Last fall a client contacted us to ask what we thought of “Thought Leadership” as a strategy they might try to achieve a certain goal. To best answer their question, we set about looking at all the best practices around this topic.
To answer that question, let's start with a definition of what exactly is a “Thought Leader”? A Forbes article states it well.
A thought leader is an individual or firm that prospects, clients, referral sources, intermediaries and even competitors recognize as one of the foremost authorities in selected areas of specialization, resulting in its being the go-to individual or organization for said expertise.
Yep. A respected, go-to authority. Next step; going from being a thought leader, to being able to run a thought leadership campaign. I like this checklist from Thinkshift’s blog:
- You have thoughts. (Maybe a little snarky, but not a step to be skipped over lightly!)
- You have an audience. (Again, not to be assumed!)
- You have a platform. (Facebook page counts.)
- You can create content. (Perhaps the most important question to ask…)
- You are committed. (This applies to any strategy, right?)
So, as a content marketing junkie, I’d like to jump to step 4, but the first three bear looking at.
If you’ve got a clear idea of your company’s (or product line) value proposition and most effective messaging you’ve got a good start. But, take these a step further and think about what your specific message and value will be for this campaign. B2B marketing recognizes that it is campaign thinking that will help get you focused and appropriately resourced to be effective in thought leadership. In particular, I like their concept of “Find Your Jaime” that is, the face of your company in this area, and to identify the other thought leader in this campaign.
Your current audience; customers, current leads, competitors may already have a view of you. They are one important audience. But a campaign in this area can help you think of other audiences that you may have useful thoughts to share.
I find that your own blog & social media channels can be a good organizing tool for your campaign, but don’t be limited to the readers you already have. Platforms could include your partner channels, media outlets, conferences and third-party publishing platforms like Medium and YouTube. Positioning yourself as an expert source for journalists is another avenue—and a whole other topic.
You got me. This is why I started researching this topic… I am a sucker for all things content marketing. But again, if you have a content marketing program already in place, odds are you have most of the above all sorted out. There are specific sorts of content, usually custom research reports, that help establish your bona fides, but these are doable, and are a great addition to existing content calendars.
This to me, is the key component for success in any campaign. If you start with a clear idea of what success looks like, the steps you’ll take to get there and of course...appropriate resourcing this = commitment.
The best thought leaders are passionate about their topics and focused. They share their knowledge selflessly. They ask questions, respond to feedback and exchange ideas. They not only build their business and expand their world, they learn as they go. Think of your program in those terms and you’ll have what it takes to succeed.
In addition to the articles quoted above, if you’re considering kicking off such a campaign, I found the these two resources valuable as well.
- The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Thought Leadership has many best practices /examples and a lot of background to help you get your team aligned on the process.
- Forbes Insights Using Thought Leadership to Grow white paper is good guide to developing content specifically geared towards working with your partners on your sales team.
So… to answer the question posited in the title, if you love what your company does and want to make the most of your content marketing - then YES! It goes hand in hand with goodcontent marketing strategy too. And as you know, we love content strategy, so please feel free to schedule a chat if you’d like to brainstorm how this might work for you.