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5 Pillars of a Thought Leadership Strategy for Business Leaders

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thought leader strategy

Do you have a thought leadership strategy? If you don’t, it may be time to consider this brand-building, SEO-driving tool. According to Edelman’s 2020 B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study, 88 percent of decision-makers surveyed believe that thought leadership enhances their perception of an organization. However, there’s a disconnect between doing it—and doing it well. The same study found that only 17 percent rated the quality of the thought leadership they read as very good or excellent. 

With 48 percent of decision-makers spending an hour or more each week consuming thought leadership, you want to be putting out great content if your name or brand is on it. 

Follow these five pillars of thought leadership strategy to create high-quality, value-driven content for your audience that will not only expand your brand recognition but generate leads. 

I’ve Written More Than 700 guest posts—Here’s What I Learned

1. Message: Hone It

There’s so much that you bring to the table, from your personal experiences to your professional resume—and bringing those two together to share a message only you could share, is key. Don’t repeat what others are saying, or be afraid to dive deep into a topic and offer your genuine insights. Step into your most unique message to create thought leadership content that resonates and has an impact.

Here are two areas where I notice many get thought leadership wrong:

  1. Self-promotion: Make sure you’re not too self-promotional. According to a report by Influence and Co, 69 percent of editors say the biggest problem with contributed content is that it comes off as too promotional. You want your message to be authoritative and clearly represent your expertise in the space, while also offering value-driven advice to others in your field. 
  2. Remember to stay in your lane. While you can stretch your knowledge to get more guest post opportunities, I only write about topics that I have direct professional experience with and that I’m passionate about.

Keep Reading: How to Build Thought Leadership with Guest Posting.  

2. Mediums: Find your Outlets 

Where does your audience live? Typically, guest blog posts and contributed articles are the most popular types of thought leadership content. However, don’t be closed off to other outlets that can help you reach your target audience. Here are a few options to consider.

  • LinkedIn: If you have a large and active network on LinkedIn, you can self-publish articles via your profile. LinkedIn is a powerful platform, with 575 million members (46 million of whom represent decision-makers). According to internal reports, 97 percent of B2B marketers use LinkedIn for content marketing. 
  • Podcasts: Now is a great time to be a guest on industry-specific podcasts so that you can share expertise as well as reach a different type of audience—a listener over an avid reader. I’ve shared my experience on a number of podcasts, including Innerbloom Podcast and Life Skills That Work.  
  • Webinars: Webinars are a great opportunity to share your expertise in a real-time environment. This means you can engage with anyone who’s watching and develop a great connection, while sharing thought leadership insights.

3. Consistency: Outreach Regularly

To achieve consistent placements, you need to actively be doing outreach. It’s up to you to get responses, nurture those relationships, and then seek out new ones so you’re continually reaching new audiences.

To maintain the level of articles I like to see published, I email anywhere from 10 to 30 new editors or websites per week. While you might not have the capacity for outreach at that level, you can dedicate one day per week or month to research and contact potential websites or outlets. Most importantly, don’t  forget to follow up. Editor’s inboxes are overflowing—by following up, you show that you really care.

To find new prospects, do a google search for keywords that relate to your industry. Also, consider searching Twitter using terms like [“guest post” + keyword], to find websites that you know already publish contributed content. When possible, find an actual person on their contact or staff page so you can send your email to the appropriate place. 

Keep Reading: How to Win More Guest Post Opportunities With Great Pitching 

4. Sharing: Once Featured, Promote It

Once your article is featured, make sure to share it with your network via social media. I keep a running spreadsheet of all my published thought leadership articles. I promote each piece on social media several times. Not only does this show that I’m sharing my knowledge with well-known brands, but it helps fill up my social media calendar. 

Here are a few tips to sharing your thought leadership articles: 

  • Post ASAP: Share as soon as you can to show that you’re willing to put in the promotion work on your end.
  • Cross-promote: Always tag the publication; they might then retweet, repost, or comment. This can increase your reach and might help you pick up new followers. 
  • Re-share: When the publisher, podcast, or company shares, be sure to re-share and engage with the post.
  • Repurpose: I post my articles several times across different platforms, especially pieces from large publications or ones that I really like. I often share again a month later or at a time when the piece is timely or in-season.
  • Tailor your media: If you don’t like the image that’s used for the link preview of the piece, replace it. My social feed has an aesthetic that’s in line with my branding. I’ll often use stock images and a shortened link for an article if I think the header image doesn’t match my brand. See below for an example.

5. Reflection: What’s Working and What’s Not

Just like any content marketing effort, you need to look at available metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to assess your effectiveness. Each month, just as you would gather your website or social media analytics, audit your thought leadership performance. A few benchmarks to look at include:

  • Comments, “claps,” etc.: Did the article get positive feedback on the publication page? Many platforms have options for reader reactions, comments, likes, or even “claps.” 
  • Social engagement: What was the engagement when you shared the content via social media? Did you get positive responses? Measure this against average engagement on other types of posts to determine topic viability.
  • Editorial feedback: Ask the editor or website manager for feedback if you’re new to the process. Editors are always happy to share what they love and prefer from contributors.
  • Traffic: Did the article drive traffic to your site? While this shouldn’t be a leading metric, since guest posting and thought leadership is more focused on brand building and SEO, it can be worth checking. The outlets in the screenshot below represent thought leadership traffic: 

Level Up Your Thought Leadership Strategy 

Establish yourself as a leader in your space with the right thought leadership strategy. When done right, you can position yourself and your business as experts, while reaching decision-makers who are looking for value-driven content. Build trust and increase brand recognition with your target audience this year by getting intentional about thought leadership. 

Need help with your thought leadership strategy? Get in touch today and let us do all the work!

Jessica Thiefels is founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting, a content marketing agency. She’s been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications, including Forbes, Entrepreneur and Fast Company. She also regularly contributes to Virgin, Business Insider, Glassdoor, Score.org and more. Follow her on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.

5 Pillars of a Thought Leadership Strategy for Business Leaders

By: Jessica Thiefels Time to Read: 5 min