- Thought leadership allows CEOs to position themselves as experts within their niche.
- Well-researched, relevant thought leadership content helps answer questions consumers may have in regards to your brand.
- Thought leaders establish trust and recognition with consumers in the articles they write that are shared across a wide variety of social platforms.
- As a thought leader, you may differentiate your brand through authentic, fact-based messaging.
There have been several emerging trends in business during COVID-19. Companies have been pivoting their business models to provide offerings that accommodate households in quarantine, or sewing masks and producing hand sanitizer as aid to the relief effort in the war against the coronavirus. Certain industries have seen a significant uptick in sales, including landscaping, bread and baking, and toys and puzzles.
Collectively, Americans are also spending more time online. Staying at home means engaging with social media apps and streaming platforms on our computer screens. According to The New York Times, website traffic for established media outlets like The Washington Post grew more than 50% throughout March 2020. Local news websites have also received a boost in readership traffic. Social media websites, like Facebook with a 27% website uptick, have increasingly more eyeballs scrolling through their dashboards. As Americans get – and stay – online, small businesses are doubling up on their content initiatives. Relevant and informative blog posts, white papers, infographics, and press outreach initiatives all help elevate the visibility of small businesses.
Out of the examples listed above, it is becoming increasingly popular for CEOs to write and share thought leadership articles. For several years I have personally been a contributor to business-focused media outlets. The return on investment that creating thought leadership content provides is incredible, both for the brand and the individual delivering the message.
Here are the additional benefits that come with taking the time to craft thought leadership content.
1. Thought leadership allows you to position yourself as an expert.
I am a business owner who specializes in working alongside entrepreneurs and small businesses. This is my niche. It is a market that consists of customers I am able to serve and other influential business leaders I may communicate with and establish partnerships.
Before you decide to position yourself as an expert in the thought leadership space, it is critical that you answer the following questions:
- What is my niche? Once I understand what my niche is, how can I set myself apart from others in the same industry? Which individuals am I trying to reach with my content?
- What is the tone of my content? How do you want to present yourself to the world as a thought leader? What does your voice sound like? Are you optimistic? Do you have a can-do attitude? Do you present a call to action in your written work? How can your messaging empower others to feel a bit more confident that this too shall pass – and you have the blueprint in place that can guide everyone forward?
- How can my content help others? The answer to this question often relies on research and revisiting the mission statement or purpose of your business. Tap into the needs and concerns of your customer base to provide them with the most informative advice and tips possible that provide a clear call to action. If you are not sure what currently concerns your consumer base, create a survey or send out an e-newsletter. This will encourage recipients to respond and allow the company to create content that addresses their feedback and concerns.
2. Focus on how you can provide well-researched, relevant content.
The most influential thought leaders are the ones addressing trending and current issues. These leaders are reaching their audience by discussing what is happening now and offering expert advice, as gleaned through their own experience, that can actively help audiences.
One key piece of this puzzle is that the content you provide during this time should not be salesy. Thought leadership content is not meant to be a sales pitch. This is not the time to implement a hard sell. This same type of content should be based on boasting about how great you are as a leader and how your business is equally as terrific. This type of content simply adds to the clutter.
Relevant content, however, will not contribute to clutter. Instead, it will help address how your business intends to innovate, provide solutions to ongoing issues, and clarify the next steps of the company's progression as it adapts to the new normal. Additionally, you may find a home for all of the relevant content you are producing. Consider the idea of creating a resource hub or learning center in your website that allows readers to access the materials you have created and continue to create.
3. Thought leadership is the ability to establish trust, and recognition, with consumers.
Thought leaders are rarely established overnight. The key to ongoing success is consistency. I am often asked about how I am able to get quoted in the media so frequently or how I have received so many bylines at trusted media outlets. The answer – beyond hard work – is consistency. I have been consistently writing for several years. I have embraced my niche and have a clear voice that sees the glass as perpetually half full (if not a bit more full) in entrepreneurship.
In between, I also expand my thought leadership presence beyond blogging. I have done podcast interviews, on-camera interviews with local media stations, and am active on social media outlets, like Twitter, where I engage in weekly Twitter chats.
The more one is able to create and put effort into opportunities for exposure on and offline, the more consumers take notice. They will see your business mentioned in a newsletter or heard you speaking during a podcast and reach out to say that they recognized you in it. This allows consumers to build trust in you and your reputation since you are showing the world how much you care about the issue at hand.
4. As a thought leader, you may differentiate your brand through authentic, fact-based messaging.
This is an unprecedented time where most individuals feel scared, worried and unsure of what lies ahead in the future. As a thought leader, this is an opportunity for you to provide a blueprint that creates calm moving forward.
Follow these final rules before moving forward in your thought leadership efforts.
- Conduct thorough research before publishing any content. Cite reputable sources to back up your thoughts and opinions. This will further establish your credibility in the field and create a reputation that speaks for yourself and your business.
- Write what you know, and understand, if you have trouble determining which niche is appropriate for you. Think outside of the box and consider how you can put a fresh spin on a topic. Additionally, consider trending topics with your customers. How may you address these issues in your messaging?
- Engage with your audience. Strike up a friendly debate with individuals that leave comments under your posts. Include your social media handles with your content so you may continue the conversation on platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn.
- Be yourself! Be enthusiastic and passionate about the topic you choose to write about and let your voice shine through the content.
As time progresses, and you continue to follow the advice listed above, you'll be able to establish yourself as a thought leader in your field. This will carry you far beyond simply making a sale. It will humanize the CEO behind the content and allow them to continue to expand their reach to new communities everywhere.