Publishing content online is becoming an increasingly popular method for sharing your opinions and expertise with a broad audience. It’s also a great place to build your reputation as a thought leader in your industry. However, with so many people writing so much, there’s a lot of content out there that tries to pass as thought leader content when in reality it is anything but.
Here, we will provide a few guidelines that should help you start developing some valuable thought leader content.
1. Defining Thought Leader Content
Let’s start out by defining what we mean by thought leader content. In general terms, thought leader content provides inspirational and actionable information. Depending on the subject matter, thought leader content is able to address the needs of either potential customers or target groups within a specific industry.
If it’s not done carefully, this type of content may be self-serving or come off as “me too” content. This may be valuable to your existing audience, but it won’t move the needle of an entire industry. For content to be at the thought leader level, you have to take a more holistic approach with your information and provide takeaways to your audience that impact their relationship with your industry.
2. Use Anecdotes
Whether it’s through actionable takeaways or hard-learned lessons, thought leaders are great at relating their professional and personal experiences to the reader. However, it’s important to know what experiences to reference and how to express them — there’s a thin line between sharing your thoughts and gloating about a particular success.
When drawing from personal experiences, don’t rule out those times you or your company were humbled, or even the times you outright failed. These could prove to be more beneficial than stories of success in terms of providing valuable takeaways for the reader. Regardless of the type of experience you pull from, be sure to relate them sparingly, and if at all possible in conjunction with supporting data. Anecdotal experiences should be used as a complement to the overall narrative, not the driving force.
3. Don’t Advertise
Speaking of personal experiences, there are few things more frustrating than reading through what you thought was thought leader content and instead finding an advertorial. One of the most alienating things you can do as a thought leader is to fool your audience into thinking the content they’re consuming is intended to help them, only for them to realize that the way they can be helped is through the purchase of your product or service.
It’s important to separate sales goals from your thought leader content. That’s not to say thought leader content can’t contribute to sales, but it shouldn’t be used to push the reader directly into a sale. As a thought leader, your energy should be focused on bringing clarity to the topic and using your knowledge to provide succinct, beneficial information that the reader can use to make informed decisions.
4. Curate & Collaborate
Being a thought leader not only means sharing your knowledge with others, but also recognizing those who share their own. Thought leaders have strong opinions on their industry and actively seek out peers producing relatable content that they can share across appropriate channels. Maintaining a constant finger on the pulse of the different facets of your industry helps you increase your own clout.
Thought leaders also don’t discard those opinions that differ from their own. A dichotomy in industry viewpoints can provide several positive content opportunities. Don’t be afraid to spark new dialogues, expand community discussions, and collaborate with fellow thought leaders.
As trusted sources of information, thought leaders are expected to drive change by evolving concepts and breaking the status quo. Expressing innovative ideas, however, can prove to be a difficult undertaking for any thought leader, in large part due to the high volume of content published on a daily basis. If you’ve thought it, chances are someone else has already thought it, too.
That said, innovation doesn’t always require one to reinvent the wheel, and can instead be a process of improving your audience’s understanding of how the wheel works and explaining the different ways it can be used. Remember that innovation can come through building upon other thought leaders’ work, or writing a rebuttal to their content.
6. Stay Consistent
It’s hard to earn and maintain an audience, but thought leaders that push out a steady stream of quality content are more likely to remain relevant among fellow thought leaders and target audiences.
A caveat to be aware of is not to mistake consistent content production with spamming; these lines can quickly blur, especially if you have a lot to say on the subject. Unfortunately, no universal number or equation exists to figure out how much content you should publish in a given day or week. However, you can gauge how much content to publish by checking the amount that some of the more influential players in your industry are publishing. It’s not an exact science, but it’s a good place to start.
The development of thought leader content is like riding a bike. Though it may seem difficult at first, with a few spills along the way, you’ll eventually find your balance.
What other techniques would you recommend for maximizing thought leader content?