Thought leadership can be a powerful strategy in content marketing. When you focus on building and promoting thought leadership, you are investing credibility and trustworthiness.
Every brand wants to earn the trust of its audience. Content marketing allows enterprise teams to do this, and thought leadership is one spoke in the content strategy to make it happen.
Why Focus on Thought Leadership?
Content marketing saturation is a real thing. It applies to almost every industry. However, that doesn’t mean you should abandon it. Rather, you should focus your energy on developing quality content that illustrates your organization’s expertise and authority on the subject.
With thought leadership content, you can build a platform for your brand that drives engagement and trust. When you have both of those things in play, you’re likely to reap tangible benefits.
But how do you build and promote thought leadership into a tactical model? So that it’s repeatable and scalable?
First, let’s look at some ways to define your thought leadership strategy and then the steps to execute it.
Look at Who’s Leading in Your Industry
Every industry has big fish, and those may not be the ones you want to study. Instead, look for brands that publish often, have high organic rankings, and consistently get mentions.
Ask these questions — who in your industry is:
- Communicating original thoughts?
- Asking and answering tough questions?
- Controlling the conversation online?
- Conducting new research and publishing all kinds of original content?
Develop Content that Educates — No Selling
The best thought leadership informs and engages an audience to think about problems in a new way. It guides the audience to a better way of achieving goals or overcoming challenges. There is no sales pitch.
That doesn’t mean that the “spirit” of your products or solutions isn’t in the content you create. It should be, but in the most subtle way.
You also need to develop content that makes sense for search. When people head to a search engine, they are likely typing in their problem or a question about their needs. They likely won’t type in the type of solution you have.
Set the Stage for Thought Leadership on Other Publications
Content that sits on your owned properties is completely within your control. However, it probably won’t set you up as a thought leader. Getting mentions and published on third-party sites boosts credibility.
Which sites? That depends on your industry, but it should be where your audiences look for solutions and trust. That could mean an association, publication, or partner. Find ways to inject your point of view in other spots that aren’t just your website.
Being a thought leader means you’re innovative and thinking beyond the norm. Simply repeating what others say won’t distinguish you. Thus, you’ll need to develop your platform on topics relevant to your industry that are new.
When you do this, you’ll be a driver of change. Consider the paths of other iconic thought leadership brands — Apple, IBM, Microsoft, etc. They changed the game, and you can, too.
These are the foundation of your thought leadership strategy and content planning. Once you have this, you can execute with a tactical model that builds and promotes thought leadership.
A Seven-Step Tactical Model
In looking at those that are executing thought leadership expertly, there are best practices to follow. One of the most critical ways to become a leader is through original research. Here’s how to accomplish it in seven steps.
- Step One: Original Research – Research is a gold mine for thought leadership. There are two ways to execute it. First, you could commission it through a research firm. Or you can do your own through surveys, focus groups, and other means. The data and insights that come from it give you a foundation for new thoughts or confirm existing theories, which is valuable.
- Step Two: The Full Report – The finished piece, written by your lead content marketer and designed by your art director, should have the wow factor. Be sure to include an executive summary with key findings and your insights into these.
- Step Three: The Landing Page – Create a landing page that gives interested parties the ability to download the executive summary for free. Then offer the complete report in exchange for minimal contact information, which is great for lead generation.
- Step Four: The Presentation/Webinar – Next, to promote the research, host a webinar. Webinars are one of the most effective channels to connect with audiences and gain trust. Post-webinar, send follow-up emails that direct back to a page where the webinar is on-demand. This way, it continues to be accessible.
- Step Five: The Infographic – Infographics are excellent visual content. You can organize some of the stats and numbers. Post them on your site for download as well as on other social media sites. They are great for gaining backlinks, too. Infographics are linked and shared more than any other content on social media.
- Step Six: Promote, Promote, Promote – Go through our promotion checklist and hit it hard. Create a multimedia press release and distribute the piece via a wire service (PR Newswire, PRWeb, etc.). Reach out to associations or groups you’re a member of to tell them it’s available and why they should pick it up. Do outreach to other websites that link to previously published similar content that’s either out of data or the link is broken. Just a quick note and they’ll likely welcome the timelier information.
- Step Seven: Speaking – Submit or pitch your presentation to relevant trade groups and industry conferences. These associations are still having events, although many are virtual now. Whatever “stage” they’ll give you is one more opportunity.
Building and Promoting Thought Leadership Is a Lot of Work but Worth It
Being a thought leader isn’t something to go into halfheartedly. It requires significant work, but the payoff could be immense. Investing in thought leadership can deliver new business and a place at the table for your industry. Earning this will be well worth the time and effort.
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