Are you wondering, “what is thought leadership?” Read on to find everything you need to know about the concept and its best practices!
Thought leadership is one of the words that rile up the buzzword police more than almost any other term. Joel Kurtzman, the founding editor-in-chief of “Strategy & Business” magazine, was the first to use the term in 1994 to refer to an individual who has an in-depth knowledge of a company marketplace, a comprehension of the customer’s requirements, as well as innovative and distinctive ideas and points of view. However, what does “thought leadership” mean in the 21st century?
What Is Thought Leadership?
Thought leadership is the dissemination of original and authentic information that draws on the author’s knowledge, perspective, and experience to impart some of that wisdom to other individuals. The three essential components of thought leadership are taking a position, adding to your knowledge, and creating value.
Some individuals believe that thought leadership should be presented in written material. This may require taking a public stance on the business’s contentious problem. Others argue that thought leadership is holding the position of a subject matter expert and using that status to influence a particular field or endeavor.
Thought leadership is a combination of the two. It’s disseminating information that is thought-provoking and based on research to propel change and provide educational value. However, it is not a destination in and of itself. The only way for thought leaders to create a meaningful business impact, which many economic indicators can show, is via the consistent and long-term execution of their ideas.
Who Are Thought Leaders?
Individuals considered knowledgeable opinion leaders and the go-to sources in their respective fields (in an industry, niche, or across an entire ecosystem) are known as thought leaders. They are the reliable sources that motivate others and inspire them with new ideas; convert those ideas into reality; and know how to reproduce the success and teach others how to do so.
Amanda Nguyen of Rise, Sara Blakely of Spanx, and Ron Finley, the co-founder of Green Grounds, who dresses up himself as the “Guerrilla Gardener” to encourage people in Los Angeles to cultivate gardens in deprived neighborhoods, are examples of thought leaders we admire. What makes them all unique? They are changing the world while encouraging others to join in.
Although thought leaders come in many shapes and sizes, they can come from any background or community. Yet, thought leadership is something that only some can achieve. Experts in their respective fields are often considered the most influential thought leaders. These specialists may be CEOs, writers, consultants, coaches, or enterprises (B2C and B2B).
Thought Leadership Best Practices for 2023 and Beyond
Whether you’re new to thought leadership or an experienced practitioner, this section has everything you need to know. So, continue reading to discover a step-by-step guide on designing, creating, and carrying out a thought leadership strategy like executive visibility with integrated communications, followed by best practices for 2023 and beyond.
Step 1: Outline Your Unique Goals
The first thing you need to do is figure out what you want to accomplish by putting yourself in a thought leadership position. To do this, review your current marketing objectives and think about how thought leadership may assist you in achieving each one, assuming it can do so. Suppose increasing business awareness is one of your PR objectives. In that case, writing a post on accessibility challenges that customers in your sector face may help you grab individuals’ attention.
Step 2: Assess Present Thought Leadership
Now is the time to study and investigate the different thought leadership currently present in your industry through online forums, commercial periodicals, academic journals, company blogs, and more. This entails researching yourself as well as your competitors. By acquiring a deeper understanding of the latest concepts and trends in thought leadership (from both your side and your competitor’s side), you’ll better comprehend the primary problems plaguing your sector.
Step 3: Identify Your Thought Leaders
Building a roster of thought leaders is the most brilliant move if you’re planning on discussing a wide range of subjects through your brand. Consider the essential specialists employed by or affiliated with the company firm. According to the feedback received from professionals in the relevant field from one of the studies, thought leader role models often have the following five characteristics:
- Alignment with your company/brand and its ultimate mission and values
- A thirst for conveying strong opinions, innovative ideas, and concepts
- Both knowledgeable and passionate about the relevant industry/sector
- Experienced in sharing real-life experiences publically with the audience
- A loyal following (not only on social media but among the team members)
Now that you know how to identify thought leaders, the next step is to determine where they fall on an organizational level. For example, what does your company specialize in doing the best? Where do you put most of your focus? Think about the more prominent brand narrative and ideals you uphold. This way, it will be much easier to shortlist the most authentic thought leaders.
Step 4: Generate Your Distinct Thought-Leadership Content
When it comes to the process of content creation, writing articles as part of your thought leadership strategy is a smart place to begin since it demonstrates your expertise in your field. Once you believe you have a sound system for creating articles, try different mediums such as videos, podcasts, webinars, and eBooks. Before designing the material, you must first decide what themes you want to address. To do so, start with the following crucial steps:
- Research topics by observing the latest trends in your niche and learning from others.
