Harnessing the Power of Thought Leadership
It’s a noisy world. Despite best efforts to speak directly to an audience with content and campaigns designed to capture their attention, too frequently those campaigns will fall on deaf ears.
If you feel like you’ve experienced this kind of challenge, there is a solution – one that’s been around for much longer than the terms “content / engagement marketing” have existed, but not a lot of companies have given it the time and energy it requires. The solution is simple – Become part of the conversation. Then you’re no longer talking at your audience, but talking with them. Becoming a thought leader is the most efficient way to achieve the kind of loyalty and brand value that helps you stand out from the crowd.
Establishing you and your team as thought leaders is extremely valuable. There are challenges to measuring your thought leadership efforts, but looking at the right metrics prove what is common sense – when someone provides valuable information, they become a trusted advisor. And when the time comes, those advisors are the ones business leaders will turn to.
You may not have named it “thought leadership”, but you’ve likely participated in efforts to establish both your credibility and expertise, whether that was speaking at a conference, blogging, participating in a roundtable, or consulting. Taking a more measured and thoughtful approach to your positioning as a thought leader can significantly increase your exposure, and by extension, your profits.
Establishing Your Expertise with Your Audience
The most critical part of introducing your knowledge and skills to the outside world is the content you create to illustrate that know-how. Content will be the cornerstone of your thought leadership strategy, so creating quality content in a variety of styles is important. Presenting your ideas through different mediums – from blog pieces, SlideShare presentations, webinars, and more – allows your audience to consume your content in the way that best suits them.
Your content should resonate with your targeted audience – use language and terminology that is familiar and pick topics that are relevant and specific to them. A CIO doesn’t need to know the finer points of closing a sale, and a VP of Sales won’t be interested in learning how to optimize supply chain communications.
But the most important thing to remember when you are creating your thought leadership content is that it must be informative and completely avoid being promotional. Your audience should walk away feeling as if they had gained an important piece of actionable information that they didn’t have before.
As you extend your reach, remember that new parties being exposed to your ideas for the first time will want to understand who you are. Make sure that your publicly available profiles are up to date, accurate, highlight your knowledge and expertise, and are in line with the messaging that you’re putting out with your content. This includes your social media profiles on sites like LinkedIn and Twitter, as well as on your own website. Having a bio that establishes your credentials is key.
While you are creating and polishing your profile, take a little time to create a brief speaker bio. These bios can be sent along with submissions to speak at conferences. Having these handy will allow you to concentrate on the content of your talk instead of rushing to create this asset.
Expand Your Thought Leadership Reach
While traditional channels are still available, and useful, in establishing yourself as a thought leader, the internet has provided an even broader range of options for reaching your audience. Regardless of whether your channel is traditional, like giving a talk at a conference, or new, like eBooks and webinars, ensuring that you have a strategy in place will increase the effectiveness of your efforts.
Explore New Verticals
As important as it is to demonstrate your expertise to your own industry, you want to make sure you are also building thought leadership in the industries your customers are in and where you are looking to break new ground. Extending your voice to outlets within the verticals that your customers and prospects frequent will allow you to share your understanding of their challenges and concerns. For example, if you are a payment solutions company and you want to attract gyms, you’ll need to reach out to fitness publications where you can speak directly to gym owners. Sharing insights that are tailored to the concerns of a specific industry not only builds your credibility in that space but also works to support your sales team efforts in penetrating new verticals and generating new business.
Don’t Forget Your Own Assets
While it’s important to get in front of new audiences through publications and outlets, don’t neglect your own properties. Your own web sites, blogs, even social media posts are places for you to shine as a thought leader.
Make the most out of all of your content by re-using and reposting it as much as possible to give it plenty of exposure. In fact, repurposing content is one of the more powerful tools you have at your disposal to reach the widest possible audience. Whether you’re out of ideas or just pressed for time, revisiting a topic you’ve already discussed, but seeing it from a new angle, giving it more detail, or simply putting it in a different format can keep your thought leadership strategy active and fresh.
For instance, consider taking a SlideShare presentation and doing a blog about part of the topic covered, with a link to the entire presentation included. You could consider taking the topic of a roundtable you participated in and turning that into an eBook. Or do several – make an eBook into a SlideShare and then blog about it!
What It Can Do For You
As a PR professional, I have had clients who want to do a few sparse articles and then decide to go silent. Then they wonder why their thought leadership efforts didn’t do much for their brand.
Creating and following through on a comprehensive thought leadership strategy takes time and commitment. You are building your voice in different markets where you may be totally unknown and you need to prove yourself first before you can reap the rewards. However, those who are willing to invest in it for the long run will see that the impact is powerful and long-lasting, as it continues to complement your sales and marketing efforts and adds to a strong online reputation for your brand, which can be worth thousands in equivalent advertising dollars. We have seen clients turn those insightful op-eds and blogs into sales, partnerships, speaking and media opportunities and build a momentum that is essential to their success in a competitive landscape.
Leveraging your experience to help potential customers find you is both smart business and an effective marketing strategy. To get the most out of your thought leadership efforts, take the steps to create a well thought out plan that speaks to your audience in ways they understand and provides them with all of the information they need to acknowledge your expertise and knowledge.
If you’re looking for help getting your thought leadership strategy started, or getting it back on the right track, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.