How to Create a Thought Leadership Strategy


Many brands are starting to see the benefits of creating and executing a thought leadership strategy for their industry. Becoming a thought leader builds trust and credibility, provides helpful advice to potential customers, and has the opportunity to increase conversions. Whether you highlight your knowledge in tactical blog posts, Q&A videos, expert podcasts, or any other medium, these types of content can help boost your thought leadership.

So, we asked 15 experts to share their best advice for brands who want to start creating their thought leadership strategy.

Danica Kombol, Everywhere Agency Influencers who want to build thought leadership online should focus on relevant, quality, timely content. Having your own blog is smart but blogging on external sites may be smarter when you are just starting out. Also, don't forget LinkedIn, the most often neglected of all the social platforms. Sharing your thought leadership as status updates on LinkedIn is influencer marketing 101.

Maintain your authenticity

Wanda Thomas, MadCris Images The best thing any small business owner/as start up/ or Influencer can do when developing their brand and online presence is to make sure their they keep it in line with their core personal values and strengths. Don't try and be a fashionista if you can't pair socks for gym class. People like authenticity and will be able to see it in your posts and you'll see its affects as your numbers grow.

Make it easy for people to find you online

Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound Use the word “expert” or the phrase “thought leader” everywhere to identify yourself, assuming you are one. That includes your online and offline bios, the homepage of your website, author resource boxes within articles, your 15-second elevator pitch, social media profiles, your name tag at networking events, on your amazon Author Central profile, in YouTube video titles and descriptions, in press releases, in forums and discussion groups, during media interviews and in your written introduction if you do public speaking. People often search online for the phrase (fill in the blank) expert and this will make it easy for them to find you.

Be active in your industry

Kristy Gillentine, Drive West Communications, @KrisGillentine Building thought leadership begins with being an active part of existing relevant conversations. Search for people and brands talking online about your area of interest or expertise. Participate in Twitter chats – or, perhaps, launch your own – to grow your audience, ask and answer questions, and share your knowledge. Follow and engage with industry leaders across social media. Join active Facebook groups in which you can discuss topics related to your industry. But, most importantly, consistently provide value and reliable information to your audience across platforms, whether you are starting or joining a conversation.

Bolster your thought leadership via a blog

Amanda Windsor, Power Digital Marketing, @AmandaWinds One surefire way to increase your thought leadership presence online is to have a strong, hyper-relevant and active blog. Your blog should discuss trending industry topics while simultaneously weaving in your personal / brand messaging to establish yourself as the subject matter expert on an array of industry-specific ideas. As you continue to bolster your thought-leadership portfolio via your blog, this will become one of your brands greatest assets as the media, business decision makers and general consumers alike will begin to utilize your content as a go-to and trusted resource.

Become a resource

Maddy Osman, The Blogsmith, @MaddyOsman The best way to become a thought leader is by creating content that is different from anything else out there. This might mean delving deep into a topic or taking a controversial stance. In general, efforts should be made to provide value and be markedly different than the overwhelming amount of content that already exists online. Thought leaders can also grow by developing relationships with other thought leaders in their industry. Besides creating content, they should be curating content as well. By making your blog and social networks into a resource that shares more than just your voice, you'll become more trusted and respected. And as a result of sharing other (relevant) people's content, they'll be more likely to share yours as well.

Utilize content marketing and videos

Gabriel Nwatarali, Tech Help Canada Building thought leadership requires good content marketing. I have found video to be the most effective for brands and influencers. Video gives more control to the flow of information for brands and influencers. Creators can control what the user digests first, second, and so on. Although articles and press releases can be effective, you have little control on the flow of information. Most people will scroll through an article or publication for what they want and leave. More people are willing to sit through a video if they know that it will solve their problems. Ultimately, it comes down to the “sweet spot”. Essentially, if you can tell the reader or viewer what they are going to get from it in the first 3 - 7 seconds, you have them.

Strive to rank high in organic search

James Goodnow, Fennemore Craig Provide your best practices, insightful blogs, educational vlogs, useful social media posts and more, so clients can learn about who you are and how your brand can help them. Can these prospective clients take this information to other brands or try and get some free tips? Perhaps. More often, though, readers will see your knowledge base and be converted into clients. The first step in successful content marketing means ranking high in organic search, and then providing useful substance that people are looking for to solve their problems and make informed decisions, rather than being 'sold' on how good you are. By anticipating or responding to questions that consumers are concerned about with relevant, meaningful, and useful content, you’re able to convert these leads into clients - which is ultimately the bottom line for any content marketing campaign. Strive to be thought leaders in your industry with web content (strong articles, worthwhile blogs, valuable info on web/social) that all 'points' back to whatever initiative you’re focusing on, helping to ensure that all content pieces are working together. Understand your clients' pain points - and respond with content that serves their needs.

