thought leadershipGuest Post by Molly Borchers

Here’s a harsh truth: anyone who tells you “build it and they will come” is full of crap. Sorry, Field of Dreams. You can build the next Uber, Tinder, or [insert hot, IPO-bound startup here] and it won’t matter if no one knows you exist.

I’m not saying anything new here. But for many entrepreneurs, promoting their business is easier said than done.

Public relations is one of the most powerful (and cost effective) ways to put new businesses on the map. However, if you’re not an experienced publicist, pitching media can feel a little like throwing spaghetti at the wall. Ideally you’d hire a PR firm, but if you don’t yet have thousands of dollars a month to spend, you’re SOL.

If you must DIY your PR, the easiest place to start is by generating thought leadership.

If the term ”˜thought leader’ sounds like confusing jargon to you, it simply describes a credible, well-recognized authority on a particular topic. Thought leaders get quoted in the media, speak in public and influence other peoples’ thinking. Doesn’t sound half bad, right?

Here are three tips for becoming a thought leader:

1. Lay the groundwork by building your presence online

Thought leaders have Google juice. They regularly post insightful articles to their own sites, comment on other peoples’ blogs, write opinions on LinkedIn and Medium, post presentations to SlideShare and have active Twitter profiles.

If your Google presence looks a little weak, focus on amping up your blog and Twitter profile (remember that Google is bringing Twitter back into its search results). LinkedIn’s built-in publishing platform is a really smart place for you to do this, especially if you have a low-to-no following on your own blog. 

Once you’ve established your presence online, identify the top influencers in your industry and start to rub elbows with them. If you’re a spreadsheet lover like me, curl up, pour a glass of wine and dive into some sexy influencer data entry. Sounds like a thrilling Friday night activity!

Interact and engage with influencers as much as possible (this is what differentiates a social PR approach from an old school one). RT them, comment on their blogs and posts on other networks (see LinkedIn, above) and consider reaching out to offer something of value. Even the most  “unreachable” superstars appreciate getting a free solution to a pain point.

Once you have established a rapport with influencers, you may get the opportunity to post to their blog and tap into their well-established audience. Maybe they’ll post about your business on their Facebook page or mention it on a podcast. Not because it’s awesome (which it totally is), but because they like you.

2. Guest post to peer blogs

Not only does guest posting build your credibility and contribute to your status as a thought leader, but it has these benefits as well:

  • Website traffic
  • Email subscribers
  • Back links
  • Social shares

If you already have relationships with top bloggers (see Step One), this will be easy. If not, you may need to work a little harder, but it can still be done.

I recommend building a list of 15-20 blogs you’d like to post on. Again, if you want to spreadsheet it, you can segment by the bloggers with the most unique viewers per month and social media followers… or whatever metrics are important to you. Important: check to see whether they accept guest posts before you pitch.

Get familiar with the blog and come up with topics for potential posts based on previous posts. I recommend that you start building a repository of posts before you start pitching so you can be ready to submit them as soon as you get the green light.

Pitch the blogger via email. Introduce yourself and your website (if they don’t already know you) and then propose your article idea in two paragraphs or less. I like to frame my proposed topics based on how I can help the blogger’s readers. For example: “I want to show your readers how to do X, Y and Z to increase sales…” Finally, link to a couple of writing samples from your own blog so they can get a flavor for your writing.

Side note: It’s important to remember that no one gives a ____ about your business, except for maybe your mom. Readers only care about the knowledge bombs you’re able to share. If you submit posts that are overly promotional, they’ll be instantly rejected.

3. Target the “big guns”

Once you have a few guest posts under your belt, you can start to pitch major media outlets. If you’re writing for other entrepreneurs, you may want to target Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Inc, or Forbes, and almost every topic is relevant to Huffington Post. Once you’re published in one of these outlets, your customers will see you as truly legit, plus you benefit from exposure to millions of people.

I recommend that you identify the top performing posts on your blog and consider using these as pitch fodder. Some media sites (like Huffington Post for example) don’t require contributors to publish content exclusively.

That means at the bottom of the post, you can include a helpful disclaimer like “This post originally appeared on” That said, be careful to check out each site’s guidelines. Some require content to be exclusive; for example, Fast Company requires content to be exclusive for at least 24 hours.

All of the advice I gave for guest posting applies here, but it’s even more important for you to have a bulletproof pitch since journalists get thousands of emails a day.

Want to learn more? I’m hosting a free live webinar on May 30 at 10:00 a.m. PDT that will teach entrepreneurs the ins and outs of how to guest blog on sites like Huffington Post, Fast Company, Forbes and more. Sign up here to snag your spot!

Image: Brennan Moore via Flickr, CC 2.0

Molly BorchersMolly Borchers is an experienced PR strategist, eBook author and blogger at Her mission is to teach entrepreneurs how to get more publicity and sales. As a publicist, she has secured media coverage in top outlets ”” Wall Street Journal, CNN, ESPN, Mashable and Wired just to name a few, and she’s a Huffington Post contributor. Molly is also a certified yoga instructor, dog lover and pizza aficionado. You can jam with her on Twitter at @mollyborchers.