Thought leadership is a powerful tool. Some might argue that overuse of the term has relegated it to jargon status, but the value of thought leadership done right is anything but empty. In fact, authentic thought leadership remains a driving force in successful companies across almost every industry.
The future of thought leadership is bright, but it’s not without obstacles. For every leader who builds and executes a solid thought leadership strategy, quite a few attempt it and miss the mark. They think the definition of thought leadership is a certain size following on social; in reality, it’s an ongoing process of educating and building trust with your audience members through high-quality content that actually engages them.
Even the best content, however, needs a driver and directions. Brands often make the mistake of thinking that any content, if it’s good enough, will help them achieve their goals.
The problem is that too many strategies fail to bring all of a brand’s content assets together in a truly effective way. All your pieces of content — including guest posts, blog posts, press mentions, whitepapers, awards, speaking engagements, and more — should work together to bring you closer to your thought leadership goal.
Misaligned strategies that don’t ensure all assets work harmoniously leave would-be thought leaders with lots of content and little influence to show for it.
How to Harness the Power of Your Thought Leadership Strategy
Well-crafted content can help you reach and grow your specific audience, build relationships with that audience at scale, and enhance your credibility as a leader and influencer in your space. But you can only accomplish these objectives when you develop each piece of content in accordance with a strategy that’s aligned to your thought leadership goal.
The best thought leadership strategies help you build and maintain trust with the audiences that are most valuable to you and your company. They do so by using a variety of content assets that work together to reach new audiences, engage them with valuable resources, and keep your brand top of mind so you’re the first person they think of when a need or opportunity arises.
To create a thought leadership strategy that effectively accomplishes your goal and actually builds your influence, start with the following steps.
1. Understand how to build a foundation of trust.
Everyone has an agenda, and your audience members are well aware of that. Defy their expectations by giving them something for nothing. By sharing your insights and expertise with your audience without strings attached, you’re giving people a reason to trust you. When you let go of the need to promote yourself and your company and focus on providing actual, real-life value to the people who matter most to you, you’ll earn their trust.
So focus on educating your audience by giving them valuable information about topics they’re interested in. When that content helps them by teaching them something useful, solving a problem, or simply entertaining them, they’ll be motivated to keep an eye out for your future content. People are naturally skeptical, so don’t waste your time and theirs explaining why they should trust you. Just show them.
2. Create content for the journey.
Now that you understand content’s role in building trust, it’s time to start developing specific kinds of content for specific points throughout your audience relationship.
First things first: You need to reach new audiences. As amazing as your company’s blog might be, accomplishing this goal requires earned, off-site content. Writing and pitching guest posts or earning press mentions in reputable publications your audience members read is a great start.
Once you’ve gotten their attention, keep it through engaging, educational owned content. This could be high-quality blog posts, case studies, videos, downloadable resources, or even a book you’ve authored — all of which helps you reinforce your position as a trusted industry expert.
Finally, thought leadership is less about how much content you create than it is about how well you use it over time to keep your audiences engaged and your brand top of mind. Take advantage of your social media accounts and email newsletter campaigns to deliver the right content at the right time.
3. Consistently put content to work.
You’ve put in the effort to create the content, but your job isn’t done. Thought leadership content is a tool, and for it to work, you need to put it to good use. Think through your most valuable contacts and relationships, and share relevant pieces with those who can benefit from them the most.
Surround your brand with your high-quality content, and create an online presence that others in your industry can’t help but notice when they’re looking for more information. Utilize and recycle your content in other creative ways, whether you’re looking to book speaking engagements, land a spot as a guest on a podcast, or garner a nomination for an industry award.
Thought leadership requires content, but all the content in the world won’t guarantee you thought leadership. Instead, you need a strategy tailored to your specific goal. Start by crafting each piece of content with a clear and unwavering purpose in mind until you have the individual building blocks of your strategy. Then, assemble them in such a way that they work together harmoniously, yielding a total that is more than just the sum of its parts.
John Hall is the CEO of Influence & Co., a keynote speaker, and the author of “Top of Mind.” You can book John to speak here.
You have Successfully Subscribed!