Showing the world that our business contains experts can be an important part of our brand building, whatever our sector.
Using that expertise to generate content is great, but true thought leadership is something more than content creation.
Something special. A spark.
What is thought leadership?
Thought leadership means having the knowledge and experience to be influential in a discussion. It usually refers to content shared within an industry, but it may also be consumer-facing.
The value of thought leadership for your business is in developing your reputation as an expert. Even if your customers don’t consume that content themselves, they will appreciate your position as an authority.
Proceed with care: everyone wants to ‘do thought leadership’ but not only do search engines keep a close eye on what we claim to be experts in; our readers do too.
If you’re not already an expert in it, you’re not – I repeat not – going to be leading thought in the area. The person at the heart of a thought leadership piece must be an expert, whether the actual writer is or not.
We need genuine knowledge and experience that other people don’t have. Otherwise, it’s just throwaway content.
As I mentioned above, search engines (Google, in particular) take expertise very seriously. Even for regular content not claiming to be pioneering. If you’re writing about, something like health care or finance, your right to be providing information that affects people’s wellbeing will be assessed.
Find out more about how Google assesses EAT: expertise, authority and trustworthiness.
As well as our proprietary knowledge, we need to know what the rest of the industry is thinking on the subject. It helps to know what the general consensus is, to help us find exciting topics others have missed or to avoid making mistakes.
Industry research also helps us gain the information we need to develop our discussion of a topic we’ve chosen. No one knows everything but an expert can have an expert opinion when provided with information. Data in, insight out.
To write a compelling thought leadership piece, we need to have evidence that supports our claims. Any thesis needs data.
Data doesn’t have to literally mean numbers; our evidence could be from focus groups, other experts or customer trends. Having proprietary evidence is the real winner because it means your piece will be unique. That gets you quoted or referenced or linked to or shared.
Everything we want from our thought leadership.
We can’t just state our facts and our opinion, then leave. We need to present other areas of thought on the subject or at least dissect opposing opinions. It shows our knowledge and intelligence on a topic – not thought leadership, but certainly expertise.
This is the storytelling part (the actual writer’s true job): presenting arguments and background to set up the reasons YOUR opinion is the real leader.
This is the true thought leadership: the insight we provide from the data and knowledge. It’s why people started reading our piece: they wanted to learn something startling that they haven’t seen anywhere else.
Insight can be defined as, “The power or act of seeing into a situation.” I think ‘power’ is the operative word, there. A thought leader has a special power that others – even experts – lack, and we look to them for their insight.
It’s got to achieve something, right? We can’t leave our readers thinking, “So what?”
Our insight should hopefully have them feeling like they’ve learned something, but what’s the (cliché warning) takeaway?
We should have provided the audience with something actionable. A lesson to implement or a new perspective that will help them. Otherwise, all we’ve done is show off.
And although that is, in fact, our primary aim, we do also need to provide value. Make sure you know the purpose of your thought leadership piece beyond just looking good.
Find out more about how to use your internal experts to create great thought leadership.