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Who wouldn’t want to be known as a thought leader in their field? Customers automatically trust people they regard as a go-to authority, and brands can greatly benefit from the credibility that an authority figure adds to their team. Becoming a thought leader, however, entails much more than sharing the occasional LinkedIn post about productivity. You need to consistently invest in creating content that inspires deeper thought and influences decisions while staying true to your signature style. Here, we offer a brief guide to what thought leadership is, how it makes a difference and how you can start creating thought leadership content yourself.

How do you define thought leadership?

Thought leadership is content that demonstrates expertise in a certain domain. It features a perspective that’s informed by extensive experience and has the potential to influence the opinions of industry peers. Types of thought leadership content include articles, ebooks, whitepapers or even customer success stories. The best thought leaders may also become popular figures in their own right, eventually sharing other types of content such as podcasts or videos. Traits that define thought leaders include deep industry knowledge, a long and successful career, excellent communication skills and an inspiring, appealing persona.

It’s important to draw a distinction here between thought leadership content and blog posts. A blog post is written simply to inform and sell. The information is written from a general point of view, and the post will typically end with a CTA for the brand’s key offering. By contrast, thought leadership content does not include CTAs or product pitches. It reflects the writer’s expert opinion on a relevant topic and serves as a knowledge asset that the reader can keep returning to.

Why thought leadership matters

There is a surfeit of content being published nowadays, much of which is mere noise. Amidst this, intelligent opinions supported by relevant facts go a long way in building trust. Famous thought leaders are trusted not only for their knowledge but also for the way they share that knowledge. They show up regularly, use concise language and structure their pieces so that the content is easily digestible. They use their platform to educate their audience in a deeper way – by making the reader think about facts and trends and the impact those might have on our daily lives. Over time, thought leadership of this kind can spark discussions, build communities and even influence core decision-making. And when brands have trusted leaders like this at their helm, customers know they can rely on the brand to deliver excellence too.

How to build a following as a thought leader

Anyone can set up and maintain a blog. Becoming a thought leader, however, requires consistent effort. You are, quite literally, aiming to lead by your thoughts, which means it’s vital to share perspectives that add value and are a pleasure to read. Here are some pointers to help you get started.

  • Identify the topics in which you have deep expertise. It’s always better to delve deep into one or two topics rather than spread yourself too thin. You can always branch out later on.
  • If you’re new to writing thought leadership content, start with a few short articles on topics you’re confident with and share them with some colleagues or peers for feedback. Study writing by industry thought leaders you admire and try to replicate the way they structure their posts.
  • Develop a consistent tone of voice. Make it easy for readers to recognise your signature style in the pieces you put out.
  • When it comes to placing your thought leadership content, choose journals and magazines with the kind of tone you’re going for and whose readers mirror your target audience.
  • Keep yourself updated on the latest trends in your industry. Readers look to famous thought leaders for the insightful takes they have on hot topics – no one wants to hear the same old spiel about why ecommerce is important or how Covid affected businesses. Think about new perspectives on an ongoing debate, or hidden side effects of a popular trend – in other words, add to the conversation.
  • If you’re engaging a ghostwriter, finalise a brief on the tone and voice so that the writer knows what kind of thought leadership content you’re aiming for.
  • Keep welcoming and seeking feedback. One of the risks of becoming a thought leader is developing too rigid a worldview and not being sufficiently open to new ideas. Invite colleagues and employees to share what they think of your insights, and host open houses where you welcome new ideas from your team.

At Star Squared PR, we work with world-class writers who can convert your expert insights into polished, magazine-ready pieces. We also work with you to develop a signature tone and image that does justice to the wisdom you bring. So if you’re ready to make thought leadership work for your brand, reach out to us today. We’d love to help.