Although the concept of 'thought leadership' seems relatively new, and can be difficult to define, it essentially means that people don't just look to you for product or service advice, they look to you for information and ideas.
If you can establish yourself as an expert in your industry, potential clients and customers will inherently trust you more - and equally beneficial, bloggers and reporters will also respond to you more warmly if you're seen as an industry leader.
When it comes to thought leadership, it's all about finding ways to connect with your audience and deliver the information they want. After all, quality content is still king, and 94% of people said low-quality content would lower their opinion of the creator.
Interested in becoming more of a thought leader in 2018?
Here are five notes to consider:
1. Thought Leadership Feeds Publicity
Just like the right PR team can help you become a thought leader, being a thought leader fuels your PR opportunities.
When you're seen as an expert in your field, more reporters, bloggers and influencers will get in touch, seeking your advice. This can lead to more publicity, especially if you're featured in major publications.
As Dan Sondhelm of Sondhelm Partners notes:
"If you're able to become a thought leader who's influential in his [or her] words, you'll likely earn more news coverage and speaking opportunities. On a particular topic, if you are the go-to person, reporters will call you more often. And if you have something to say, reaching out to reporters will be easier, since many will want to talk to you."
2. Thought Leadership Fuels Content
There's a massive amount of content creation going on every day, and one of the most popular resources creators now use to find new ideas and trends is via thought leaders.
If content creators reference your work, it leads to more publicity for you - you could also have content creators contacting you for collaborations.
3. Thought Leadership Builds Credibility and Trust
Providing people with valuable, accurate information on a consistent basis earns you credibility and rapport. Your peers will respect you for this, making them more likely to help you in any way that they can. Your customers will also trust you and feel like you've given them something of value, making them more likely to choose your business over a competitor.
Anthony Gaenzle of Saxton and Stump explains it this way:
"Your team is a critical part of your brand. This is especially true in fields like healthcare, marketing, legal and other areas that require true experts. Your clients or customers want to know that they're hiring or purchasing from knowledgeable individuals with a lot of experience in their respective fields, so being able to convey that message in your marketing and PR is important for success and growth."
4. Thought Leaders Give Freely
The most respected thought leaders give away all kinds of content, free of charge, in the form of blog posts, podcasts, videos and more. It's a way for them to show their expertise and connect with their audience, which couldn't happen if they asked for money right off the bat.
As per Sherrilynne Starkey of Thornley Fallis Communications:
"Start with from a paradigm of generosity. Freely give news and information to assist and support the people in your target audiences. Give them real value in terms of 'how to', 'why you need to know', 'here's how to do it' type stories and content. By being generous, and really focusing on giving value, you'll reach more people, build loyalty and gain market share."
By creating a valuable funnel of free information, you can engage with potential customers and clients, and turn them into paying customers down the road.
5. Thought Leadership Isn't for Everyone
It's not easy becoming a thought leader. You need to generate a substantial amount of valuable content, and you need to be comfortable taking a stance on issues in your industry.
In some instances, and depending on your industry, taking a controversial stance with your views could divide your customer base, so you need to carefully consider if you have the time to become a thought leader, and if that approach that's right for your business goals.
George Bradley of Circa Interactive offers this advice:
"There are times where it may be best for a business to not position themselves as a thought leader. When making this decision, a company should always look at their customer base. Is making a particular stance going to greatly divide opinion? Could this lose you more clients or customers than it is likely to gain? If the answer is yes then sometimes the bottom line has to come first and it may be best to position yourself where the company will thrive."
Becoming a thought leader in your field can be a rewarding experience which can gain you a loyal audience and a solid network of influencers to help you boost your business. It requires time commitment and the right type of personality, but with the right attitude and consistency, it can take your brand to new heights.
Main image via Tumisu/Pixabay