Are You REALLY a Thought Leader? | h2o | Creative Communications Ltd.
Having a persona in mind when writing not only helps you to effectively decide where you’re going to post your thoughts, but it can help you set the tone and guide you towards suitable content.
audience, knowledge, platform, thought leader, marketing, marketing agency, digital marketing,
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Are You REALLY a Thought Leader?

Are You REALLY a Thought Leader?

Back when I was a young and naive marketing student, for most of the projects or assignments I completed, I envisaged a company that was ‘The Apple of (insert industry).’ It didn’t matter what the task was, in my head when I imagined the brand, it was always at the absolute cutting edge of design, style and image. Lots of white and sleek lines, whether it was a new soft drink, a car, or a vending machine, it didn’t matter.

This is clearly ridiculous, not everyone can invest the millions of pounds and man-hours into Research and Development in search of absolute perfection as Apple does. Nor could Irn Bru ever become the Apple of the soft drinks industry (even with my help) as I’d confidently outlined in one assignment.

The same level of naivety is apparent when it comes to the notion of thought leadership. This has become a buzzword within the marketing industry over the last couple of years, to the point where a huge number of brands include it in their marketing strategy. There are a number of problems with this. In this post, I’ll be highlighting the difficulties with thought leadership and what you’re going to need to stand a chance

Thought leadership is great in principle. You become the voice of your industry where your wisdom and expertise creates a huge following who are convinced that because of your knowledge. You obviously know what you’re doing and can’t possibly provide anything other than exceptional products or services. This leads to an increase in sales, profit and everyone is happy.

The main issue is that unfortunately, everybody is striving for thought leadership. As a result, if everyone is a leader, who is going to follow all of these thoughts? There is such an enormous, eye-watering amount of information and opinion on the internet now that you are going to need to produce the most thoughtful, targeted, industry-redefining content the world has ever seen to truly become a thought leader in such a saturated environment. Perhaps we need to coin a new phrase that reflects a position, not of leadership, but ensuring that you get your fair share of the audience thought-pie — YFSOTATP?

Are you putting out thoughts people want to hear? Offering genuine insights and expertise, is it truly new?

“To be a thought leader, what you’re saying can’t just be interesting, well-reasoned, and useful — it has to be new.”

Sonia Simone, CCO – Rainmaker Digital

It may sound blindingly obvious, but you need to make sure that the content that you’re producing is what people want to hear and haven’t heard before. Your target audience (whoever it is) is invariably bombarded with marketing messages, adverts and other demands for their attention. Considering this, they will not click or engage with your content unless it has value to them. Your content needs to demonstrate your expertise in a way that isn’t an advert. Guides, expert industry analysis or opinion and hints and tips are valuable and more likely to be shared and engaged with. Your aim is to inform, educate and advise, not to force your products or services onto the reader.

You may produce the most informative, thought-provoking content in your industry. But if you don’t share it in the right places and target the right demographics, your thought leadership quest will be in vain. It is no longer enough to put content on the blog section of your website and assume that traffic will be impressed, that they will all click share and your content will organically filter through to the web resulting in instant-guru status.

Modern content marketing is a battle for the attention of consumers. Depending on your target audience you will need to choose an appropriate combination of distribution outlets and consider paying for the privilege in some cases.

Obviously, you’ll need a social media presence on platforms that your audience engages with. For example, for B2C think Twitter, Linkedin and industry-related forums. Additionally, there are a vast number of free blogging sites that you can sign up and post to. If your content matches what they are looking for, there are also numerous sites that will consider ’guest blogs’ which can guarantee exposure for your work. You need to be prepared to put the effort in to get your content noticed in the battle for attention.

A key question you need to answer is, who are you writing for? If you don’t have a clear idea of your intended audience, you are doomed to failure, I’m afraid. This is the basis of your whole strategy as it will dictate what you write, where it’s posted and in what format.

If you’re not totally sure about your audience, you could employ some social listening to establish who is discussing similar subjects across social media. You (or an agency…) can then create personas. Looking at what else they post about when not discussing your area of expertise can reveal new avenues that you can appear in that you hadn’t thought of before.

For example, If you produce premium quality paint and traditionally sell to painters and decorators and shops, you may find out that people who regularly post on social media about paint are in their 30s, married, middle class and regularly talk about coffee and baking. This is useful data and can be used to help you get YFSOTATP.

Firstly it presents potential advertising audience platforms. Secondly, it can reveal new pain points you can address in your thought-leadership material. Whereas your direct buyers’ (shops and painters and decorators) purchasing motivations will probably be price and ease of application. This secondary level will be focussed on aesthetics and practicality. An informative, guidance piece about what paint to use for which room could conveniently mention that your product has a great finish and wipes clean. Alternatively, you could produce tips for painting a room that also subtly extols the virtues of your product whilst providing genuinely useful tips to the DIY enthusiast. Articles placed in places like the Waitrose magazine, or a Google Adwords campaign focussed on baking or coffee-related keywords could be effective. Creating brand recognition with your customers’ customers is a recipe for success.

Having a persona in mind when writing not only helps you to effectively decide where you’re going to post your thoughts, but it can help you set the tone and guide you towards suitable content, as you can discover pain points that you can advise your readers on. It is always easier to write ‘for’ someone. When I’m writing this, I was, in fact, picturing you. Yes, you.

If all of this sounds a bit daunting and you’d like some help to showcase your business’ expertise and knowledge, we’d love to hear from you and how we can assist.

Megan Tyce
megan@h2o-creative.com