Just over five years ago, digital marketing experts estimated that American consumers see between 4,000 and 10,000 adverts every day. Fast forward to 2023, and assuming that number has increased would be safe. To be successful, businesses need to stand out from their competitors.
Establishing thought leadership in a field can help reach and retain that coveted market position while also building a position of authority and expertise.
Defining thought leadership
Thought leadership demonstrates knowledge and expertise in a particular industry, field, or topic. Based on that definition, most company leadership team members should be thought leaders, too. While this is somewhat true, the most effective thought leaders have something else in common: they are passionate about their subject and know how to connect to their audiences.
These exceptional leaders understand how to hold an audience in thrall and deliver powerful messages repeatedly. This is how they establish themselves for the long term.
Related: What Exactly Is Thought Leadership?
The power of thought leadership in brand building
Thought leadership automatically builds trust in a brand. Audiences perceive a thought leader as someone they can trust. This trust is automatically transferred to the brand the individual represents.
This close association between the thought leader and their brand helps set that brand apart from others. Moreover, person and brand become synonymous with each other.
There is another reason why thought leadership is such an effective brand-building tool, and that is its accessibility. To become a thought leader, a person does not need to represent a large brand. Instead, it takes consistency and a clear vision of what content will connect to the audience. That is also why thought leadership is an excellent strategy for challenger brands.
Identifying the right topics and audience
How can thought leaders identify the most promising topics for their audiences? Start by learning everything you can about your target audiences. What are their pain points, and how can your insights address those? What unique knowledge can you and your business share that audiences will find valuable and relevant?
Answering these questions should help prospective thought leaders draw up a list of potential topics to help craft thought leadership pieces. If your company is already engaging in social media marketing, look at the posts and stories that got the most attention. Chances are these will make excellent thought leadership pieces.
Do not hesitate to choose topics you are passionate about. Chances are that you will find it easier to connect to your audience and hold their attention if you are talking or writing about a topic you care deeply about. Consider sharing personal experiences and stories. These are often the main elements of a leadership piece that audiences remember.
Delivering value should lie at the core of each piece of thought leadership content. Steer clear of obvious marketing messages. Audiences have become wise to thinly disguised advertising content dressed as thought leadership, and the backlash could be hugely detrimental to your business.
Creating high-quality content
Having identified suitable topics, it is time to focus on crafting your thought leadership piece. As important as consistent communications are, quality is equally critical. Devote as much time as is necessary to write a script or a thought leadership piece.
The longer your piece is, the more work should go into it. Think about the difference between sharing a tweet or an Instagram post that your audience may consume while doing other things and a long-form op-ed piece submitted to a national publication. Both require care and attention to detail, but the long-form content requires additional research and effort.
Creating quality content also means taking advantage of the tools your brand has access to, including:
- Leveraging digital channels: leverage every channel on which your brand is present. Twitter is an excellent place to share a link to your latest blog, whereas LinkedIn deserves a longer version. If you’re offering webinars, share snippets on other channels.
- Collaborating with industry influencers: team up with other thought leaders in your field or approach industry influencers in a related field. Not only can you function as inspirations to each other, but you can also reach new audiences through influencers.
- Establishing authority through speaking engagements and events: do you ever look at thought leaders and feel like you see them everywhere? Some of the most established leaders in their field are successfully taking advantage of speaking engagements and event appearances.
Measuring and demonstrating thought leadership impact
Measuring and demonstrating the impact of thought leadership is not dramatically different from measuring other digital marketing activities. Consider the number and level of engagement on social media pieces, for example.
Track shares and comments on blog posts, and consider offering longer-form content in exchange for the audience’s contact data. These immediate measures will give you some of the initial insights you need. Over time, the impact of thought leadership will translate into sales and conversions.
Thought leadership is one of the most powerful and cost-effective ways for brands to build trust and credibility. It is based on identifying the topics most relevant to your target audience and delivering unique insights based on personal experience and expertise. As a strategy, thought leadership is equally effective for small and large brands, and it can be instrumental in putting a brand on the map for years to come. Take a look at your marketing strategy today to identify opportunities for thought leadership that can help you secure your company’s future.