Thought leadership might sound like the spooky tactic used by your friendly neighborhood cult leader, but thought leadership for content marketers is really more about influence and less about mind control. It’s about setting an example in your industry through original content that informs and delights.
Because the term is so nebulous, much has been written over the past three years trying to add bones to thought leadership. Recent examples include this article and also this one featuring business author Dorie Clark, who argues thought leadership is necessary “because it gives people a clear reason to choose you over the competition.” Others such as Russ Alan Prince, a networking expert and Forbes contributor, suggest specific skills such as public speaking make a thought leader stand out.
In this post, we’ll explore five fundamental ways content marketers specifically can command thought leadership. Operating in tandem, a mix of these ideas can help keep your brand front and center in your audience’s mind.
1. Create deep content on mission-critical subjects.
Social media tempts us to be all things to all people, but the fact is every brand is an expert (we hope) in something. Identify core components of your mission and seek to build public-facing expertise. Suppose your brand specializes in helping young people make their lemonade stand known in the neighborhood. Over the past year, you’ve helped 10 in particular become standout successes. Review customer wins and create a case study documenting the five things that helped most. Always tell a story, as this Hubspot infographic so artfully recommends.
2. Invite users to exclusive beta testing of a new service.
Existing businesses as well as startups can demonstrate their commitment to innovation and getting audience buy-in with exclusive opportunities to try new products or services. One recent example is Crystal, a new tool that synthesizes content people have created online and then recommends how best to communicate with them via email. First-time visitors to the Crystal website are directed to click a button to try the service, at which point they can provide contact information for an exclusive invitation to test it. This type of approach also is an effective lead generation strategy.
3. Engage with real-time video using Periscope.
Create your brand’s own CNN-style newsroom with Twitter’s new Periscope app. This isn’t your guaranteed ticket to thought leadership, but it’s a great way to connect with audience members in a groundbreaking way. Users who enable push notifications can follow you live from your office, conferences or special events. The beauty of the app is its sense of intimacy; brand fans can jump in and out of a broadcast, engaging with you in real time by asking questions and sharing likes.
There are plenty of great commentaries online such as this one from Market Domination Media CEO Jonathan Long via The Huffington Post that speak to the marketing potential of this medium. And while we’re talking HuffPo, check out HuffPost Live for a regular stream of interesting guests and commentary that demonstrate the power of this medium.
4. Start a cross-platform hashtag campaign.
This doesn’t mean simply capitalizing on a trending topic. Rather, this means creating a hashtag that speaks to your brand’s identity or mission. In a recent post, Social Media Examiner explains how Travelocity achieved this goal with its #iWannaGo campaign. Let’s go back to the lemonade stand concept (after all, summer is approaching). Maybe you launch the hashtag #lemonadeliving to show highlight ways life is better with lemonade. Or maybe you’re illustrating how boys and girls who run lemonade stands are our nation’s future entrepreneurs, so you opt for #refreshingleadership.
Whatever the case, identify a hashtag that works by polling your brand team and even core constituents, then use it frequently. Identify a timeframe in which you’d like to test how it is resonating and monitor engagement around that hashtag. Depending on the results, you might roll it out to other brand assets or return to the drawing board.
5. Write news releases.
News releases demonstrate your brand’s investment in communicating to the professional public. These assets are easy to create and should include a few basic details, including a paragraph describing your brand’s history and function; contact information from your brand’s communications representative; and details about what makes a new initiative or announcement a big deal in your industry. Post these releases to your website in an obvious place (e.g. a news tab) and distribute them with a personal note to members of the media, respected bloggers in your space and associations important to your brand. It can even have added benefits such as boosting SEO.
With any approach to thought leadership, be true to yourself. Know your brand, your mission and your team, and execute a plan that shows you are invested in all three. These tips are just some of the ways to bring that journey to life.
Related: Mastering Your Brand's Story