking to identify thought leaders for your SaaS organization? We can help! For questions about the right SMEs for your SaaS PR efforts contact our team.