How to Build Thought Leadership

person presenting
Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Brianne Murphy Miller, LCI

Great ideas in a vacuum are useless. Thought leadership is more than just “blowing your own horn.” It is sharing information with an audience that is actionable, useful and predictive.

So, how do you start to be a voice that is heard and trusted?

Start with your brand.

What are your brand attributes and keywords? It is vital to know your voice and hone a tonality that reflects your brand. Are you commenting on serious policy topics, taking a stand on social change or supporting a corporate social responsibility program? That is the time to create balanced and business-like content. Be more playful or upbeat when you are sharing client wins, awards or featuring staff stories/photos.

Create a cadence.

An active thought leadership program needs a content calendar that is eminently doable. Do not bite off more than you can chew. While you can certainly take advantage of breaking news or trends, having a regular cycle of output keeps your content team steady and creates audience expectations.

Take great care in commenting on trends or breaking news.

When do thought leaders get in trouble? When they jump on a trend without thinking about the pros and cons of commenting. By all means, take a stand or offer an opinion! But remember – the internet lives forever.

Where does your content live?

Channels should integrate AND reach your target customers. Post on social channels where your audience lives. Are you a B2B company? LinkedIn and Twitter might be the most important social channels, but do not forget about byline article opportunities in trade publications. More of a consumer audience? Segment by age/demographic – are your customers/stakeholders young (Snapchat/TikTok), 20/30/40 somethings (Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook), a wide business demographic (Twitter, LinkedIn)? Start small and pick a few channels to nurture.

Do not let creating content become a chore.

If all your employees feel empowered to collect funny stories or photos from that trade show and send them to the content team, you have engaged a content creation team of many. Leave it to marketing/communications staff to edit what is consumed globally or shared only on a company intranet/at the weekly all-hands.

Leverage the content you create and distribute to inspire new opportunities. If your blog is consistently interesting and predictive (“XYZ Furniture Company predicts that convertible furniture sales will increase by 20% in 2023”), the media will eventually come to you for expert commentary. Engage your audience on social channels and use direct messaging sparingly with media and other thought leaders in your field. Say yes to the virtual or in-person panel discussion or guest blog post. Build slowly and steadily by providing tips, predictions, ideas and inspiration to your audience. Authenticity always wins the day.  

Related Articles:

The Value of Building Thought Leadership, Entrepreneur

4 Strategies to Elevate Your Thought Leadership, Ghidotti Communications (Little Rock, Arkansas PRGN affiliate)