Setting yourself up as a thought leader in your industry can bring substantial benefits to your business.
But, like anything worthwhile, getting started can be challenging.
Expert knowledge and experience are the defining qualities of thought leadership – as is the ability to communicate well. <
These three ingredients rarely come ready-made in one package. In fact, the secret is they never do. Most thought leaders learn them through trial and error, and perseverance, or they hire a content agency.
Hopefully, this post will enable you to short cut some of that.
In short, if you don’t want to hire a professional consultancy, then we will show you how to copy what the professionals do.
Be Consistent When You Build Yourself and Your Content as a Brand
First off, think about what you want to say. Remember, this is a long-term project. When you become popular, you might end up writing hundreds of posts. Consistency matters when you’re trying to build up loyal readerships among your followers.
If you are establishing yourself as a thought leader, then you should think about how you brand yourself. Are you controversial or the voice of reason? Likewise, is the writing style staccato or more measured in tone, with lots of clauses?
Whoever or whatever you choose to be, the important thing is that you stick to it.
Be as Objective as a Journalist
Anyone who has tried to get press coverage will know how frustrating it can be when journalists don’t run your press release. The problem is the journalist knows what people are interested in.
Journalists know that everyone has an interesting story. They know that not everyone knows how to tell it. Moreover, they know when something or someone isn’t of interest.
There are interesting details that make a good story – and then there is the rest… stuff a company or individual thinks is important, but actually gets in the way of a good tale.
Look at things from the outside. Be honest and ask yourself whether you would read your story if you were just another person in your sector. And then there’s the writing.
Sure, journalists write a lot and are very good at it. Bring one of them in and you can make your life a lot easier. But, if you want to do it yourself, keep your writing and your themes simple. The simpler the better.
That too should be added to the definition of thought leadership.
You Have the Knowledge
Of course, few people are as practiced and polished at writing as daily newspaper journalists.
But you’re the one who has the knowledge.
You are perfectly placed to know the latest developments in the field.
You pick up great stories and information on business trips.
You know exactly what’s going on in the market.
Becoming an industry leader is about making the most of such virtues. Opening up the knowledge you have already and sharing authentic findings that only you and your employees are privy to will give you an edge. But, above all, be yourself.
How to Get the Ideas and Topics
Stories help dress a company’s shop window. They can help you become a thought leader and draw on the talent of your best people.
They can also help companies with internal communications by broadcasting their work to what may be tens of thousands of employees, fueling new thinking and energizing ways of working.
Moreover, being a thought leader does not mean you have to write about yourself. Write about others. It could be an interview with someone in R&D or marketing. It doesn’t matter, so long as the information is useful to your target readership.
Readers also love tangential information, lists, factoids, human interest and seeing the abstract brought to life. It’s the stories behind your brand – its development, the trends it has been designed to surf, the outcomes it will deliver – that get the message across. They’re the stories that people will read.
Subtlety is as Important as Insight
However, here’s the bit that no one expects. The best industry thought leaders don’t write about their own products. We know that many more people will read a story about market trends, new technology, customer experience, industry goals, views about R&D. A story about a shiny new widget?
Sometimes we have to be strict with ourselves about this; the shiny new widget is important. You’ve spent millions developing it and it will eventually bring in millions in profit.
Ultimately, the aim is to keep the reader engaged.This is not always easy – and there is a lot of competition for their attention.
To succeed, you need ideas that hold their attention; different, maybe, from what the company wants them to read.
Be Your Own Publisher
A bit of an obvious one, this. But before you get that spot on Forbes, Entrepreneur or your favorite trade journal, you need to prove yourself. This means you should publish regularly on your own site. You should be doing this anyway. But to become a thought leader outside of your own property, it is essential.
Shout from the Rooftops
There are millions of blog posts being published every day. How many get any kind of cut-through?
If you think the job is done when you hit publish and maybe run a promotional tweet, then you are very wrong.
Be prepared to let others know about the link by engaging directly with influencers. An app like BuzzSumo can help with this.
If you have the budget, give it a (paid) shove via LinkedIn or Facebook. Be dogged about it, too.
But above all..
Be persistent. Put the content, i.e. your thoughts, out there.
James Quilter is Digital Consultant of UK-based content marketing agency FirstWord Media.