How to Use Content to Position Your CEO as a Thought Leader

4 min read

Thought leader is a term we hear a lot in nonprofit marketing and communications. In weekly conversations, I hear people say, “We want our nonprofit CEO to be a thought leader.” But what exactly does that mean? This same question came up during a group discussion I was part of the other day, and we collectively came up with a definition:

A thought leader is an individual who has significant expertise or authority on a topic and uses their knowledge to educate specific audiences with the goal of influencing action toward a larger end goal. 

Today, I want to share why your nonprofit CEO should be a thought leader, and how you can start using your own content to help them become one.

Nonprofit CEOs should be thought leaders

Driving social change happens through a combination of educating people about an issue or opportunity that exists, engaging them in your efforts and activating them to become part of the solution. Thought leadership can play a role at every stage, and as the person responsible for spearheading organizational strategy and achieving social change, nonprofit CEOs should take on the role. Your nonprofit CEO should be offering opinions and perspectives on TV or in the newspaper, sharing their views on panels or as a keynote speaker or testifying before a legislative committee. However, establishing the credibility warranted for any one of these activities takes time, so while you might not secure a keynote straight out of the gate, you can start with your nonprofit’s own content and media channels to build your CEO’s thought leadership platform.

Driving social change happens through a combination of educating people about an issue or opportunity that exists, engaging them in your efforts and activating them to become part of the solution. Click To Tweet

Build your nonprofit CEO’s thought leadership using your own media

In order to be a thought leader, your CEO needs to bring a relevant but unique perspective to the conversation. You can do this by conducting an assessment of what other nonprofit CEOs in your space are saying in media articles and through web research.

As an example, one of our clients works in child health and wellness. After conducting an assessment of organizations in their space, we found others were discussing nutrition, physical activity, health concerns and long-term health impacts, but no one was talking about the need to work across all of these areas in a collaborative fashion in order to achieve maximum impact. The CEO of our client organization adopted the perspective that we must move beyond discussing the challenges related to child health and work together to mobilize action.

Like our client, once you’ve identified your nonprofit CEOs unique perspective, regularly publish these views through bylined content on your organization’s blog, or provide insights to your various audiences via a monthly e-newsletter. You can take this a step further and think creatively by developing a report or study and publishing it with insights from your nonprofit’s CEO. All of these activities will build their authority and credibility.

Build your nonprofit CEO’s thought leadership using outside media

Outside of your organization’s own channels, you can also leverage social media to develop thought leadership, by ensuring your CEO is active on relevant social media channels. As one example, you may choose to republish your nonprofit CEO’s blog posts on LinkedIn to cast a wider net. 

As you start to build your nonprofit CEO’s collection of thought leadership through your own channels, it will be easier to secure opportunities externally. For example, many publications accept letters to the editor and opinion columns, others accept guest columns as well. 

Whether thought leadership appears on your own media channels or others, you’re creating awareness of your nonprofit’s CEO as well as your organization’s mission. These activities will all build toward securing larger opportunities, such as speaking engagements, where you can use this content in support of your speaker‘s submission. 

If you have any questions about how you can secure more media coverage for your CEO or organization, contact us. Or, you can download our nonprofit public relations checklist.

What Makes a Good Story?


As you craft your PR strategy and plan your media pitches, whether to educate audiences about your focus area or draw attention to an event or program, ask yourself whether your story idea meets one or (ideally) more of the following requirements in our resource.

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