Address the needs of your customers

Slisha Kankariya, Four Mine A great way to build a brand presence online in through a content strategy that addresses the needs of the customer throughout the sales cycle. During research, purchase and post sales, if the customer sees you as a resource more than a seller, that does wonders to build brand credibility. Focus on creating infographics and articles that are question oriented, as in what type of question would the customer be asking at any given stage.

Leverage other thought leaders in your space

Derek Miller, CopyPress, @ItIsMillerTime Reach out to other influencers who have a bigger following klout than you and invite them to collaborate on an eBook, interview them for an article, conduct a webinar with the influencer, etc. Much like a celebrity endorsement, if you can get your brand associated with a current thought leader, you'll start to position yourself in that same light. Not only can collaborating on content with a thought leader help you piggyback off their influence, they are also likely to help share/promote the content which gives you an immediate intro with their audience.

Be highly selective

Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer, AirPR, @AirPR When pursuing thought leadership opportunities, from writing guest blog posts to participating in webinars, make sure the opportunity meets your AREA objectives: Authority: Are you uniquely qualified to speak about this topic? Relevancy: Is the topic relevant to your business objectives and key audiences? Excitement: Are you backing up your points with exciting data or covering a tried-and-true topic in a fresh, nontraditional way? Analysis: Are you analyzing each opportunity's success to build awareness and create more opportunity? Be highly selective and iterative in what you pursue, and your thought leadership will grow in the right direction.

Stay on top of any new developments within your industry

Devon Jaffier, Reed Smith LLP, @DeJaff Timeliness: pegging thought leadership to a current or developing issue is critical. Although some may question whether this risks thought leadership becoming stale over time, blogging platforms allow you / your organization to provide a narrative on an issue as more is learned about it, its implications, and reactions from the audience / marketplace. I usually set up Google News Alerts so that our team can stay on top of any new developments relative to a topic that we are writing about, ensuring that whatever we produce takes into consideration the most up-to-date information available. Consistency: one can be the most dynamic and compelling writer in the world, it means little if your thought leadership is released on an inconsistent basis. I often advise those I work with to stick to a rigorous and transparent, yet realistic, production schedule. This schedule allows everyone involved in the process - from the writers to the artists to the marketing and PR team to be accountable - but also takes into account the reality that sometimes thought leadership has to be shelved for more business-critical matters. One additional note related to consistency - after you have built up a small library of thought leadership content, and assuming that your content is educational rather than self-promotional, you can petition Google for your content to be carried by News Alerts, which will create an almost immediate boon in page views. Creativity: in the interest of mixing things up a bit, I'm a big proponent of using different writing techniques to engage with the reader. Yes, there will always be a place for thought leadership that cover best practices or tackles an issue from a single perspective. However, consideration should be given to content that breaks the mold a bit, such as a Q&A between a member of your organization and a client or external stakeholder sharing their perspective on topical issue(s) related to their field, or a transcribed dialogue between two members of your organization who may have a difference of opinion on an issue. The former indicates that you have formed strong bonds with your clients to the extent that they are willing open up to you (and your readership), the latter demonstrates that your organization embraces diversity of opinions.

Develop tools that position you at the forefront of an industry

Kate Talbot, Ignition Creative, @Igntn Firstly, it’s important to distinguish that thought leadership is different to building online awareness with the aim of driving new business. These are two totally separate tactics and require very different thinking. Secondly — this sounds obvious but you’d be surprised how easily it is forgotten — to be a thought leader (in the real world and the virtual one) you need to have “leading thoughts” as in unique opinions, forward-thinking ideas, distinct expertise, innovative strategies or tools you’ve developed that position you at the forefront of an industry or area, a trend-setter or doing something differently. And, ideally have an existing online presence and following. If you tick those two boxes, the next question is “who am I trying to lead.” This will dictate where you create your content online, based on who you want to see it. From there, determine a plan to deliver regular content (each time you have something new and interesting to talk about or comment on within timely current affairs or industry trends, and not otherwise), either submitted as a contributed piece to a relevant online publication or blog, or published on your existing channels depending on the topic, format and your own audience reach.

Repurpose your best performing material

Marcus Alexander, Ph.D., Social MarQui Repurpose your unique and best performing material (blog, video, social post, etc.) to numerous channels. By repurposing (i.e. modifying to be appropriate on different channels) you leverage the success of the material while simultaneously magnifying the success of that material. The key words here are unique and leverage! Bottom line: Your top blog repurposed can be your top vlog which repurposed can be your top series of social posts, which repurposed can be your top email campaign, which repurposed could be your top course/program all from a single piece of unique material.

Study your competition

Nicole Delorme, Tigris Events, @Nicole__Delorme There is so much noise online it can be difficult to stand out and build a brand. My advice would be to study your competition and create a strategy that is first, better, or different. Are we the first to execute this idea? If not, can we be significantly better than what already exists? Finally, is there a way we can be different? For example, maybe the competition is heavily focused on written content and nobody is podcasting. These are questions you should ask yourself when building thought leadership online in a crowded market.