I’m a Thought Leader… I Think?

Blog Thought LEadership

7 Ways to better position your brand’s brain

Pretty much every business starts with someone having a brilliant idea, right? Good idea + people who know how to execute it + a bajillion other things = successful, respected brand, easy-peasy! Of course, a lot of B2B brands are now hip to the concept that you actually want to keep having brilliant ideas and then build a whole strategy around the notion of your brand knowing stuff, aka thought leadership. Sure, it’s a buzz term, but buzzing with good reason. Nearly 90 percent of the decision makers surveyed in the 2019 Edelman-LinkedIn study said thought leadership increased their trust in an organization and enhanced a brand’s reputation. What’s more, approximately 60 percent claimed thought leadership persuaded them to buy a product or service – and made them willing to pay a premium for it.

For both big, established brands and gritty l’il start-ups, thought leadership is a powerful way to make your mark. But here’s the catch: you have to produce genuinely fresh insights and disseminate them in a purposeful way free of smarmy self promotion. How can you be sure you’re a thought leader and not just a brand that publishes content? Here are some considerations:

1. Narrow your focus

We’re all familiar with the phrase “jack of all trades, master of none.” Same logic applies to whatever space you want to own as the ever-innovative dropper of knowledge. Rather than trying to lead the way in your entire industry, find a niche that aligns with your business’s expertise and goals, and then hone in on making a real impact with an attentive audience.

2. Put a face to that brain

A company trying to sell you stuff is just noise. But, a real person who knows how to solve a problem is a lot more compelling. Associating your brand’s cutting-edge theories and recommendations with real people who’ve earned – through education and experience – the right to an opinion is a much clearer path to engagement and trust. Depending on your company’s size, choose several people to be your experts, and empower them to speak for the brand. Attribute your written content to them (and have them share it from their personal LinkedIn pages!), send them to conferences, and arrange speaking engagements whenever possible.

3. Produce consistent content

Thought leadership is a form of content strategy, which means that, at its core, your thought leadership content must always be consistent, relevant and helpful. Establish a rhythm for how often you publish content on each platform, and then meet that expectation. Remember that thought leadership content spans more than just blog posts, and needs to be a part of every step of your sales funnel. Oh, and it has to be good. In one study, 57 percent of respondents said the content sent to them was “useless.” Tough crowd. Hire a good writer.

4. Diversify your content

There’s a misconception that thought leadership is synonymous with long-form written content. Sure, that’s part of it, but consider proven content tactics like video and podcasts. With 91 percent of consumers reporting they watch explainer videos and 83 percent of video marketers saying they’re happy with the ROI, video seems like a no-brainer. And, while hosting a podcast is still relatively new territory for B2B brands, the research shows that 67 million Americans are podcasts listeners with the average being both educated and affluent. Sounds like a good base for some thought leadership, eh?   

5. Do more than own it

You can publish content until the cows come home, but if you’re only utilizing your owned media (your blog, website, etc.), you’re counting on people to come to you. A successful thought leadership strategy involves pitching stories to trade magazines, guest blogging for other companies in your same general space, sitting on Q&A panels, running sponsored social posts to promote your gated content and more. Basically, assemble a really good PR team and make them earn their keep!

6. Speak up when it matters

No matter what industry you’re in, there are hot button issues with strong, polarizing views around them. In marketing, for example, we come up against things like Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad or Gillette’s decision to weigh in on toxic masculinity. If you’re a true thought leader, your brand will have a perspective to offer and won’t be afraid to share it when your industry is in any kind of transition or conflict. It’s what leaders do.

7. Create a culture shift

Thought leadership shouldn’t be confined to your C-suite, your marketing department or that one freakishly smart engineer who is always in the lab and impossibly busy. Introduce your thought leadership strategy company-wide, and then create a system where people can contribute when they have brilliant ideas of their own.

Do you have thoughts? Come on, we know you do! We can help you turn those thoughts into thought leadership. Get in touch!

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