How Can I Develop A Thought Leadership Campaign For My Business?
You’ve read about thought leadership’s benefits. You know that thought leadership can favorably influence outsiders’ perception of your organization, prompt readers to include you in RFP opportunities that you might have otherwise missed out on, and award you business.
But what do you actually need to do in order to get going?
Here are some ideas to overcome static friction.
Understand What Thought Leadership Is — And What It Isn’t
In order to realize benefits from thought leadership, it’s important to firstly understand what thought leadership is.
I define thought leadership as a marketing activity which aims to achieve PR and sales objectives through the quality and content of the authoring party’s thinking.
Thought leadership should deliver genuine value to your readership through the originality and quality of the insights it contains. Thought leadership shouldn’t be whitespace or a format for regurgitating and repackaging information which you have already put out through your blog.
Like content marketing, thought leadership derives part of its value from the fact that it allows a natural relationship to develop between recipients and the authoring party — one which can be later used to realize commercial gains for the authoring party.
Whereas content marketing tends to be a top-down communication method which typically aims to drive its readers towards taking action in the form of taking purchasing decisions over the short to medium term, thought leadership tends to function instead at the peer to peer level, encouraging readers to regard the author as a recognized industry authority and as a trustworthy source to include in a major tendering opportunity.
More often that not, thought leadership is also a B2B activity, where long sales cycles and the gradual warming of relationships, before the eventual awarding of business, are the norm. Thought leadership tends to steer audiences towards purchasing high ticket items rather than small consumer purchases.
While the ultimate aim of thought leadership and content marketing may be the same, very often the contexts are completely different (B2B vs. B2C; long vs. short sales cycles).
Thought leadership often works at a higher level of the sales funnel — typically serving as a door-opener to the C-suite and allowing prospective vendors to demonstrate and assert the type of value they could bring if awarded business.
That’s why it’s important to use the two in conjunction but also why many marketing teams delineate between the two activities. Two audiences and two contexts require different messaging and tools. The good news is that the effects of the two combined can be synergistic.
Have You Something Interesting To Say? If Not, Hold Off
A recurrent theme that runs throughout the Edelman LinkedIn B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study is that thought leadership can work as a double edged sword. Just as it can help to realize both tangible and intangible gains (the awarding of business; enhanced reputations), if done poorly it can work to undo previous hard work.
- 38% of decision makers polled in the latest Edelman / LinkedIn study said that their admiration for an organization had decreased after reading poor quality thought leadership. (Perception)
- 27% of decision makers said that poor quality thought leadership had led to them not awarding business to an organization (Business).
Before even thinking about committing to a formal thought leadership strategy, it’s worth considering whether you are able to answer some or all of the following questions.
If you’re drawing a blank for all of them, it’s probably a good idea to return to the drawing board until you have a clearer vision of what you’re trying to achieve with thought leadership:
- What are some unique perspectives our team is ready to share about how we see our industry developing?
- Are these perspectives being shared by other organizations in our industry? Might these make ours seem repetitive?
- Have we discussed our insights previously? If so, where? Can we add enough independent value to this iteration to warrant bringing them out again?
- Who is our target audience? What messaging is likely to resonate with them?
- Do we have a clear idea of how our objectives for thought leadership differ from those of our content marketing plan? Are we able to differentiate between our objectives for the two?
- Have we mapped out distribution and determined which target publications are likely to get us to our target audience? What about speaking opportunities and audio formats like podcasts? What formats are we going to use to deliver this thought leadership to market?
- Do we need to commission research in order to derive the insights we might wish to share? Or do we have these already within the organization?
Plans Come Before Execution
Before initiating a thought leadership plan and shifting into execution mode, it’s important to determine whether your organization has the time and energy to commit to following through with the plan.
An editorial calendar will need to be devised. This is particularly vital so that the thought leadership campaign doesn’t come out in fits and starts.
Although there’s nothing wrong with authoring thought leadership reactively, when distribution-worthy insights become available, organizations with a lot of opinions and knowledge to release often prefer to do so in a strategic and planned manner.
A plan, backed by an editorial calendar to ensure action, can be the best conduit to get the thought leadership out of team members’ heads and out into the world.
Target publications and messaging will also need to be agreed upon. And unless they’re planning on writing it themselves, subject matter experts (SMEs) will need to make their time available to internal or external resources.
But the most important elements to have in place are the insights ready. Once these and buy-in are in place it’s ready to bring your best thoughts and insights into the marketplace of ideas.
DSR Ghostwriting specializes in planning and executing thought leadership campaigns for clients in the technology sector — integrating article-writing, strategy planning, and speechwriting. To learn more, and to set up a time for an initial consultation, visit DSRGhostwriting.com.