Do you want to build an engaged audience, earn the respect of industry peers, and provide value for everyone?
If so, thought leadership may be for you.
Thought leaders create highly engaging and useful content in multiple forms, establishing a reputation as a go-to resource in an effort to build and educate a loyal audience, drive sales, and grow their business.
If helping others with your unique knowledge and abilities sounds enticing, creating multiple pieces of content for your prospects and customers should be a critical part of your overall marketing strategy.
Here, we’ll walk you through how to develop a thought leadership marketing strategy, create thought leadership content, and ultimately establish you, or your business, as an expert in your industry to best help others.
What is Thought Leadership?
At its core, thought leadership is about spreading helpful knowledge through valuable, quality content from the genuine voice of a leader in the space.
Thought leaders are authorities in their field. This may be a person, like Gary Vaynerchuck, or an organization, like The Mayo Clinic. These are examples of experts in their respective industries, i.e. professional development and healthcare, that people look to for insight, advice, and opinions.
Thought leadership often entails having and sharing a strong opinion, staying ahead of current events, and promoting innovation —all in those areas of expertise.
What is Thought Leadership Content?
Now that we’ve cleared up what thought leadership is, let’s get into all of the different ways you can educate your audience and build trust.
First and foremost, the types of content thought leaders create should always be high-quality, helpful content from a person or organization that does just that; it is educational, applicable, inspirational, and sometimes opinionated.
Common types of content thought leaders publish are:
- YouTube Videos
- Helpful PDFs
- Online Courses
- Webinars/Online Events
- In-person workshops
Whatever you choose to create, publishing thought leadership content is integral to becoming top of mind and building trust with your audience and following.
How To Establish Yourself as a Thought Leader
So, how do you start creating content to establish yourself as a thought leader?
Consider this as a simple 3-step thought leadership strategy to help you reach your target audience and establish a name for yourself in your field.
Remember, however, that notoriety and respect aren’t earned overnight. But by implementing the following steps consistently over time, you can grow your business and expand your reach.
Consider, also, these four elements that all successful thought leaders incorporate into their business.
Support Your Industry
Thought leaders are well-respected in their industry. They support other businesses by promoting their content, whether it’s sharing a post to their own social media accounts or linking to new research in an article on their own site.
This doesn’t mean you need to promote your competitors. Rather, find companies or individuals that have similar missions but different offerings. Look for businesses or people that are compatible with your brand, have the same target audience, and are well-respected in their field.
Not only will you earn the respect of your peers by showing your support, but you can also bolster your own reputation by association.
Once again, social media is one of the best ways to do this.
Use it to promote content from other reputable sites and thought leaders in neighboring industries, as well as industry news, insightful articles, and helpful tips you come across. A simple tweet, a post on your Instagram Stories, or even just a mention in a comment can go a long way.
Become an Expert
In order to be a thought leader in others’ eyes, you have to know what you’re talking about and have something to say about it.
If you’re not an expert in your field yet, work on becoming one. Or identify the specific niche(s) that you are an expert in and focus your attention there.
If you’re already somewhat of an expert, remember to never stop learning.
Thought leaders are knowledgeable about current trends, events, and industry news and share that information with their audience.
Adopt the mindset of a student and deepen your knowledge of the content you want to cover so that you can be the ultimate resource for your target market.
Consider JJ Virgin, a thought leader in the wellness space. She has explored and helped multiple women in their journey to health and wellness, creating social proof that her methods are credible and that her constant desire to learn and help others positions her as an expert.
Remember that everyone starts from square one, though.
So wherever you’re at in your journey to becoming an expert, you can still work towards becoming a thought leader if you’re not there yet.
All you have to do is start by supporting others in your industry. And by doing so, you might learn something!
Create Great Content
You can’t be a go-to resource without resources. This step to becoming a thought leader is arguably the most crucial step.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to create hundreds of thought leadership articles. As we outlined at the beginning of this post, thought leadership content looks different for everyone.
The key is just to create educational or helpful content on the platforms where your existing customers and potential customers are.
Content creation may even be a collaborative effort between you and any other partners you work with in an effort to grow as a thought leader.
For some thought leadership content examples, look to thought leaders in other industries and see where they share engaging content.
