Content is no longer the king. Content marketing is the kingdom and thought leaders reign supreme. 2 million blog posts are getting written every day. Facebook users are sharing nearly 2.5 million pieces of content per minute. We live in a content-driven world, steered by those who know it best. So, how do you become a thought leader? Your industry needs to view your content as one in two million. To accomplish this goal, you don’t need to be a nationally recognized Fortune 500 company. In fact, you may even already have the makings of a seasoned thought leader.
You’re an established thought leader if you…
Thought leaders understand their audience’s wants and needs—sometimes before the audience even knows. They are in tune with the questions their audience asks and the sources they consult to find answers. Thought leaders predict when and where their customers and leads need guidance. Having a handle on their audience shapes the subject matter of a thought leader’s content and how they engage readers through that content.
If you’re a brand, you likely have a set of persona profiles with detailed pain points, needs, and key sources of information. Know these personas. Understand their likes, dislikes, knowledge gaps, specialties in detail to create content to satisfy the needs of an audience akin to your personas. The key here is to avoid trying to lead your entire industry. You want to create thought leadership content for an attainable audience. One that you can realistically reach, one who’ll benefit from your content.
Thought leaders are pioneers of their industry. They have a clearly defined set of skills, knowledge, and expertise that other brands may not possess. They pave the way to new ideas, methods, actions. Thought leaders are constantly evolving their thinking. Because advanced knowledge is no easy task to maintain, thought leaders don’t try to understand everything about their industry. They choose to study topics relevant to their brand and their audience. Thought leaders stick to these topics when creating content so audiences know what they can expect to learn from a brand.
Start by defining what your brand knows best within your industry. Then, work to improve that knowledge. Keep a constant eye on trends and tactics and develop a deep, detailed understanding of your chosen topics. Read relevant blogs and publications. Connect with other thought leaders through social media and networking opportunities. Join organizations and associations to learn from the best—through events, trainings, webinars, etc. Eventually, you can use these platforms to share your thought leadership, but more on that later.
Thought leaders not only know a lot about a specific topic, they present it in a way that’s uniquely, confidently, them. Brands have a clear identity that’s reflected through every brand touchpoint. Audiences know what to expect when they consult content from a thought leader or connect with them via social media. The familiarity and consistency maintained by a clear brand identity helps build trust.
You need to clearly define your brand identity and record the details in a centralized document. Include your target audience, personality, voice, and visual identity. Decide on a tone for external brand communications. It may be serious and detailed, friendly and humor-filled, or anything in between, but it needs to be defined. Share your identity with the entire organization. Every department, every employee involved in developing thought leadership content should have an understanding of your brand’s identity and ensure this identity is upheld through every post, update, webinar, white paper, etc.
Content is the avenue through which thought leaders deliver their knowledge. Thought leaders publish a wealth of quality content, in a variety of formats, often. They address the needs of their audience through content so readers continue to return for valuable information. Thought leaders know that the more people share and recommend their content, the more established they become as definitive leaders in their area of expertise. Thought leaders understand that the value of their content lies in the quality of their message and the ability to disseminate it to the right audience.
Get started by publishing as much insightful content as you can. Create a content plan your team can comfortably manage and an editorial calendar to streamline the process. Each piece of content should stay true to your brand identity. Ensure your content is geared towards your knowledge set and target audience. The more your audience benefits from your content, the more they’ll share that content. They’ll remember articles that provided answers and insights and look to you every time they want to learn more about your industry. This consistency builds trust between audiences and brands—the most important reason to become a thought leader and the one we’ll cover, next.
Thought leaders know the crown jewel of thought leadership is credibility. When audiences search for content, they head to the source they trust most. They seek out content from authors they can rely on. Because thought leaders spend the time building an identity and gaining that trust, audiences don’t have to think twice before consulting the same brand every time they need information.
Building trust is the main goal of thought leadership. Every move you make to adopt the qualities above will take you one step closer to earning the trust of your audience. Start by understanding their needs. Hone your knowledge based off of those needs, but don’t spread yourself too thin. Find a niche you can comfortably explore and, eventually, lead. Set the tone for your work by carving out a consistent, unique identity you can be proud of. Frequently publish content your audience can appreciate and utilize.
Establishing a thought leadership role in your industry isn’t for the sole purpose of calling yourself a thought leader. Building trust with your audience is a key factor in turning passive readers into leads and, eventually, loyal customers. If someone finds value in your content they’re more likely to trust the value of your services when a need arises. Thought leadership is the first step to building the level of trust needed to maintain longstanding customer relationships.