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How to Become a Thought Leader in Your Industry Through Content

Thought leadership has been a popular expression in recent years. Marketers seem keen on recommending it, but is it just a trite buzzword, or a viable approach you should consider investing in?

Before answering that question, it stands to reason that you start by understanding what thought leadership means and how your business can benefit from it. This is what we’re going to discuss in this article, on top of what types of content can help you become a thought leader.

Photograph by marchmeena via Bigstock

What Does Being a Thought Leader Mean?

It’s true that “thought leadership” has become a sort of business jargon thrown around by many, to the point where one might wonder what this term even means in the first place.

Definitions of thought leadership can vary, but to keep it simple think of it is as the authority gained by showcasing superior expertise that solves problems in an industry.

While you don’t have to completely disrupt your market, you have to share original, thought-provoking and helpful ideas that others will see as valuable. By doing that consistently, you become a figure of authority within your industry.

Why Become a Thought Leader?

Companies strive to become thought leaders for the following benefits:

  • You position yourself as an expert in your field
  • You improve the engagement of your target audience
  • You strengthen your brand’s perceived value
  • You achieve a better image with the press and potential new employees
  • You get access to more business opportunities

By demonstrating deep knowledge and forward thinking, Customers are more likely to turn to you for the answers to their questions.

REI, an outdoors retailer, decided to differentiate itself from competition with relevant content. Along with its other marketing efforts, the company created a blog named the REI Expert advice which helps customers with information on outdoor activities. The response from its audience was overwhelming and now REI enjoys spectacular sales in addition to an engaged community despite the presence of giant e-commerce competitors like Amazon.

REI used consistent content to reach these results. Publishing and promoting content is a great way to become a thought leader without necessarily spending a huge budget.

How to Become a Thought Leader Through Content

As you approach content creation with thought leadership in mind, perhaps the most essential things to keep in mind is to be authentic. You have to be genuinely passionate about your subject matter and curious about the undiscovered possibilities within your industry. You should also be open to learning from others, as you don’t hold all the answers. Don’t try to present yourself as a thought leader, but create content that is valuable enough for the audience to reach that conclusion. Leaders, after all, are chosen.

Here are a few suggestions on how to find suitable topics for thought leadership content:

  • Questions your audience have about their needs and wants
  • Your personal experience and perspective on your industry
  • Your take on current and upcoming trends
  • Issues you find to be rarely talked about despite their importance
  • Interviewing industry leaders
  • Reaching out to an influencer who shares your values and vision to create and promote new content together

If you are at a loss for ideas, know that you don’t necessarily have to become a thought leader right away. Take your time and observe how your business and your industry evolve.

But if you have succeeded in gathering a pool of original and insightful topics, the next step is to determine which content formats you can use. Below are four types of content you may want to invest in. While there are many other formats, these four have proven time and again to be highly effective.

Blog Posts that Provide New Insights and Challenging Ideas

Blog posts are great for demonstrating your authority and brand voice; no wonder they are so widely used. However, not every blog post has to be designed as a piece of thought leadership, because not all the topics you write about have to be original. You can —and should— address common topics too.

You can share the unexpected results of a recent study, or express a different view on the state of the industry. While stirring controversy attracts attention, your opinion must be honest and backed by strong arguments.

Whatever the topics you select, do a research to see if your competitors haven’t already published similar content.

Whitepapers

Whitepapers are reports that address issues specific to an industry. A good whitepaper stays focused on its main topics, provides research-based evidence, suggests solutions and doesn’t take too much time to read (6-10 pages is a good length to shoot for). Also, be sure to give your whitepaper a clean design and keep the key insights visible.

Educational Videos

Videos are the most consumed type of content right now, so why not take advantage of them to capture attention?

The topic of a video can be a tutorial, an interview, or anything else that conveys an insight. Decide on the tone that works best for your audience (funny? straightforward?) and invest in quality production values.

Webinars

You can use this type of content to differentiate yourself from the usual blog posts or podcasts. With a webinar, you can go more in-depth with your topic, interview and influencer or make live demonstrations of a tool. Note that webinars are a great way to grow your email list, as email addresses are often required to gain access to a webinar. They also ten to be more effective if you sell complex or expensive products.

Final Thoughts

To become a thought leader in your industry through content, you will have to add value that isn’t found elsewhere. While results won’t happen overnight, they are still well worth investing in. You will become the go-to source for fresh, useful, and inspiring information, and make customers confident in choosing you over the competition.

But remember that you still need to deliver on your initial brand promise. A company cannot reach or maintain the status of a thought leader if at some point it fails to provide the quality of products and services that clients expect. Solving the needs of clients will, in turn, reinforce the credibility of your thought leadership content.

Annie Ianko

Chief Content Officer

Annie has over 20 years of  experience as an editor and content creator and manager. With work in television and written media, she has dedicated her past 10 years to learning the ropes of online content creation, from writing to editing, from SEO to content management.

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