Thought Leadership Campaigns

Why Your Thought Leadership Strategy Isn't Working

In a world where marketing fluff too often masquerades as thought leadership, this may be a good time to take a look at your own attempts to be a leading voice in your industry.

Thought leadership is not pumping out more blog posts than your competitors or getting an incisive quote placed in an article, nor is it meant to be an ego-boosting exercise. Thought leadership campaigns should be focused on building your company’s reputation, relationships and revenue. Your message should be insightful, authentic and outwardly focused.

Thought leadership is most effective when it originates from a culture of innovation that is inseparable from your day-to-day business practices. Within this, the proper role for marketing professionals is to polish, package and elevate the culture of innovation internally and externally.

Rarely do industry leaders become recognized thought leaders without careful preparation. To get started, businesses should bring together their top thinkers to generate and vet ideas that set the company a part. You’ll need a process for determining which of the many ideas floating inside the heads of your team align with your customers’ needs and your company’s ability to deliver. Once you’ve narrowed the list, compile proof points for each of them. Doing so will likely shorten the list even further.

Here are a few pointers on how to focus your thought leadership campaign and align it with your business goals:

Culture: Marketing departments that attempt to work in a vacuum won’t see the results or rewards from their work, and the company itself will see little return on investment. Companies where executives and subject-matter experts fully embrace thought leadership marketing not only commit their own time and support but also set the precedent for others to fall in line.

Themes: Thought leadership pieces should relate to what customers need and what the company does well without being overtly “salesy.” The best examples are provocative, contrarian and get people thinking differently about a legitimate challenge (i.e. a business opportunity). Business themes are clear, succinct expressions of issues relevant to customers and prospects and link back to your business strategy. When articulated well, they forge a deeper connection with target audiences and make clear to employees why the strategy is in place.

Data: Companies that want to be seen as thought leaders should consider conducting industry-related research or analyzing data they already have to enhance their reputation. Conducting a proprietary annual survey is a winning way to establish a strong marketing and PR platform. Readers are hungry for facts, and great articles often begin with data points that jolt readers into wanting to know more.

Dissemination: Review your communication channels early and often and establish a hierarchy for content. