A passionate marketer, CEO at iResearch Services, TechInformed & GivingforGood.
Thought leadership is like the anatomy of a human, where each part has a unique function but works together to make a fully functioning unit. Each thought leadership process is part of a much bigger operation that allows brands to create meaningful content, connect with audiences and drive revenue.
When you think about different thought leadership elements in an anatomical context, I’ve found you can execute better campaigns and get more value from your investment in this marketing method.
The Heart: New Ideas
Think of a brand new idea as the “heart” of thought leadership. Without a great idea, thought leadership cannot function. The idea keeps thought leadership alive. That idea might be a topic in your client’s niche that hasn’t been covered by its competitors. Or it might be a subject that you know will resonate with audiences and encourage people to sign up for your marketing and mailing lists.
Leading publications and companies like McKinsey & Company think up innovative ideas all time and use these concepts to drive their thought leadership goals. Take The McKinsey Podcast—a business and management podcasts featuring conversations with leaders. Each episode promotes thought leadership by providing listeners with unique insights they can’t find anywhere else on the internet.
The thought leadership podcast is a great concept because it allows McKinsey & Company to communicate with an audience that can’t be reached by other content marketing methods like blog posts and social media. It also builds brand awareness and establishes the company as a trusted resource in its niche. Consider a thought leadership podcast to build rapport with untapped audiences and increase market reach.
When brainstorming new ideas, work alongside your leadership team to gain a diverse range of perspectives on relevant and trending topics. Additionally, don’t forget to conduct comprehensive research on competitors—this vital task is often overlooked.
The Brain: Research
You can consider research to be the “brain” of thought leadership. Through research, you process information from external sources and provide intelligence for nearly every element of your thought leadership plan.
Say you invest in research for a whitepaper. You can instantly command authority from audiences because you have the statistical information to back up any claims you make in your thought leadership framework. While research can be expensive for your marketing first agency, it provides a long-term return on your investment. That’s because many people will take you seriously and want to read more of your content.
There are numerous sources you can draw from when creating thought leadership research, depending on your clients’ niche.
• Big data technology.
• CMO insights.
• Data science.
• Machine learning.
• Opinions from experts in the B2C and B2B thought leadership space.
• Self and competition audits.
• Social media listening.
• Stakeholder and market surveys.
Research can enhance data-driven marketing and research-based marketing when creating thought leadership. Even a simple survey can add value to your thought leadership strategy and help you connect with audiences.
Publications like Deloitte use research all the time to convey knowledge and answer skeptical audiences who value facts as much as opinions. For example, Deloitte investigates the impact of energy storage in a report with first-party data that improves credibility for readers. I think this piece alone establishes Deloitte as the go-to authority for this topic.
Thought leadership research is critical because it supports what your leader says in content marketing formats like blogs and videos with real data. People are more likely to trust your leader if you can substantiate any claims they make with cold, hard facts. The problem is that many marketing agencies don’t invest in this method because they think it’s too difficult and time-consuming. Think differently! Just like the brain, the right research can process complicated information and send it back to the other anatomical elements in your thought leadership strategy.
The Mouth: Storytelling And Talking With A Thought Leader’s Voice
Great storytelling is the “mouth” of thought leadership. Use it to communicate your ideas, beliefs, values and opinions, and to engage audiences. You can weave narratives into blog posts, thought leadership videos and other types of content marketing and convey a consistent message that invokes trust in your audience. This can help your marketing and sales enablement goals and get people to invest in your client’s products and services.
The Harvard Business Review uses storytelling to resonate with its audience. In a recent article, “7 Principles to Attract and Retain Older Frontline Workers,” the publication uses a combination of fact and narrative when discussing the issue of hiring and retaining older frontline employees. This storytelling style is successful because it creates an emotional connection with readers and gets them to think differently about a topic.
The art of storytelling also allows audiences to hear your thought leader’s voice authentically. I’ve found merely presenting an opinion or talking business jargon just won’t cut it anymore. Audiences want to establish genuine relationships with leaders who have stories to share.
You can use visuals to improve storytelling in blog posts and other content marketing types. Videos, images, GIFs and infographics help you communicate your leader’s story to audiences and provide an alternative to blocks of text. Think about visuals when driving thought leadership.
I suggest to view thought leadership marketing strategies in an anatomical context. Just as the heart controls the body, new ideas can influence your thought leadership campaigns. Research is the “brain” of your thought leadership marketing strategy because it processes information from other sources and provides intelligence. Storytelling is the “mouth” of your thought leadership strategy because it conveys critical information to audiences.
Each thought leadership process functions independently of others but makes up part of a greater operation. Coming up with great ideas, using research to back up your claims, and telling stories that engage audiences can increase engagement, drive revenue and help you create content with purpose.
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