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The 5 Pillars of Every Successful Thought Leadership Strategy

Over 60% of business decision-makers have claimed that thought leadership informed their decision on what brands to award contracts. It is thus, no wonder that many gurus and experts have hijacked what real thought leadership should be.

Many of the ideas out there are untested, untried, and unproven models of what thought leadership should be. Effective thought leadership rests on five pillars from which every other activity stems. Set your thought leadership strategy up for success with these five planning and promotional pillars.

Those pillars are discussed here today.

Pillar #1 – Content

The thought leader’s job is to tackle challenging concepts, advance discussions, get in on the trends, and establish their expertise in the industry. That cannot be done without content.

Every thought leader is a content creator. They know the intricacies of putting down their thoughts and sending them out there in their way. They know how to take the burning matters and craft it so that their audience lends a listening ear.

Above all, they know the right variety of content to focus on.

A severe mistake in thought leadership is doing things the way of content marketing. We have seen this happen many times, and thought leaders often cross that line unawares.

We have discussed previously the right mix of content that a thought leader needs to employ in their cause for building trust and authority. There, we explored how and when the various kinds of content should also be used to the best effect.

When launching thought leadership in any campaign, thought leaders should avoid these:

  • Self-promotion – what kills most thought leadership campaigns is the thought leader wanting to rise above their message. Thought leadership has never been an ego trip. Those thought leaders who have their names on every lip got there not by promoting their name but content. Let your content do all the talking.
  • Expertise Creep– content should only be created in your area of expertise. Expertise-creep is a fast killer of thought leadership success, undoing all of the excellent work that you have done in the past. It is not a bad form to have multiple thought leaders within one brand to allow everyone to focus on their areas of expertise, which helps guide your reputation as thought leaders and showcase genuine knowledge and insight.

Pillar #2 – Channels

LinkedIn could be rated to have the highest percentage of engagement, but that might still not be great for your brand.

Our people in statistics will support the fact that you can make numbers say anything you want. That is why you have to look deeper into what you need.

Knowing that XYZ% of people react to content better on one platform is not enough as a thought leader. Dig deeper for the percentage of your target audience present on such media. After all, they are the ones for who you are creating the said piece of content for.

There are diverse channels to leverage for thought leadership. Fortunately, you don’t have to pick just one. As long as you can reach different sets of the same audience base on the diverse platforms, you are good to go.

Some options that we target at iResearch are:

  • Social media – Twitter is a microblog, so there is no cap on how many tweets you can send out daily. The platform also allows you to get on conversations with hashtags and keywords. Likewise, you can easily find people who share the same sentiments using such keywords and hashtags.
  • LinkedIn – although also considered a social media network, we treat LinkedIn differently here. Thought leaders with a vast following should put their content out on their accounts directly. This helps to put a face to the brand and show the human side. Likewise, it would be much easier to get engagement and more shares this way. That does not stop the brand/ business page from sharing/ repurposing the same piece of content.
  • Blog – we don’t think any thought leadership strategy should exist without a blog to it. While some content pieces can be shared directly with social media/ external platforms, others have to be hosted on the site. The authority built on such external platforms is directed back to the blog.

Pillar #3 – Consistency

Please don’t treat your audience to a schedule, only to disrupt it.

If you are always putting out new content three times a week, keep to that consistency. If you are known for publishing industry reports every quarter, try not to miss any.

The ‘trust and authority’ you are building as a thought leader does not rest only on your content. The audience also needs to know that you will come through when they expect you to do so. When you start faltering, there is no reason why they should not seek out another thought leader who fits into their consistency model.

Just like losing customers to rival brands, getting back this part of your audience won’t be easy.

Even if you could get them back, you have now allowed them to have a taste of a rival brand. Thus, they will always share the trust they should have invested in only you with a rival.

This is why you should never start a thought leadership campaign without a plan that follows a clear strategy.

The strategy should include everything about the thought leadership plan, down to the content creation. It should also detail how the content will be created to ensure it meets the deadline every time. That way, the volume-frequency graph will always be balanced.

Pro Tip: if you are starting, start slow. Don’t try to push out 4-5 pieces of content per week when you take your first steps. Even if you publish less frequently but consistently, you will see good results.

Also, learn to repurpose your content so that you are never stuck for new ideas.

Pillar #4 – Promotion

Apple is the most valuable smartphone brand globally, yet they still promote their devices whenever a new one makes the market.

If this tells us anything, it is that promotion is vital. No matter how well you believe you are now known, promotion is key to boosting your thought leadership content success.

Every thought leadership strategy should have a clear-cut approach to promoting every piece of content – and the entire campaign too. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Outreach – reach out to other thought leaders and influencers in your niche to work with them. This could be getting on a podcast with them, writing a guest post for their blogs, webinars, joint PR campaigns, and so on.. This way, you give them quality content for their audience while also ‘endorsing’ you to that audience. It is a win for everyone involved.
  • Cross-promote – when you are featured (like above), share with your audience, too. Many thought leaders feel like they will be giving too much authority to the featuring platform this way, but that is not the case. In a way, you are even showing your audience that others trust you enough to include you and share with their audiences. That, and that you are open to working with other influencers and thought leaders in the niche and committed to your area of interest and expertise.
  • Social media – once a new piece of content goes live, start promoting it on your social media platforms. This is not the time to spam the timeline or your users. Have a plan to promote your content in the middle of organic, non-promotional content. Look out for trends and other related content that your content resonates with and create a mini social media post around that.
  • Re-share – when someone shares your content with a caption, re-share their content. This drives up your share count and impressions and sends a signal to others that your content is being shared. That spurs on even more shares.

Pillar #5 – Metrics

No solid thought leadership strategy is without a plan to track and measure performance.

Every piece of content that you devise and distribute is not just for the sake of creating content. You want to add value.

That is best done when you have factual data to back it up . Some of the things to measure are:

  • Impressions – there was a time when we used to discard impressions, but never again. Impressions show how many times your content was seen (not viewed or engaged with). That is what makes it a flawed metric for some people. Not us. We can know if the audience is ignoring the content and optimize to make it better with impressions. That way, there would be a higher level of engagement compared to the impressions.
  • Engagement – this comes in different ways. You can choose to track the views, comments, claps, shares, downloads… anything within the scope of getting involved with your content. The rate of engagement shows you how much of an impact your content is having on the market.
  • Lead generation – thought leadership content encouraged 47% of C-suite executives to drop their contact information with thought leaders. If your content has been designed to generate leads too, tracking it is a no-brainer.

Planning, pillars, and next steps

Everything else that you need for thought leadership excellence will come from the five pillars above. Incorporating these pillars gives you a minimalistic approach that ensures you are never overwhelmed at any stage of the journey.

Implemented in the right way, you should also start reaping the business and financial rewards of thought leadership in no time.

Should you need more help coming up with an effective thought leadership strategy, redefining an existing system for sustainability, or outsourcing the entire process, we are always ready to help. Find some more useful thought leadership tips to get you started.

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