A thought leader is a person who shares their ideas publicly and influences others to change what they do, how they think, or what they believe.
But can a company be a thought leader too? Absolutely. People like thought leaders. To be a thought leader in your industry you must connect to your audiences with ideas that are thought-provoking and innovative. Your company must continuously strive to broaden your connections and brand, both within your industry and outside of it. Good thought leadership builds business and revenue and puts your company a notch above others in an increasingly savvy world of other businesses and consumers.
Evaluate Your BrandWhat do your Facebook, Twitter, and other social media profiles say about you? What don't they say? The first thing you should do when considering how you can be a thought leader is to look at all of your brand profiles and analyze how consistent your brand message comes across to the world.
Evaluate your website, your advertising and your marketing. Are you a company that leads in innovation, service or value? Does everything you do reflect that value? Use what you already do as your platform for where you go next. The key question to ask yourself and your company’s stakeholders is: where do we want to go next and what do we want to be known as in the next three to five years? Then identify who in your leadership ranks is most knowledgeable and best positioned to speak in alignment with your brand messages.
Develop a StrategyThought leadership is a form of content marketing but it isn’t exclusively content marketing. Good thought leaders know how to build a strategy for content marketing that includes, but isn’t exlusive to, thought leadership. The key is, you and your company need to be clear about what you are going after. Content marketing builds brand awareness, but true thought leadership builds trust and that’s critical whether you are a B2B or B2C company.
To be a thought leader, you need to know your subject matter like the back of your hand and articulate a variety of new, thought-provoking ideas that catalyze action in others. It’s like content marketing on steroids. In your strategy, you have to get clear on what exactly you are a thought leader on. Are you an expert on a product? Are you an expert on organizational culture? Do you have a specific point of view on your industry? Think of these categories as verticals. Build your strategy around your strongest vertical.
One example of a company that has maximized their strength as a thought leader is LifeLock. Everywhere you go on the web, every blog post and tweet comes back to their strong suit: identity theft prevention. They have positioned themselves as an industry leader and so their messages establish trust among consumers that LifeLock knows identity theft prevention like no other company.
Start Small But Stand OutThought leadership must encompass a variety of elements including content that is relevant, timely, clear, coherent, and novel. It’s a tall order. Your strategy might include elements such as these:
Break big ideas into smaller ones. Not only will you have more content to push out, but you will keep the ideas to meaningful and consumable chunks. One main idea per post is all you need. Stay visionary and clear. Think of where your audience wants to be versus where a product or industry is going.
Write your own e-book. For the larger ideas, consider publishing an e-book. Not only can you use it as a way to drive readers of your blog to your book, you can drive readers of the book to your blog and other sites. It’s a good way to encapsulate all of the good ideas you have in one place. You can even write a series of mini-books. Think of them as longer than a blog post but smaller than a full-length book.
Be selfless. You can’t just talk about how great you are, open your forum to others so they can ask questions and you can voice the strengths of your company. American Express did this with Open. H&R block did this via a robust community forum. There’s no one way, just ensure your strategy includes getting others into the conversation without expecting a conversion. Good will is karma to the health of your business.
3 Types of Thought Leadership: Creating the Perfect Mix of Content for Your Brand
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