To build your personal brand and be a thought leader, start by defining yourself and your goals. What sets you apart from other people? Think about the unique skills, knowledge and qualities that make you stand out. This is called thought leadership – and that’s what we’ll be covering today.
What’s a thought leader
Put simply, a thought leader is someone who has expertise in a particular field and shares their knowledge with the public, often through speaking engagements, articles, or books. A thought leader can also be influential on social media platforms, sharing their insights and thoughts on topics related to their specialty.
Elements of thought leadership strategy
#1 Identifying Your USP
When you want to develop a thought leadership strategy, the first thing you need to determine is your unique selling proposition (USP). What sets you apart from other similar experts? This could be in terms of knowledge, experience, credentials, or any combination thereof. You should also consider how strongly you can communicate this USP—are your skills and expertise easily translatable or teachable?
#2 Building a Content Library
Once you’ve established your USP and have identified the topics that fit within it, it’s time to start creating content. This could include blog posts, videos, podcasts, e-books, white papers, and social media posts. By providing valuable information on topics related to your areas of expertise, you can position yourself as a thought leader in your industry.
#3 Strategically Networking
Networking is an integral part of any thought leadership strategy. Developing relationships with others in your field and within the broader business community can help you learn from other experts and expand your reach. It also helps build trust and credibility among potential clients and partners.
#4 Engaging with the Community
If you’ve already built up a network of contacts, it’s essential to engage with them regularly. This could involve subscribing to industry publications, commenting on blog posts, attending conferences, or joining online communities related to your USP. The key is to demonstrate that you are actively involved in the community.
Best practices for thought leadership marketing
Define your target audience
Without a clear understanding of who you’re trying to reach, it will be difficult to create effective thought leadership content – and, on top of that, to create content that resonates with your target audience.
Understand what type of content your audience wants
Take the time to research the kinds of content that will resonate with your target audience. And, if possible, create content specifically tailored to their interests and needs.
It’s never one-off. You need to be consistent in your thought leadership efforts so that you can build credibility and trust among your audience.
Partnering with other thought leaders or influencers in your industry is an excellent way to expand the reach of your content and boost exposure. Plus, it can help strengthen relationships within the community.
Keep your content focused
Once you know what type of content your audience is looking for, make sure to stay on topic and avoid straying from the main point. Whenever possible, provide concrete examples and actionable advice to help your audience put what they’ve learned into practice.
Make sure your content is well-researched
Thoughtful and well-research content will help establish you as an authority on the subject matter. Interestingly enough, research has shown that even content with some errors can be perceived as credible-as long as it’s not riddled with factual inaccuracies.
Write in a clear and concise style
Long-winded and convoluted content will lose readers quickly—stick to the point and use simple language whenever possible. Of course, depending on your target audience, you may need to adjust the writing style accordingly.
Use stories and examples to illustrate your point
People are more likely to remember stories and examples than they are dry facts and statistics. While storytelling can make content more engaging, it should also be relevant to the topic at hand.
Use visuals to break up the text
Adding images, infographics, and other visual elements can help make your content more engaging and easier to digest. As with storytelling, make sure the visuals are relevant and don’t just act as filler.
Leverage social media
Social media is a powerful platform for promoting thought leadership content—make sure to take advantage of it. For many, it’s the main channel for connecting with potential clients and partners.
Don’t be afraid to promote your content and let people know about your expertise. Platforms like LinkedIn are great for this purpose, as they allow you to showcase your skills and accomplishments in a professional way.
Examples of thought leadership content
Whitepapers and eBooks
These in-depth documents provide research and analysis on a particular topic, and are designed to help decision makers make informed decisions. You might think of them as long-form pieces of content, typically between 5 and 10 pages. Ebooks are another type of in-depth content, with the main difference being that they tend to be longer than whitepapers – often about 40 to 50 pages – and are usually available for purchase on online bookstores. They can also be used as lead magnets to help attract new customers.
Example: “The State of AI in Healthcare” by IBM Watson.
Example: “The Future of Mobile App Development” by Microsoft.
