Thought leaders are the influencers of all types of businesses. They are industry experts who share their knowledge and experiences with a highly engaged network of peers. While thought leaders want to promote their personal brand and company, they also aim to genuinely connect with and provide value to their audience.

When done correctly, thought leadership can be an effective content marketing campaign on its own, not to mention build positive digital PR and drive unique engagement and leads.

If you need convincing on the value of thought leadership, refer to these statistics from a recent Edelman and LinkedIn Research Study:   

  • 90 percent of C-Suite executives rate thought leadership content as important or very important.
  • 42 percent of thought leadership creators confirm that it helps with lead generation.
  • 48 percent of execs and 45 percent of business decision-makers said that consuming thought leadership directly led to them doing business with an organization.

What’s more, Longitude Agency’s study, Learning From Leaders found that senior executives spend more than four hours per week consuming different forms of thought leadership content.

What is “good” thought leadership?

Thought leadership consists of several elements:  

  • Original pieces of content created by industry leaders, managers and professionals.
  • Overall digital branding and social media presence (on platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, as well as personal/professional blogs).
  • Contributed content and guest posts on outside publications.
  • Digital and in-person networking, speaking opportunities, and involvement in relevant conversations.

When it comes to both content and promotion, thought leadership shouldn’t come off as too self-promotional, “salesy,” or opinion-based—it’s a fine line to walk. Gareth Lofthouse, co-founder of Longitude, explains to Convince and Convert, “Good thought leadership does more. It provides new insight, it’s relevant to a problem, it’s backed by credible research.”

Research is an essential step where many miss the mark. Lofthouse says that thoughts leaders must “bring original insight backed by evidence, and that’s why you see research as a big part of the thought leadership mix. Opinion on its own is not enough.”

Read on to discover the many benefits of thought leadership, with tips on how to build it.

Create and Amplify Your Personal Brand

Thought leadership allows you to create original content focused on your brand, missions and niche. You can include stories, experiences and lessons that you’ve picked up along your personal and professional journey and translate that into value-driven, solutions-based content.

Richard Branson’s blog is a masterclass example of thought leadership. If you read through Branson’s articles, themes immediately jump out at you: leadership and management, work-life balance and taking risks. These are not only Branson’s personal beliefs, but they relate to the Virgin brand and philosophy as a whole. Note there are also surveys, case studies and stats from proprietary data to support all of his claims.

Remember that thought leadership is not merely commentary. It’s not you on your soapbox spouting your opinions—it’s sharing your expertise and insights and providing value to your targetted audience.

Participate in Relevant Conversations

Creating and promoting thought leadership allows you to participate in relevant industry conversations. You can do this by posting your original content or guest posts on social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter, or self-publishing articles on LinkedIn or Medium. Then you can not only speak about your own brand, beliefs and insights but connect with others about theirs.

Thought-leadership driven platforms like LinkedIn, not only offer an audience of 61 million senior-level influencers and 46 million decision makers, but 59 percent of companies generate leads using the platform, based on recent data.

Build Trust and Establish Industry Authority

As you develop original content and take part in industry conversations, you can also do outreach to be featured as a guest contributor or be quoted in other publications and resources. The more you build your thought leadership, the more you’ll be positioned as a subject matter expert.

Just think, when a potential lead researches you, they’ll see your wealth of content and participation in your industry. Thought leadership helps to build client trust, increases your personal/professional brand visibility and can even attract talent to your company.

Understanding the ROI of Thought Leadership

Original thought leadership content can translate your company culture, mission and personal value into an outward-facing message. Thought leadership helps you position yourself as an authority and expert in your space, while also driving traffic and revenue to your company. It opens the door to new possibilities; networking, partnerships, leads, sales, investors—you name it!

When to Outsource Thought Leadership

Thought-leadership takes hard, consistent and often tedious work. As a founder or leader, while you have the passion and expertise, you won’t always have the time. On top of that, a lot of thought leadership is based on writing and communicating your message. Understanding how to speak to and resonate with your audience is an art. True value-driven content isn’t just self-proclamations, thought-leaders quote other experts and support their ideas with data-backed stats and sources.

If you don’t know where to start or don’t have the right foundation, bad thought leadership will do more harm than good. Based on the Edelman and LinkedIn study, 35 percent of executives and 30 percent of business decision-makers report that they’ve decided not to do business with a company due to bad thought leadership.

Consider partnering with an established agency to start building your thought leadership. At 10x, we work with executives across multiple verticals on personal brand development, strategic messaging and original content creation. Get in touch with us today to discuss our thought leadership packages.

We can translate your knowledge and experiences into a winning thought leadership campaign that builds trust, garners engagement and drives leads.

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