For instance, Brian Tracy, a thought leader in the business, book writing, and personal development space, shares content through his popular videos, courses, emails, and blog content.
Wherever you choose to share it, create content that provides value — whether it’s to inspire, educate, or coach. If you prioritize creating great content, you will become a thought leader sooner rather than later.
Below, we’ll walk you through the thought leadership content creation process, step by step.
How To Develop Your Thought Leadership Content Strategy
Before diving into the process of creating great content, it’s critical to develop a strategy. Any good strategy starts with a clear goal and thorough research.
Define Your Goals
What do you hope to achieve by producing thought leadership content?
Do you hope becoming a thought leader opens doors to new opportunities, be it speaking engagements or book deals? Do you want to increase sales by boosting brand recognition? Or do you have a wealth of knowledge to share that you think could really benefit people?
There’s no wrong answer. But you’ll only know if your thought leadership content strategy is successful if you define your goals from the start.
Get To Know Your Target Audience
As a business owner or marketer, you know how crucial it is to know who your potential customers are when selling to them. Without this knowledge, you can’t tailor your approach to their specific needs, questions, and concerns, and truly convey why your offer is right for them.
The same is true when creating thought leadership content. In order to create thought leadership content that resonates with your audience, you need to know who they are.
What do they want to learn? What are their pain points? Who else do they go to for thought leadership content? How did they find you? Where are they active on social media? What tone resonates with them?
Incorporate this brainstorming session into your content marketing and social media strategy.
When you know the answers to these questions you can create relevant content on the right platforms that resonate with target audiences.
Research, Research, Research
Next, research topics you can talk about.
This is where your expertise comes in. You need to uncover where your knowledge overlaps with what your audience wants to know. You can do this in a couple of ways.
Start by watching, listening, and reading content related to your industry and any related industries. Keep tabs on trending topics, news, and innovations.
For instance, perhaps you’re a nutritionist, and chia seeds are trending on TikTok. You might decide to create content around the health benefits of chia seeds and easy ways to incorporate them into one’s diet. This is a good example of how to utilize complementary industries to research potential topic ideas.
You can also find potential topics by utilizing keyword research tools. Keyword research can help you see what people are searching for as it relates to your brand message and the products or services you offer. What questions are they asking that you can answer?
For instance, a thought leader in the fitness industry may search a topic such as weight loss, and see what questions related to fitness and weight loss people have. They can then create a blog post or a Youtube video on that specific question.
As you research, remember to focus on topics that you are well-versed in. Part of being a thought leader is proving insightful content from an authoritative point of view, which usually includes a strong opinion.
You, as the expert, should be qualified to give an opinion on the topics you cover. In order to do that, your thought leadership content marketing strategy should focus on topics you know quite a bit about.
Look for Inspiration
While some thought leadership ideas may come to you naturally, don’t be afraid to look outside yourself for inspiration on how to create great content.
Every industry has influential thought leaders. Watch and learn from their example.
How are other thought leaders capturing the attention of their audience? How do they promote their content, support their industry, and share their point of view?
This may be particularly helpful if you are new to a social media platform and want to learn the best way to incorporate it into your thought leadership strategy.
Establish Your Digital Marketing Platforms
As we mentioned above, thought leadership content isn’t all articles or all Youtube videos. You can create thought leadership content wherever you want, so choose the platforms that make the most sense for you.
This may be your own website if you have consistent traffic, your email list if you have numerous subscribers, or on Twitter, if you have a large following.
You also don’t need to pick just one platform. In fact, the more places you share your thought leadership content, the more people it will reach.
Start with the digital platforms where you know your audience and where you’re already experiencing success. You can always expand to additional mediums in the future.
Stay in Your Lane
Earlier, we stressed how important it is to be an expert in your field if you want to be a thought leader. However, your field may be broad, and trying to speak about every area of it may dilute your message.
Don’t try to be an expert in all the things — instead, define your niche.
Know what you’re best at and why your audience should come to you first for information related to that specific thing. Then, direct your efforts to create thought leadership content in that niche.
Create a Content Calendar
The final piece of your content strategy is creating a content calendar.
The calendar will outline when you will post a thought leadership piece and where.
This is key to staying organized and on top of all the strong content, you will be sharing and will ensure you post on a timely and consistent schedule.