Articles and Blog Posts
These shorter pieces can be used to discuss timely topics such as current events and industry trends. Blog posts and articles typically range from 500 to 1,000 words, and are great for providing timely updates on industry developments or offering insights into current trends. The main goal of blog posts and articles is to drive engagement by providing information that’s useful to the reader.
Example: “The Impact of Digital Technology on Workplace Culture” by Deloitte Consulting.
Example: “How Cloud Computing is Transforming Businesses” by Amazon Web Services.
Conference Presentations or Speeches
A great way to establish yourself as an expert in your field is to present at conferences, seminars, or other events. Not every single time you present will be a formal speech or presentation-informal conversations can also provide valuable insights. By speaking at events, you can gain visibility, share your knowledge, and build relationships with key individuals in your field.
Example: “The Future of AI in Healthcare” by Microsoft’s Chief Technology Officer, Kevin Scott.
Example: Elon Musk’s keynote address at the International Space Station Research & Development Conference.
Social Media Posts
Regularly posting thought leadership content on social media can help you engage your followers and build awareness of your brand or expertise. While many treat social media posts as the afterthought of their content strategy, they can be a powerful way to promote your thought leadership and engage with potential customers or partners.
Example: TED Talks’ Twitter account regularly shares inspiring stories from their past speakers.
Example: Microsoft’s Twitter account, which regularly shares news and insights into the world of tech innovation.
Videos are a powerful tool for conveying complex concepts in an engaging way—use them to showcase thought leadership content in a more visual format. They are usually around 1 to 3 minutes long, but can be longer if needed. Videos are useful for explaining ideas or concepts in a concise way, and can help you reach a wider audience.
Short videos are amazing for giving a voice to your ideas and connecting with your audience on a personal level. They can also be used to provide information in an entertaining way, making them an awesome tool for boosting engagement.
Example: Google’s “AI Explained” series of videos which explain the basics of AI technology in an easy-to-understand format.
Example: “How Blockchain is Impacting the Future of Education” by Deloitte University Press.
Audio-only podcasts are quickly becoming one of the most popular ways for people to consume information—you can leverage this trend with thought leadership podcasts that cover specific topics relevant to your target audience. Sometimes, it might even be worth starting your own podcast to share regular updates and insights related to your industry.
Example: “The AI Podcast” by the AI Foundation, which regularly interviews experts in the field of artificial intelligence.
Example: “The Blockchain Revolution” by Deloitte University Press, which provides a deep dive into the world of blockchain
Example: “The Data Driven Podcast” by LeanData Inc., which covers topics related to using data for business insight and decision making processes
Sharing your thought leadership knowledge through virtual events helps create even more opportunities for engagement with potential customers or influencers in your space. And, while webinars and virtual events can seem daunting, they don’t have to be. With the right platform, you can easily create interactive content that engages and educates your audience.
Example: “AI and Machine Learning in Business” by Microsoft Azure, which covers how businesses can leverage these technologies to become more efficient.
Example: ”How Artificial Intelligence Changes Talent Acquisition Roundtable Discussion” hosted by Glassdoor
Not everyone is comfortable speaking solo in front of an audience-if that’s the case, you can always gather a panel of experts to discuss various topics related to your industry. Roundtables and panels are great for creating thought leadership content that can be shared on social media or through other mediums.
Example: “The Future of Healthcare Technology” panel discussion hosted by Health 2.0, which features experts from various healthcare organizations discussing the latest trends in the industry.
Example: “The Role of AI in Business Transformation” panel discussion hosted by Microsoft, featuring business leaders and AI experts discussing how businesses can leverage this emerging technology to gain competitive advantage.
It’s perfectly fine to keep the majority of your thought leadership content on traditional forms such as blog posts and whitepapers. But, it’s important to remember that there are many other ways to share and engage with your audience-try using some of these potential formats to reach a wider and more engaged crowd.
Be sure to think about which format would best suit your topic and audience, as each one has its own unique benefits. Also, don’t be afraid to experiment with different formats-you never know what might work best for your particular situation. Good luck!
Thought Leadership FAQ
#1 Who is a Thought Leader actually?
A thought leader is an individual or organization that is recognized as an authority in a particular field or industry. They are often seen as experts in their field, as they have in-depth knowledge and insight into the subject matter. Thought leaders are highly respected for their work and are often sought after for advice and guidance on topics related to their expertise.
