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Defining Thought Leadership

Defining Thought Leadership

Thought leadership is the delivery of authentic and genuine content that leverages the expertise, insight, and experience of the author, with the goal of sharing that wisdom with others.

Thought leadership - when done right - can be an excellent way to reinforce your brand and enhance your content marketing strategy, allowing you to leverage your expertise and build trust with your audience.


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Core Steps to Developing a Thought Leadership Strategy

Core Steps to Developing a Thought Leadership Strategy

  • Define your goals and audience
  • Review existing thought leadership in your niche
  • Explore the various communication channels in your industry

Incorporating thought leadership into your wider content strategy can help you to:

  • Establish the credibility and authority of your brand.
  • Generate backlinks, shares, and mentions.
  • Attract clients directly.


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Thought leadership is about taking expertise, experience, and tools, and sharing actionable insights.



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How to Build a Thought Leadership Strategy: Define Your Goals

How to Build a Thought Leadership Strategy: Define Your Goals

Identify what exactly you want to achieve.

To do this, consult your existing marketing goals, and consider how thought leadership can help you achieve each one — if indeed it can.

For example, if your goal is to raise awareness of your brand (and the solutions it’s offering), then a thought leadership piece about, say, accessibility issues facing consumers in your industry can help you get people’s attention.


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Defining Your Audience

Defining Your Audience

Clearly define who your audience is. These people would be aligned with your buyer persona(s), although you should also consider who might benefit the most from hearing what you have to say.

Your audience doesn’t necessarily equal your buyers. Your thought leadership strategy might go beyond reaching folks who can purchase from you.


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Review Existing Thought Leadership

Do the research and see what thought leadership already exists in your niche.

Explore the various communication channels in your industry, such as:

  • Online forums and communities
  • News resources (online and offline)
  • Trade publications and journals (online and offline)
  • Personal brand platforms, such as LinkedIn and Medium
  • Company blogs
  • Social media
  • Webinars and seminars
  • Conferences

Then, start building up your knowledge of what the key existing thought leadership trends and ideas are.


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Identify Your Organization’s Focus and Its Thought Leaders

Identify Your Organization’s Focus and Its Thought Leaders

It’s a good idea to build out a roster of thought leaders. Think about the key experts working in your company. Here are some aspects to look at:

Alignment with your brand and its values. If your thought leaders are not firm believers in what your brand is all about, and are not aligned with your story and your position, then it’s unlikely to work.

Knowledge and expertise in the field. Another thing that can truly move the needle is passion.

Strong opinions, innovative ideas, and concepts. Note that there will always be a risk of making someone unhappy about your beliefs.


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Create Your Thought Leadership Content: Researching Your Topics

Create Your Thought Leadership Content: Researching Your Topics

Sources of Ideas for Thought Leadership Content:

  • Your/your thought leaders’ unique experience.
  • A strong opinion embraced in your company that goes against the industry norm.
  • Unique data and statistics you can access due to the nature of your business.
  • Industry research and insights.
  • Collaboration with your customers and partners. 
  • Collaboration with existing opinion leaders and influencers in the industry.
  • Your personal story and background. People love stories, especially those that are personal.


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Producing Thought Leadership Content

Producing Thought Leadership Content

Our study shows that articles remain the most popular thought leadership content format (91,4%), followed by video (44,1%), webinars/events (36,2%), white papers and research (33,2%), ebooks (29,9%), podcasts (21,7%) and data visuzalitions (20,7%).

There are a few things to bear in mind:

  • Consider how the content will be produced.
  • Ensure that you’re being open and genuine.
  • Stay flexible.


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A Small Company or a Startup Creating Successful Thought Leadership Content

A Small Company or a Startup Creating Successful Thought Leadership Content

Giant, well-known organizations with extensive resources tend to organically become thought leaders in their sectors. And yet, thought leadership is all about you creating value, building knowledge, and taking a stand. Small businesses and startups with strong ideas and experienced leaders have the same chances of being heard and followed.


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Thought Leadership: From B2B To B2C

Since thought leadership is all about sharing knowledge and unique opinions, there’s no reason why it can’t (and shouldn’t) work in B2C. The rules are the same: make sure you understand your customers, do some research, be genuine and deliver valuable information


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Distribute and Promote your Content

Distribute and Promote your Content

Strategies and tactics around the distribution and promotion of your thought leadership content — and any valuable content, for that matter — are a vital component of a thought leadership campaign. 

A few tactics to consider:

  • Collaborate with non-competing brands in your sector to produce joint thought leadership content.
  • Reach out to relevant opinion leaders and influencers to get contributions (and extra promotional support) for your thought leadership content.
  • Try services like Help a Reporter to pitch your content to journalists.
  • Analyze content creators in your industry.


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The Importance of Engagement

The Importance of Engagement

Thought leadership is about creating a conversation, so ensure that you follow through and engage directly with the communities, leaders, players, and influencers that are discussing your piece. 

In a larger organization, you may have brand or reputation management personnel that can handle this, but in a smaller organization, your thought leader may need to be more involved.

Keep an eye on whether your thought leadership content is being discussed elsewhere too.


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Measure the Results

Measure the Results

As with any tactic, it’s important to measure the performance of your thought leadership marketing. 

Organic traffic is the key benefit of producing thought leadership content (81,4%). Besides, a big proportion of companies also manage to boost social media following/engagement (64,9%), and almost one half generates the actual leads and sales (47,6%). Other benefits include backlinks (44,3%), email subscribers (38,9%), media and PR mentions (34,1%), and invitations to speak at events, interviews, etc. (28,4%).


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The Bottom Line

Thought leadership requires authenticity, deep expertise, and ideas that strive to challenge the conventional way that things are done. To communicate all of this effectively, it needs to take the form of high-quality content on topics that are relevant, and that your audience really cares about.

Therefore, it’s crucial that you conduct in-depth topic research, and put out content that is engaging and unique.


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