The term “thought leadership” has been used so much that it seems to have lost its meaning. Everybody wants to “do thought leadership,” but no one knows exactly how. The goal of thought leadership should be to educate, inspire, or influence people while also shaping and guiding the way forward for your industry. This requires a well-thought-out content strategy. Thought leadership, when done right, can be a key differentiating factor for your organization.
What is thought leadership content?
The biggest mistake organizations make is thinking that thought leadership is a “type” of content, much like how e-books, Inspirational posts, interviews, or listicles are types of content.
Thought leadership is an “approach” to content. This approach starts by answering questions such as – How would I like my audience, competitors, and industry to view me? What do I (or my organization) want to be known for? What experiences do I have that I can share with the world? How can I be seen as a leading authority in my niche?
Thought leadership is about building a relationship with your audience by sharing authentic content as a subject matter expert. The focus of thought leadership is no more on conventional marketing techniques; instead, it draws upon experiences, personal stories, unique perspectives, and deep knowledge when creating content.
In this article, we will look at some of the key elements that make up effective thought leadership content. These elements are applicable to both individuals and organizations.
Focus on your expertise
If you are wondering where to begin your thought leadership journey, look to the past to help identify your niche or expertise. Over the years, you would have accumulated a lot of knowledge and experience. You would have seen how your audience and customers have evolved. How different trends rose and fell. You would have had many personal ups and downs, and you would have solved many complex problems. These experiences will help you see things that no one else in the industry is seeing, and those insights make great thought leadership content.
Address key industry challenges
Being in the industry and knowing your customers for a long time puts you in a unique position where you can address the challenges your industry is facing, and not just your organization. Read industry reports, trade publications, news resources, and research reports to keep yourself updated on the latest in your industry and niche. Use your voice to discuss real problems and provide possible solutions to those challenges.
Perform thorough research
With so much data and research available, generating good thought leadership content becomes easy. Whether the data is something you collected or from other sources, they can be mined to generate insights. This data could pertain to the industry, organization, customers, or competitors. Read through the data or research and carry out your own analysis to arrive at possible trends. If you believe this would take too much of your time, you can lean on third parties to assist you.
Harness the power of storytelling
Everybody loves a good story. It is the oldest art form, yet many people struggle with it. The human brain is hardwired to listen and respond to stories. Studies have shown that after a presentation or speech, over time, people forget the facts but remember the stories. Telling a story about your journey, what brought you to where you are, your failures and lessons learned, challenges faced, etc., can grow your followership because people resonate with the story. Stories build emotional connections, which in turn builds trust and credibility.
Be original and unique
It is easy to read and repeat ideas that you have read. But thought leadership is about your unique take on the topic and your fresh ideas. This establishes your signature style, thus ensuring that you do not sound like everybody else. Even if you agree with someone else’s point of view, make sure you add your thoughts on top of it. If you have a counter-narrative viewpoint that goes against the opinion held by the majority, do not be afraid to share it. Back it up with experience and facts, and be confident that there will be people who will resonate with your thinking.
Provide value to your readers
One of the core purposes of thought leadership is to provide real value without asking for anything in return. Inspirational and actionable content that will drive change is what people want. Also, remember that you are the expert, and your customers or audience are learning from you. This means you must articulate your thoughts and opinions in a clear and understandable manner using simple words. Make sure your opinions and thoughts are realistic and actionable. Otherwise, it becomes another voice in the crowd.
Thought leadership content can be a powerful tool for brands and individuals to position themselves as subject matter experts or authoritative figures in their niches.
The best types of content are those which not only highlight the problems that people face but proactively provide suggestions on how to resolve them. Provide “How to” guidelines, be authentic, and stay consistent, and you will be well on your way to becoming a thought leader.
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