Does thought leadership make you think of motivational speakers, business gurus and big personalities?
What if you could practice thought leadership yourself, using content?
Thought leadership is a valuable content marketing component, and you can harness its power, providing you get your content right.
The Power of Earned Influence
Earned influence can have a measurable impact on how you perform in the marketplace. This is shown in the Earned Influence Index, a model developed jointly between Ogilvy Public Relations and PwC.
Under this model, companies can manage trust to gain or maintain a competitive advantage within their industry sector.
Earned influence is when a brand has built enough trust with its customers that they become its advocates.
You can help to build trust by developing your personal brand, and thought leadership can be an effective, practical means of doing this.
Thought Leadership Bullshitter Alert!
Thought leadership is not you banging on about how great you are, or how you can help them make millions.
People can spot a bullshitter a mile off, and if your content is focused solely on you, it will repel rather than attract an audience.
Part of the problem might be in the term thought leadership itself. It can’t help but sound a bit self-important.
But, it’s still a term people recognise, so it’s up to you to own it, by creating content that will be meaningful to your audience.
What’s In It For Me?
What is going to make your audience want to look at your thought leadership content?
Clue: it won’t be the sheer magnetic quality of your personality.
No, what your audience will want is content that is useful or interesting to them and their needs.
They want to know what’s in it for them.
You only have a chance of influencing them if what you have to say resonates with them.
This is where empathy plays a big part.
Empathy Comes First with Thought Leadership
Here is an example of what is NOT empathy: when someone tells you about something bad that’s happened to them and you respond by suggesting they need to look on the bright side and stay optimistic.
There’s no point in going full-out motivational and ultra-positive when your target audience has issues it needs to confront and deal with.
The content equivalent of ‘don’t worry, be happy” is not going to cut it. Neither is some glib sales-speak.
Being empathic is about demonstrating a proper understanding of your audience’s pain points. You must put yourself in their shoes.
At the same time, don’t overdo it: “Ooh, isn’t it terrible…” is not a helpful response either.
Your Depth of Knowledge
The key to good thought leadership content is demonstrating your depth of knowledge but using it in a helpful way.
How will your target audience see value in your content? Look at different ways of approaching the topics that matter to them.
Finding interesting and alternative methods of explaining, highlighting and illustrating issues is what will make your content interesting.
This is a way to differentiate your thought leadership, because you will be competing with others for your audience’s attention.
Thought leadership is a tactical solution to increasing awareness of who you are, and of ensuring your personal brand intersects with your business brand.
It’s not about you simply expressing your thoughts, but it is about you competing effectively to increase your influence.
Measuring Your Thought Leadership Content
You will be wasting your time if you are just putting out content in the vague hope that someone, somewhere will find it interesting.
Think in terms of the appropriate social media platforms you can share your thought leadership content on, and the means you have to use your content to drive people to your website or landing page.
You should measure your content’s impact consistently and regularly, and analyse whether you are achieving your business goals with it.
This takes us back to the start: thought leadership should be something you do as a content marketing activity, which fits in with your business objectives.
If it isn’t, then it is unlikely to work for you.