With so much information available on thought leadership, it can be pretty overwhelming when deciding where to begin. While one person suggests you need to focus on becoming a credible, trustworthy source, another says you should be focusing on relevance and compassion towards your audience.
So—which is it?
If you're genuinely trying to become a thought leader that not only your audience turns to, but other influencers and stakeholders within your industry, you need all four.
Trust and Credibility
When most people think of thought leaders, their first instinct is to identify them as trustworthy and credible sources. Thought leaders have earned their place as authoritative experts in their industry because they've taken the time to not only make claims but to back those claims up with factual data.
These individuals know that their audience is looking for answers, and before they trust a single word that you have to say, they want to see the proof.
That's why such a massive part of creating thought leadership content involves continuous research. It doesn't matter what industry you're in, nothing stays the same for very long, and if you are looking to become the go-to expert in your niche, then you need to be on top of your research so you can identify any changes in the industry and those in customer needs/behaviours.
Once you've spotted those changes and/or gaps that need addressing, you can go about creating those solutions long before anyone else.
As you continue to stay ahead of the curve, your audience will begin to notice, and instead of turning to other sources for education or solving an issue, they'll start to come to you. Not only have you proven to them that you are credible, but you've become a trustworthy source—one that your audience is likely to share with those in their inner circle.
Relevance and Compassion
Now that you've established yourself as a trusting, credible source, it's vital that you also show your audience that you are not only compassionate to their needs but that you are only going to provide them with relevant solutions.
One of the biggest fails in thought leadership is trying to be the Jack of all trades. That means trying to be always the solution to every person's problem. Here's the thing:
What works for one individual will not work for another. That's why it's crucial that you stay within your wheelhouse.
This is especially important when you're trying to turn your loyal audience into a loyal customer. Consumers despise irrelevant content, especially when it comes from a source they thought they could rely on. For example, if your sending irrelevant emails to your audience, 21% of them are likely to unsubscribe from your newsletter.
If you genuinely want to show compassion for your audience and prove to them that you're looking to provide them with only the best of the best as far as information and products go, you want to make sure you're sending them only the most relevant information possible. The moment you start to send irrelevant content their way is the moment that they start to see you as a less credible source of information, and that trusting relationship you've worked so hard to build will be broken.
What You Should Really Be Focusing On is Reputation Management
When it comes to the trust and credibility vs relevance and compassion debate, you can't choose one or the other. To establish a successful thought leadership strategy, you need all four components. Lacking in even one of these areas can easily damage your authoritative voice, resulting in losing your title of an industry expert.
Instead of trying to choose traits, you want to build a positive reputation overall, which means investing your time in reputation management best practices.
Some of the most common reputation management best practices include:
- Prioritize engagement – This can be via events, both online and in-person, and via social media. Most of your audience will turn to your social media pages when they try to communicate with you, so you want to make sure you are prioritizing engagement by regularly responding to comments, questions, and concerns. Of course, as you grow, you may need to have someone help you with this task, and if that's the case, make sure they share your thoughts, values, and beliefs. That way, their responses (in your name) will align with your values.
- Get to know your audience – This can be through polls, active research, or asking for feedback. This is vital because it not only helps you prove that your primary interests are the sharing of relevant information to your audience but that they can trust you to invest in their best interests.
- Accept the good with the bad – This is important because many individuals and brands go out of their way to remove any negative mention they receive online. Sure, negative thoughts and reviews can reflect poorly on your reputation. However, instead of deleting comments that you disagree with, be the bigger person and engage politely with them or simply ask them to contact you personally so that you can help resolve whatever the issue may be.
Remember that the goal of reputation management is to continuously prove that you are compassionate to your audience's needs and confirm that you have the relevant information they need and that you are a credible, trustworthy resource at their disposal.
Thought Leadership Requires Credibility, Trust, Compassion, and Relevance
If you are working hard to become a thought leader in your industry, you have to go above and beyond to prove to your audience that you are not only credible, trustworthy, and compassionate but that you are a source of relevant, up-to-date information.
Instead of focusing on each of these components individually, if you focus your attention on proper reputation management best practices, you'll find that becoming this source of information for your audience is a lot easier than you may have thought initially.
Do any of these trends jump out?
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