Being a thought leader may seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Big names & small startups, no matter where you find yourself in your Thought leadership journey, we’re providing you with 5 pro tips and other real-life examples to jump start your journey to crafting excellent thought leadership content.
Adding to the Conversation
When it comes to being a thought leader, obviously being knowledgeable and up-to-date with industry trends is key. But let’s not focus on being innovative. That comes later. To be innovative, you have to know your industry and know it well.
Your knowledge as a thought leader is based on experience, both past and present, the latest news coming out of your industry, and how you use that intel to educate your audience. Because just knowing something isn’t everything. It’s all about the balance between knowing and doing. And as a thought leader, you have to practice what you preach.
The theory is to have a website that provides an opportunity to establish the company as an innovator or leading source of information. You can easily do this by showcasing products, research and development, and cutting-edge technology. More importantly, you can use you content to take the latest news buzzing around your industry and highlight benefits and use cases for products and services.
By focusing on consumer accessibility, and the blend between digital and physical spaces, you are able to capture a larger audience—people who want to grow their knowledge and occupy the digital space surrounding your products and services.
Adding to the conversation is all about knowledge. It’s easy to regurgitate. But, what makes you a thought leader is understanding innovation, identifying with your community and providing insight, guidance, and encouragement to build trust. This will help you develop a community conversation while adding value to the community with a new spin (your spin) to the conversation in a personalized way.
Know what your customers want most and what your company does best. Focus on where those two meet.—Kevin Stirtz
Being authentic should be the foundation of your thought leadership, right next to knowledge. Because being authentic is being yourself, which resonates with others and allows them to identify with your brand on a more personal level.
An excellent example of uniqueness is non-other than Oprah Winfrey. Outside of being the queen of daytime television with The Oprah Winfrey show, she has built her brand with a solid foundation of her core values.
Her authenticity is her belief of blending both public and private spaces, i.e., creating places of transparency in our everyday life. Basically, the more real you are with yourself, the more real and authentic you can be in other avenues of your life. Think about her magazine, live events or even her Supersoul Sunday videos, authenticity is founded on the connection and oneness with the soul in different avenues of life from acquaintances, friendships, and even romantic relationships. From her dieting journey to home decor initiatives, Oprah’s brand is something everyone knows as one of empowerment, therapy and a whole lot of realness.
Authenticity, honesty, and personal voice underlie much of what’s successful on the Web.—Rick Levine
Experiment with Your Engagement
There are different ways to engage with your audience—blog posts, infographics, web series, live streaming, and so much more. Experiment with different options and types of content to find out what you love to create and what your audience values when crafting thought leadership content.
An example of this is Marie Forleo’s work, especially her web series, MarieTV. Marie Forleo’s brand is all about creating a business and life that you love. And she’s proven that to her audience through videos, inspirational interviews with industry leaders, blog posts, and courses to get people excited around the idea of creating your own life. And with such a strong to call-to-action, i.e., inspiring you to create your life, she has to create engaging content.
In fact, every Tuesday, she posts an FAQ video addressing a question from one of her viewers and really taking the time not only to answer it on her on YouTube channel but also on her website. Through her website, she gives a major shout out to her website and how the best discussions happen over there. Meaning, her call-to-action nurtures engagement.
So, when you are creating your content, be sure to be engaging with your audience before, during, and after you’ve created your content. And if you want to see for yourself on how to do it, check out Marie in one of her many MarieTV episodes:
Structuring Your Thought Leadership
It’s one thing to be a part of the conversation, but it’s another thing entirely to make sure that while you’re having that conversation that you’re understandable to your audience. Especially with so many places online to engage and create content for, it makes it difficult to ensure that your message stands true for your audience.
An awesome example of structured thought leadership is Wistia’s blog. Wistia is a video hosting platform that allows for a more insightful and personalized approach to online video marketing. And by knowing their audience, i.e., businesses who are either new to online video or want to implement new strategies to help reach their marketing goals, Wistia structures their blog to clearly address their audience’s needs and pain points. For example, if I wanted to learn tips and tricks to perfecting my video marketing strategy, I can go to their blog and see that each blog post is labeled clearly—making it an engaging user experience. From production and strategy to even company news, Wistia creates a very personalized user experience based on the clear and distinct knowledge they have of their audience.
By knowing who you are talking to and what they need, your job becomes simpler. By structuring your content to answer those pain points, you are not only creating a streamlined buyer’s journey, but you are also creating a unique experience for your audience.
Teaching the Masses with FREE Content
Thought leadership is not about selling right off the bat. It’s about opening the doors to your brand and allowing people to walk in and look around. From your company culture to your social media, your audience wants to know who you are before they are comfortable with the idea of giving you their hard-earned money. And that takes time and trust through providing value into their lives, i.e., making them feel like this investment is worth it.
Our last example and a prime practitioner of this model is our partner, HubSpot. They introduced a new marketing strategy and provide free courses for the general public to help educate marketing and sales departments around the globe. They provided this content to help people like you and me understand their services and methodologies. HubSpot has built a successful brand and business around a holistic, non-pushy way of adding value through education.
Practice Makes Progress
Ultimately, practice makes progress. And to know how to be a thought leader, you at least need to try becoming one by being authentic, adding to the conversation, experimenting with your engagement, structuring your content and making it easily accessible for your audience and the larger community. And if you start off with these tips and apply them to your business, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a thought leader.
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