16 May 2016

A growing number of businesses and organizations today understand the value of thought leadership. After all, how often do you go to Google to find an answer to a question? A lot, probably, and Google will lead you to thought leaders who have answers. It doesn’t take long to appreciate the benefits thought leadership can offer a brand—increased credibility, awareness, trust, loyalty.

Great, you think, this can work for your business! You set up a blog, and Bob in sales quickly volunteers to write blog posts. Before you know it, there are several published posts touting the great features about your services and products. But blog viewership struggles. What’s wrong? There may be many things wrong. Here are six tips to get you on track to better thought leadership:

  1. Don’t sell. This is the number one mistake would-be thought leaders make. Authentic, successful thought leaders offer inspirational, inventive ideas. They provide insightful views into trends. They can be provocative with a bold point of view. They provide clarity on complicated matters. They don’t push product. They don’t get sneaky and try veiling a sales pitch with thought-leadership. Successful thought leaders have a sincere passion for their industry and a true desire to help people and organizations. Only after trust is obtained and useful information is provided will audience members decide to change the conversation from thought leadership to sales.
  1. Target and know your audience. This will help you determine what to write or speak about. Offer new, fresh viewpoints. Sponsor research. Sometimes an audience needs to be educated about a development in a market before they will appreciate the solution your sales team is trying to sell. Thought leadership is an excellent way to educate a market.
  1. Break down ivory towers. Often times would-be thought leaders are so wrapped up in their business, they fail to see the larger picture and can’t help themselves from selling. Thought leaders are big-picture people and relentlessly study their industries.
  1. Stay true to your course. Recently a thought leader had an article published, only to soon see a person touting their firm in the reader comments underneath the article. Know that readers will see blatant promotion for what it is and will look to the thought leader for guidance. Also, have a thick skin. Some audience members may disagree with you, and that’s OK. It may spur new thoughts that benefit everyone, you included.
  1. Promote your thought leadership. A blog is not enough. Use social media. Offer webinars. Write an e-book or white paper and promote it. Attend and participate at trade shows. Write a regular e-newsletter. If you are an executive or business owner, you may be thinking, I don’t have time to do all that! You’re right, you don’t. All of these things not only take expertise to do well, they take time. You will need the help of your marketing team and/or an agency.
  1. Get earned media. Being interviewed by journalists and included in their articles will do wonders for your thought leadership. Having editors publish your articles on their websites or e-newsletters will differentiate you from the pack. But, be warned, reporters will not use your comments or articles if you push product. Also, be aware of your title and adjust it for external use if need be. Editors looking to publish thought leadership articles prefer high-level executives like those in the c-suite, VPs, founders, successful entrepreneurs, and technology engineers. Titles such as “National Sales Lead” or “Product Manager” can lead to rejection.

As you consider these ideas, remember too, this all takes time. You can’t become a thought leader overnight. How much time? That depends on your industry, what you have to say, whether you have professionals helping you, and other factors. With time and quality thought leadership, when someone asks a question on Google, they might see you on top of the search results.