According to the Content Marketing Institute, 64% of professional services firms surveyed named thought leadership as a goal of their content marketing.
There is definitely a place for thought leadership as a content marketing strategy. It helps to educate your readers and prospective clients about issues that are important in your field. It helps develop and crystallize your own thinking about these issues. Perhaps most importantly, it cements your credibility as a current expert.
Many people think that in order to succeed with blogging for business, they need to produce earth-shattering original content that will catapult them into the realm of visionary thinkers like Steve Jobs, Seth Godin or Oprah Winfrey. However, as I pointed out in a previous post, How to Write a Thought Leadership Post, you do not need to innovate in order to succeed with business blogging.
So I invite you to lower the pressure you may be feeling to innovate as a thought leader – in fact, why not get rid of it altogether and have some fun with this blogging thing?
Who are you trying to impress?
Ultimately, you’re producing a business blog in order to attract new clients who will hire you. These prospective clients don’t need you to invent new theories about what you do, or turn existing theories on their heads. They need you to explain, in clear English, how to solve their problems.
Your blog readers don’t need to revere you, they need to remember you, particularly when there is a need for your services (for themselves or someone they know).
The people who will be most impressed by your thought leadership are your colleagues in the industry. And in no way am I minimizing the advantages of being the kind of leader who others refer to when they want the latest, greatest news and explanations.
I just want you to give yourself some time to evolve into thought leadership, instead of trying to achieve it with every post.
Stepping stones on the path to thought leadership
Creating thought leadership content isn’t the only way to be a thought leader. As you’re creating your own original content that answers your prospective clients’ questions about their problems and how you solve them, you can also be curating the best content that others are creating.
Sharing these resources on social media and your blog will accomplish three things:
- It connects you with those thought leaders so your readers associate you with greatness. It can also start or deepen your relationship with the leaders.
- Adding your own commentary will demonstrate your insight into what’s happening and shows that you’re on top of things.
- You provide your readers with a more accessible route to today’s thought leaders. They may not necessarily want or need to work directly with the people who are creating the concepts – and in some cases it won’t even be possible. People are usually happiest to work with someone they’re already connected to – especially if you can show that you’re incorporating these innovative ideas and practices into your work.
You cannot force thought leadership
I recently finished the book So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport (thanks to John Jantsch for recommending the book in his equally compelling blog post on the same topic).
The book explains the importance of putting time into mastering your work through deliberate practice, stretching beyond your comfort zone and seeking feedback on your efforts. Newport calls this building “career capital.”
(The book makes the case that if we try to create a business based solely on our passion, before building up this career capital, we may be setting ourselves up for failure.)
Think for a moment about someone you consider to be a thought leader in your industry. It’s likely that one of the things you admire is their years of solid experience – career capital – actively involved in doing whatever they’re writing or talking about.
While you can try to write a thought leadership post, it’s the response to the post that will really determine if you’ve succeeded. For now, you can stop trying to be a thought leader and start working on becoming one. You’ll get there, if you keep blogging consistently, watch other thought leaders for inspiration and stay tuned into industry news.
Meagan Dahl says
Great insights! I work for a digital strategy agency and have found that creating thought leadership through our agency blog has been quite a hurdle. It’s true that you can’t really fake it until you make it when it comes to industry insights, you have to do the hard, tedious work, as well as read everything you can in your industry. Then you add in consistency of voice and posting and it’s a lot of, well, work! I believe you’re right though, that thought leadership can be built if you keep at it and make sure your content is not only quantity, but quality.
Linda Dessau says
Thanks for your comment, Meagan! It’s work that really pays off, don’t you think?
Roland Jackson says
Recently I heard from a patent attorney that the money is not at making new inventions, but rather at modifying or making current inventions better. By this same token, I opt to for “curation” of content already published by making it better, summarizing and delivering it to a more attentive audience.
What are your thoughts on “curation”?
Linda Dessau says
Thanks for stopping by. You can read my thoughts about content curation in my previous post, Writing Original Content Versus Sharing Other People’s Content (Content Curation).
All the best,