- Map out the content production process by assigning duties to particular employees.
- Finally, stay fluid in terms of publishing calendars to adjust to emerging new trends.
Be aware that as you publish material demonstrating thought leadership, you’ll also collect additional data on the returns of this content. By disclosing this information to your team leaders, you can inform them of how successful the plan is and the forms that will best connect with your audience.
Step 5: Dispense and Market Your Content
You may write the most engaging, helpful, and thought-provoking content possible, but if no one can discover it online, it won’t accomplish much. Thus, the essential part of any thought leadership campaign is the development of strategies for distributing and promoting the material. Read on to discover some effective marketing strategies to promote your thought-leadership content.
- Start by promoting the content on external and internal company channels.
- Pitch your content to publications, journalists, and other industry influencers.
- Collaborate with non-competing brands via joint thought leadership content.
- Reach out for contributions from relevant influencers and opinion leaders.
- Analyze content creators in your industry to get new, unique insights.
- Consider adding sponsored content by increasing your marketing budget.
- Creating a dialogue is an essential component of thought leadership. Therefore, ensure that you follow through and directly connect with the communities, leaders, and influencers. If you run a more prominent company, hire reputation management experts to take care of this. However, if your company is smaller, your thought leader may need to take on a more active role.
Step 6: Measure the Outcome
It is crucial to monitor the success of your thought leadership marketing, just as it is necessary to measure the performance of any other strategy, to determine whether you are achieving your objectives. You may use several content metrics to measure performance and sales results. The following are the primary outcomes that may be generated through thought leadership content:
- Organic Traffic
- Media Mentions
- Email Subscribers
- Total Leads/Sales
- Social Engagement
Consider experimenting with different ways of measuring progress. For example, you can regularly host thought leadership webinars and provide rating-based questionnaires to all registrants after each session. In addition, you may monitor to determine whether your webinar has attracted the target audience. It may be hard to believe, but this indicator is far more important than the registered individuals.
Best Practices to Follow in 2023 and Beyond
The ultimate goal of a thought leader is to make sure that their specialized skills and knowledge are shared with others to contribute to the expansion and success of the business. The essence of thought leadership is assisting other individuals in gaining a deeper awareness of themselves, identifying their unique contributions to the world, and positioning themselves for sustained success. So, how do we pave the path for thought leadership that works wonders?
Recognize the Area of Expertise
First things first, a thought leader must have a solid understanding of the topic, ensuring that they communicate their expertise straightforwardly and consistently. This contributes to the credibility that is established in the sector. In addition, thought leaders must be responsible for remaining focused on their areas of expertise while simultaneously disseminating information.
Be an Industry Expert
As soon as the thought leaders have determined their area of expertise in the field, it is time for them to become an authority in that particular area. To begin, aspiring thought leaders must ensure that they are continually present on what is occurring in the industry, what is new, what is effective, and what is not. The idea is to educate oneself first before attempting to teach other individuals.
Identify the Approach
This is an essential practice to follow. First, make an effort to comprehend the intended audience, then determine what they expect, and last, investigate potential solutions to guarantee that the appropriate data is sent. If the leaders do not have a clear aim and objective in mind, they simply won’t be adding to the noise, as the audience wouldn’t be able to take any value from it.
Use the Latest Technology
It is essential to carefully plan out content from the beginning to be an influential thought leader, and this goal may accomplish by using the latest technology. It gives groups and leaders the ability to devise improved tactics, which in turn makes thought leadership more effective. Not only that, but leaders may also use a content management system to store vital data and then distribute it.
Never Stop Learning
We’re all human, and we’re always learning. Therefore, those in thought leadership positions must realize that they should constantly be eager to learn new ideas and be open to criticism. In point of fact, gaining information and understanding through the real-life experiences and perspectives of others is the most effective method to do either. However, always remember; you do you.
Creating space for an effective thought leadership approach may result in several positive outcomes. Although it might be difficult and time-consuming, the rewards that will accrue to all those who want to or now hold the position of thought leader make it worthwhile.
At the end of the day, we can only hope that individuals around the world will be able to have a deeper understanding of thought leadership. They must make more informed choices by adhering to these best practices for 2023 and beyond.
Therefore, CEOs need to understand who their ideal customers are, and then they can choose the channel that would bring them the most success. CEO Thought Leadership is important for most of the decision-making process.
Finally, this brings us to the end of this blog; now it’s time to hear from you. Any questions or comments? Or maybe there’s something we missed? Either way, feel free to connect with us regarding our Thought Leadership Program, especially for busy executives.