What is thought leadership? CEO and content marketing expert, Michael Brenner, defines it as: “[When] you tap into the talent, experience, and passion inside your business, to consistently answer the biggest questions on the minds of your target audience.”
Thought leaders leverage their deep understanding of a particular industry or topic to produce high-quality content that connects with readers. When used effectively, thought leadership can increase brand awareness and build positive sentiment around your brand. This can lead to more leads, more traffic, more sales, and greater recognition industry-wide.
If you’re ready to share your business know-how with the world, use the following tips to get started. Before you know it, you’ll be an established thought leader with a thriving business and brand.
Tip 1: Establish Your Personal Brand
While your personal brand can correspond to your company’s overall brand and purpose, it should take into account your individual point of view as well. As you develop this personal brand, think about going deep, instead of wide. Hone in on your area of expertise and the many facets of that topic that you can bring into the conversation.
For example, let’s say you own an on-demand staffing company and have a personal passion for animal rights. You promote a culture of service at your company because of your passion. You may think that you should only share thought leadership pieces about on-demand staffing, but there is likely already a lot of content out there on this topic. Sharing pieces on animal rights alone wouldn’t be a fit for your company’s brand, because you want to promote on-demand staffing. Finding the unique intersection of your work and your personal passions could provide an opportunity to create unique content that resonates with readers. For example, you could share content on the following topics:
- How social good can influence business strategy
- The many ways businesses can contribute to animal rights activism
- How to build a business culture around social good
As you plan your brand in this way, remember this advice from Bernard May, CEO of National Positions: “If you’re building a personal brand, you need to be able to dive deep into a topic and really understand the nuances of it. You can’t be an expert on everything. The second you try to walk in the wrong lane, you are more likely to get hit by the truck of diminishing public trust.”
Following the same example, you may not be an expert on animal rights, but you are an expert on doing social good as a business. Following May’s suggestions, your topics of focus would be at the unique intersection of your business and your personal passion.
Tip 2: Develop Your Network
To broaden your audience, start with your existing professional network. Research industry leaders and other successful thought influencers and ask them to connect via LinkedIn or in person. For example, if your business is headquartered in Dallas, Texas, you could search online for thought leadership in Dallas or business strategy in Dallas to find thought leaders in your city. This can be a great way to make local connections.
As you build more relationships in the industry, you may even find that you are in a position to ask one of these thought leaders to mentor you. Matt Rogers, CEO of Insights Without Borders, tells Business News Daily, “[s]ocial media platforms such as LinkedIn or Twitter become the foundations for your thought leadership strategy and key channels for your social networking.”
Remember to attend networking events hosted by local groups, business associations, and chambers of commerce. These organizations are always looking for speakers, which is a valuable way to share your message and step into the role of a thought leader.
Tip 3: Create and Share Value-Driven Content
There is a plethora of content on the internet today, so you have to make sure yours stands out. If your content sounds the same as everyone else, then there is no incentive for your audience to check it out. There are many ways to provide value with your content, but it comes down to publishing unique, high-quality content every time.
Remember that the quality of your content has a real effect on your business. Recent studies from Edelman have shown that 49% of B2B buyers said their opinion of a company had decreased after reading poor quality content, and a third had removed a company from consideration based on its content output. Use your thought leadership content to avoid this problem, and, instead, impress potential customers and clients.
A great resource for leveling up your content game is Edelman’s Flywheel of B2B Thought Leadership, which details six key areas to target to become a successful thought leader in your space. They provide many tips on creating unique, relevant content, and we definitely recommend checking out the flywheel for a deep dive.
Tip 4: Write and Promote an e-Book
Once you’re comfortable with writing and have started to establish yourself as a thought leader, consider leveling up your content creation with an eBook. Becoming a published author will boost your credibility in your industry as well as increase your reach. You can even repurpose the content you’ve been writing to create an eBook. You can learn more about how to do that with this repurposing Skillshare course.
If this is your first eBook, choosing a topic may be the hardest part. In the guide, 8 Steps to Creating and Selling eBooks, Selz advises looking at what content already performs well for your company so you can use this as a jumping-off point. You can look at content performance by heading to Google Analytics to find your most popular blog posts or connect with your social media team to find out which topics are most engaging for your social media. These audiences represent the group of people who will download or buy your eBook, making it a great place to start thinking about topics.
Once you complete your eBook, Selz suggests writing multiple guest posts on external sites to garner buzz and funnel interest to the site where your eBook is available. Don’t forget to promote with all the usual channels, including email marketing, social media marketing, and even paid ads. The more people see the book—even if they don’t buy or download it—the more you’re able to build that thought leadership brand.
It’s Time to Leverage Your Expertise into Thought Leadership
Becoming a thought leader isn’t an insurmountable challenge, but it does require consistent effort and high-quality work. Providing insightful content to your audience will keep them engaged with you and your brand, which will, in turn, drive positive sentiment. Plus, quality content can help you cement yourself as an expert in your field and help your business grow to new heights.