We aren’t here to sugarcoat stuff for you: thought leadership can be hard.
From getting into the right niche to digging out the content that your audience does not just want to see, but need to see, it can be a lot of work.
When you think about the fact that thought leadership has the biggest impact on buyers than any other kind of content, though, you might be more interested in making it work.
Speaking of making things work, we have curated some of the top ways to find inspiration for new thought leadership campaigns.
1. Choose the right leaders
There is this mistake that many companies make when they want to get started with thought leadership. The mistake stems from thinking that a decorated individual within the company should be the one to take on the role of the thought leader. That could not be farther from the truth.
To put things in context, that someone is the CEO of the company does not mean they will excel in creating thought leadership content. True, they are the ones overseeing all aspects of the company and should know a little about everything, but that is not what the audience is looking for.
The audience wants someone who knows a lot about something, so much that this someone can tackle anything that is thrown at them right out of the park. Thus, this could mean the engineer in charge of product development, that power operator on the sales team, or just about anyone who knows what they are doing in line with the business at hand.
With such a thought leader, there would never be a shortage of content that should go out there. Seeing as they are practically living what they will be preaching too, there might not be a better way to get top-notch content than that.
2. Develop researches
Trust us when we say there is nothing that tells the audience you know a lot about the industry than the kind of in-depth research you can conduct in the said industry.
The thing about research is that it has been here for a very long time, and that might make it a little over-flogged. The best thing about research is that it never gets old – since we are always uncovering new things.
Perhaps the most impressive thing here is that different companies can pick the same broad research area and still be able to focus on sub-niches that will make them stand apart. Thus, don’t be afraid to go into what someone has done before if only you can do it better and uncover new earth while you are at it.
Once the research is in, you should work towards publishing them and using the bits in there to better your thought leadership campaigns too.
3. Dive within
There is a lot of content on ‘how to do account-based marketing,’ ‘how to ensure you get thought leadership done right’ and so on roaming the internet right now. Your audience is seeing it too and they are only engaging with such content because there seems to be nothing better anyway.
That is where you come in, and you are going to give them something better.
We are not saying the headlines above are bad. They are quite great if you know how to work them, but they don’t keep you relevant for long. What does, though, is content that is taken from right from under you.
Here, we are talking about headings that read “How we got 123% more leads from account-based marketing & thought leadership” or “how we did conversation rate optimization the right & new way”
This hits on a more personal level, showing your intended audience that you are not all bark, but you have come to show your teeth too. You don’t just talk about it, but you live it!
4. Check social media
When we see those thought leaders who consider social media as nothing but a playground, we can’t but marvel.
Social media explosion is one of the best things to happen to the digital world in the last decade, and now is yet another time to make judicious use of what it is offering.
That said, your potential audience is on social media too. They are engaging with each other based on tweets, posts, pictures, hashtags, and the likes. Trends are usually an indication of what they are thinking and seriously talking about – and you can ride that wave to stardom too.
Check for the hot posts, trends, controversies and more. See which fits into your industry, and what you can address with accuracy and authority. Please note that you must be able to establish authority on your engagements lest your campaign crumble ever before it started at all.
5. Use what you know
Many think that the whole idea of thought leadership is to showboat. We are not one of those many.
Thought leadership content is supposed to be simple yet engaging enough that you connect with your audience on so many levels than one. It should be a bridge between what you know and what the audience does not know, allowing them to cross over to your side and see things from your point of view too.
Best believe none of that will happen if you are trying to be fake with what you know.
When you start with the in-house knowledge, it is easy to handle anything that gets thrown at you. Questions, inquiries, opinions and such other matters will be met with a level of confidence and expertise which trickles down into the audience space.
Guess what that does for you? Establish you as a thought leader, of course.
6. Read blog comments
One of the best blessings we have ever come across is highly insightful blogs that have managed to develop a community of like minds.
Notice here that we are not concerned about the blogs themselves but the array of readers they have in their arsenal. You would share our sentiments too if you saw some of the comments that these readers leave under the main posts.
Most times, these comments are often so insightful that they feel like an extension of the blog itself. They also raise concerns, questions, and arguments that can help you, as a thought leader, determine the next course of action.
Whether it be your blog or that of another thought leader whom you so much adore, take some time to read the comments.
While you are at it, don’t forget to leave a comment too. You never might know who would find that to be their inspiration – or who would decide to follow your brand’s content just because of what you expressed in the comments section.
7. Ask questions
Thought leadership doesn’t just have to be about thinking for your audience.
‘But I don’t think for my audience!’
Well, we don’t blame you for believing the above line. If you considered it closely, though, all those hours spent into researching what the audience is looking for counts as thinking for them.
Again, we are not shunning research. We are probably the biggest supporters of research across different industries and that shows in our core services, but that is a discussion meant for another day.
Today, we talk about how important it is to ask questions to your audience.
As of now, you should already know why they are following you, so you also know the kinds of questions that they will look forward to. It is best to find something a little bit controversial, or capable of generating appositive debate.
From the interactions and engagements in there alone, you would be surprised at the barrage of insights you can gain for even multiple thought leadership campaigns.
8. Be bold
After all said and done about thought leadership, thought leaders still love to play it safe.
We don’t blame them, though. A single mistake, misstep or wrong statement could be the difference between having a lot of followers and being reduced to none. Always staying safe could, however, make you miss out on a campaign idea – predictions.
What many thought leaders do not know is that predictions are just what they are – predictions. No one expects them to be right, but you get bonus points when they do turn out the right way. As long as you present and represent them for what they are, you are good to go.
Here, you can predict where the technology in your industry will be in, say, the next two years. Make sure you are not just spit-balling either, but backing up each prediction with statements of fact. This will require knowing what has been and what is so that you can infer what will be.
Thus, there is still a need for solid research when making predictions. Followed closely, and barring any serious disruptions, some of your predictions should come true while others hit closer to home.
But then, again, they don’t have to be right all the time, just logical!
We have covered a lot of research and topics on the concepts of data storytelling and data visualization, but not many thought leaders have given them much thought.
In most cases, thought leaders tend to stick with data storytelling and forget that there is a visual part to it all. That can be very limiting to your thought leadership campaigns.
Instead of running a one-man affair, go with an integrated team of creatives who are all committed to churning out great content in the way that they know-how. This will include the writers (a group that can house all the technical, non-technical and just about any personnel) as well as the design team.
Sometimes, you don’t even need to put out words for content to work for your thought leadership needs. It might be a simple picture, well-thought-out infographic, accurate data representation on charts – or anything else of the sort. Sometimes, it could be both.
Any which way, you would be able to launch a better effective campaign when you have both sides of the table (storytelling and visualization) working towards the common goal of developing thought leadership content.
Like we said earlier, it is usually a challenge to start another thought leadership campaign from scratch. Once you find the right source and latch on it, with data at your heels, there will be no stopping you.
As we head into the better part of the year 2020 soon, which one of these campaign inspirations will you be carrying into the year proper? Let us hear your thoughts in the comments.
Do any of these trends jump out?
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