#2 How should one go about publishing thought leadership content?
Producing thought leadership content is not a one-size-fits-all approach; the method chosen will depend on several factors, such as the type of content and the target audience. Generally speaking, thought leadership content should be published to a wide variety of platforms and channels in order to maximize visibility, including social media sites, blogs, podcasts, webinars, conferences or events, print magazines or newspapers, and more. Additionally, it’s important to keep in mind that thought leadership content should focus on providing value to the reader—not just promoting an individual or brand.
#3 What is a go-to resource for thought leaders?
For thought leaders looking to become better equipped with the latest trends and best practices, there are a number of great resources available. These include industry publications, blogs from thought leaders in the field, online forums, books, and conferences where one can network with other professionals. Additionally, there are a wealth of online tools such as LinkedIn Pulse and Twitter lists that can help keep thought leaders up-to-date on current topics and discussions in their area of expertise.
#4 Where to get good content ideas from?
There are a variety of places to look for fresh content ideas and unique perspectives, depending on the type of thought leadership content you are creating. Sources might include industry publications, blogs, online forums, social media posts, news articles, books or other publications related to your field, or even direct conversations with customers. Additionally, consider topics that have relevance to current events or trends in order to ensure that your content remains relevant and timely, but also with unique perspective.
#5 What works well for building credibility?
For thought leaders, it’s paramount to establish credibility and trust with their audience. Building a personal brand is one way to do this, as it involves creating content that showcases your expertise and knowledge about your industry or field. Additionally, you can use testimonials from previous clients or colleagues to demonstrate your level of expertise, as well as networking at conferences or events related to the topic.
#6 How to target customers with educational content?
An effective way to target customers with educational content is to first understand their needs, motivations and pain points. Gather information through customer research and surveys in order to gain insights into their preferences and habits. Next, use this data to create content that resonates with the target audience, providing them with valuable information that helps them reach a decision or solve a problem. Finally, ensure that your content is delivered in a format that matches the customer’s preferred media channel or platform for maximum reach.
#7 Is thought leadership overrated?
Not necessarily. Thought leadership can be a powerful tool to gain credibility within an industry and increase visibility for your brand or organization. It is important to recognize that thought leadership is not limited to a single individual; teams and organizations can also use thought leadership as a way to showcase their expertise and build trust among customers, partners, and stakeholders. Ultimately, thought leadership can be an effective tool when used strategically and consistently.
#8 Is thought leadership important for business relationships?
Yes, thought leadership can be an essential part of building and maintaining business relationships. By demonstrating knowledge and expertise in your field, you can gain the trust and respect of potential partners and customers. Thought leadership can also be a great way to open up conversations with current or potential partners, as it gives each party something to discuss based on shared interests. In addition, thought leadership can help strengthen existing relationships by giving each party a shared purpose.
#9 Is content marketing crucial for thought leadership?
Absolutely. Content marketing is an essential part of thought leadership, as the content you produce can act as proof of your expertise. Not only can content help spread awareness and establish credibility within your industry, but it can also become a valuable resource of information for potential partners and customers. By demonstrating knowledge and creativity through content marketing initiatives such as blog posts, social media campaigns, and video tutorials, thought leaders can position themselves as go-to experts in their field.
#10 How to create thought leadership content?
Thought leadership content should be interesting, informative and relevant. When creating content, think about topics that are relevant to the industry, customers or partners in order to ensure it is valuable to them. Additionally, create thought leadership content with a unique angle or perspective that helps to differentiate your thoughts from those of other thought leaders in the space. Finally, consider multiple formats for content such as blog posts, videos and podcasts in order to reach the widest audience possible.
#11 What are elements of thought leadership marketing?
Among the elements to consider when creating thought leadership marketing are relevant insights and data, industry trends and analysis, thought-provoking perspectives and ideas, and actionable advice. Additionally, thought leadership marketing should be tailored to the audience you are trying to reach in order to ensure it is engaging and meaningful. Finally, thought leadership content should be regularly updated in order to keep up with changing trends within the industry.