In an age where brands are competing with news outlets as consumers’ main sources of information and entertainment, creating and publishing unique content is becoming an important way to remain relevant in today’s fast-paced society.
However, in today’s information-heavy market, is merely publishing content enough to really gain your readers’ attention, or is more required to truly make an impact in your industry? Become a thought leader in order to build your authority and drive more sales to your business.
What is thought leadership?
Coined in 1994 by Joel Kurtzman in his magazine Strategy + Business, the term “thought leader,” defined as someone who has ideas that “merit attention,” has gained a significant amount of traction in recent years. However, this definition does not encompass the extent of what a thought leader is.
Thought implies reflection, ideas, innovation; it not only means to think about how something works but also to analyze and determine how you can improve upon it. Leadership, on the other hand, implies direction, control, guidance; it means having the influence to foment change and affect the people and the world around you.
Combined, “thought leadership” thus means having ideas that not only move your industry forward but are also actionable enough to become a reality. Unsatisfied with the current state of things, they look towards the future and create a better way of doing things. Their idea and their personality are powerful enough to influence other people into adopting their thinking.
How can you become a thought leader in your industry?
Establishing yourself as an industry expert takes time, effort, and commitment. However, at its most basic, thought leadership is a four-step process:
- Research – Analyze your current audience: Who are they? What are their interests? What sites do they frequent? What are their commonly asked questions? Next, analyze your industry: Who are your competitors? What conversations are happening in your market?
- Strategize – Once you have done your initial research, create a content and marketing strategy. What will you write about? Where will you distribute your articles? How will you promote your articles?
- Implement – Choose the most frequently asked question or idea, look at what others have already said about the topic, and express your opinion about it (you don’t have to agree either). The key is not to add noise to the chatter but rather to add value to the conversation.
- Socialize – The key component to thought leadership is interaction, not just with your readers but also with fellow industry experts. Chances are that there are already influencers in your industry, and there’s no point in trying to “compete” with their current fame. Instead, collaborate with them. Become their friends and their partners, and their readers will begin to think of you in the same light.
How can thought leadership help your business?
Thought leadership is neither easy nor comes naturally. Becoming a thought leader requires you to continuously showcase your knowledge vis-à-vis your content. However, by showcasing your industry knowledge, you not only increase your brand value but you also put a human face behind your business. You are in a better position to communicate to your prospective customers and buyers, thus increasing their trust in you early on in the conversion journey.
In addition, positioning yourself as a credible source of information for your customers and your competition helps your SEO strategy. When you are a respected expert in your industry and you publish something new, it is almost guaranteed that when you talk, people listen, write about what you say, and cite your article as the source. This builds up your site’s backlink profile, which increases your online visibility and search engine ranking.
Any person, regardless of whether you are part of a small or large business, has the capacity to become a thought leader. You have the experience and the knowledge from which you can draw; it simply becomes a matter of encouraging your audience to trust your expertise.