Mention the term “Thought Leadership” and you are likely to typically get 2 kinds of responses.
- “What a cliché”
Whether you think there is too much of it or you’re not really aware of what it is, you can see thought leadership almost everywhere these days. You can see it all over the various social media platforms, in blogs, reports, news articles and videos on Youtube and even TikTok.
And whatever your feelings about it, thought leadership content is the way to go if you want to build brand recognition and be the name that people think of first when they think about your product or service.
To a large extent, this is due to the world we live in today, where we face with a barrage of information every day from social media, emails, podcasts, meetings, etc. On top of that, the sheer number of choices we have to make in our daily lives from buying toothpaste to buying a house, leaves people with a lot of questions that need answering.
People are not looking for information about how to fulfill their needs, because there is too much of that around already. They are looking for good insights about the best way to fulfill their needs.
If you can provide your target audiences with those insights, guess whose name will come out tops when they are ready to consider making a purchase? They will turn to their most remembered and trusted source of information - the person or brand who had added so much value to them.
That’s why thought leadership is rocket fuel for your branding and marketing.
So how do you add this thought leadership rocket fuel to your branding and marketing efforts? Let’s start by looking at what thought leadership is.
What is Thought Leadership?
It can be a bit tricky to define exactly what thought leadership is, because it’s not so easily identifiable like video content, or social media content, or news content. Thought leadership can take any form, because it’s more of a concept than a format.
So what is thought leadership exactly?
Basically, it is any content that is meant to inform and educate your target audiences, provide valuable insights, and build credibility of the person or brand.
The aim is to raise your visibility and reputation through your content so that your target audiences like, trust and respect you as an expert. When you consistently publish good thought leadership content, you will be able to increase your brand awareness, boost audience engagement, generate more leads, and improve social proof about your product or service.
By now, you might be thinking, “Hey, I’m already publishing that kind of content now!”
If you are, then the next question will be: Are you doing it effectively?
Adding Rocket Fuel To Your Branding
“Thought leadership is a way to build a relationship with prospects based on knowledge—not on products and services.”
Chris Koch, film and TV director
To be truly effective, thought leadership has to come from an authentic desire to serve your audience’s need for insights and clarity about a subject - with no strings attached. It’s also about building relationships with audiences. That is what draws people to you naturally. Your personality and values that connect people to you – either as a person or a brand.
There will always be the temptation to jump the gun and make your thought leadership content about you, what you do and what you sell to help your audiences. Resist the urge at all cost!
Thought leadership should not be focused on getting leads or sales (even though that is an important goal). And while building credibility is a key objective of thought leadership, focusing on impressing audiences with who you are and what you can do is a bad idea.
Because that signals to the audience that it’s ultimately about you. And not one person in the world reads any content to benefit you. It is always about their benefit!
That being said, here are 3 tips for an effective thought leadership content strategy.
1. Understand your target audience
Your thought leadership status is not really determined by you. As Jeff Bezos said, “your brand is what other people say about you when you are not in the room.”
“your brand is what other people say about you when you are not in the room.”
It is your audiences will consume your content and decide if you are a thought leader or not.
So the first step in your thought leadership strategy is to research your target audience. What are their aspirations? What are their concerns and worries? What questions are they asking? What motivates or inspires them?
Your thought leadership content can only connect and resonate with your audiences when you understand what they are thinking and feeling.
Related: How To Improve Your Writing Skills As A Leader
2. Share generously
Your primary focus in creating thought leadership content must to educate, inform, and engage your audience. When you do that successfully, you will naturally be seen as trustworthy, professional and competent.
A great example of a thought leader is Neil Patel. Neil is the digital marketer and co-founder of Crazy Egg, Neil Patel Digital (Agency), and the Ubersuggest marketing tool. He is also a prolific creator of thought leadership content, publishing insightful articles and videos on his blogs, YouTube channel, podcast, and guest publications such as Forbes and Entrepreneur.
He hasn’t lost any business by giving away his insights for free. In fact, he has gained millions of followers on social media. What’s more, he has been named as a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 30 by President Obama and a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 35 by the United Nations.
That’s because millions of people recognise him as an expert in his field. Guess who those people would think of first if they need a product or service that Neil just happens to offer?
3. Be authentic
To me, this is probably the most important factor in successful thought leadership. Your content needs to genuinely add value to your audience to help them make better buying decisions, live more fulfilling lives, work more effectively, or become better in a way that matters to them.
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Go ahead and talk about your failures, concerns, or struggles and share the insights you got from those experiences. Share what makes you happy or angry, and what makes you laugh or cry. These are all things that build up your audience’s picture of who you really are.
Make an effort to engage with your audiences too. Instead of speaking at them, draw them into the conversation. Ask for comments and questions and respond with personality and insights.
All this effort forms the basis for relationship. And great relationship forms the basis of positive influence.
Finally, you may doubt whether you can produce thought leadership content effectively because you may not even consider yourself as capable of being a thought leader. I had this thought too, just a little over a year ago. Back then I was a complete unknown in my field.
Fast forward to today, and I have received many invitations to share my thoughts with small companies, large corporations, chambers of commerce, and even overseas audiences.
Did I ever imagine I would be considered a thought leader? No. But what I did do was get started. I started with exactly the three principles above, which I still practice today.
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Most of all, my journey to embrace thought leadership was very much influenced by Gary Vaynerchuk. In one of his mentoring sessions, he was answering a person who had doubts about what she had to offer. Gary emphasized that she didn’t have to create absolutely unique content or have absolutely original ideas. Simply because there are very few new things under the sun!
Let me assure you that thought leaders come from all walks of life. The important thing is just to get started and consistently build up your credibility and persona.
Watch this video brought to you by Leaderonomics Media. Listen to Dr. Atul Parvatiyar, a recognised thought leader, share insights on how companies can build good relationships with their cutomers.