How To Create Thought Leadership Content
Now that you have a strategy in place, it’s finally time to create content.
Begin by brainstorming ideas.
Revisit your notes from when you researched potential topics, as well as the inspiration you collected from other thought leaders. This will give you a great starting point for what content you want to create, how, and where you plan to publish it.
Here are 14 additional resources you might find helpful when brainstorming ideas:
Have a Strong Point of View
The difference between thought leaders and regular content creators is that thought leaders aren’t afraid to hold a position and share it with their audience.
Once you have chosen a topic to create a piece of thought leadership content around, consider what unique perspective you can offer on the topic. Then, make sure your point of view comes across in the content.
As you share information, pull statistics and quotes from reputable sources.
This will infuse your content with credibility and trustworthiness—two critical components of good thought leadership content.
Educate the Audience
Remember, the goal of thought leadership content is to provide valuable content to the audience. Ensure you do this by sharing helpful information and actionable tips.
After creating the content, watch, read, or listen to it back to check that it is something your audience will benefit from.
Seek to Inspire
While educational content should be the bulk of your thought leadership content marketing strategy, there’s room for content simply to motivate, inspire, or make your audience laugh.
These types of secondary content can help define your brand voice, promote engagement, and are also highly shareable, which can help you expand your reach.
Stay Up To Date
As a thought leader, you should not only have your thumb on the pulse of current industry trends and events but also comment on them. In doing so, you act as a leader and help provide direction.
For someone who is an expert in Search Engine Optimization, for instance, this might look like sharing how new Google algorithms might affect site traffic. Or, for a personal finance expert, it might be commenting on ways to save money in the midst of inflation.
Diversify Your Channels
Picking more than one channel to share your content on can help you reach a larger audience. And after putting so much time and energy into creating high-quality, valuable content, you should want to reach as many people as possible!
Consider developing online courses, launching a podcast, or ramping up your email marketing strategy to expand your reach and opportunities for growth.
While these are all great ideas, you can also simply share the same piece of content across all of your social media accounts to increase the number of eyeballs that see it.
Promoting engagement is an important part of successful content marketing. One great way to do so is through community channels.
Facebook groups, loyalty clubs, courses, and events are incredible places to foster community and build brand loyalty. This, in turn, helps boost engagement and convert leads.
Whether you choose to host a live event, participate in online forums, or start a Facebook group, use it as a place to share exclusive content, connect with your audience, and test out new ideas.
Another great way to boost engagement and lead generation is by creating anticipation for upcoming content.
One example of this is to discuss a topic you plan to talk more in-depth about in a blog post or email beforehand on your social media accounts.
This will create more buzz, interest, and credibility when you ultimately publish the content on that subject.
Promote Your Content
Once you’re ready to publish a piece, episode, or launch a new course, you have to promote it in order for it to reach your intended audience.
You can do this through your email list and social media accounts. However, another great way to promote your content is by leveraging your community. Ask not only your audience to share the piece of content, but also other businesses in your network and thought leaders in other industries.
Analyze the Results
After publishing and promoting your content, it’s time to analyze the results.
Did it achieve the goal you set in the beginning?
Was your audience as engaged as you thought they’d be? Did your content resonate with them? If so, how can you repurpose that content in another format? What related topics can you speak to next?
If your content didn’t resonate with your audience or in your industry as you thought it would, was it because of the content or your marketing tactics?
By analyzing the results, you can learn what works and what doesn’t and create more effective thought leadership content in the future.
Be Willing to Adapt
Remember, becoming a thought leader takes time. You may not get there after the first, fifth, or even tenth piece of content. But if you continue to create valuable content for your target market, you can get there.
However, you also need to be willing to adapt your content strategy based on the performance results and try new things as you go.
This is an important skill for any thought leader in any industry. In order to stay a leader, you will need to adapt to new trends, discuss timely topics, and never stop learning.
Embrace Being a Thought Leader
Creating a successful thought leadership marketing plan takes time and effort.
As someone busy running a small business or a small team, you don’t have to take on the additional project.
Our marketing experts can help you develop and execute a foolproof plan. Get your free Digital Marketing Audit and learn how. Then, you can focus on what you do best — being the expert in your field — and leave the rest to us.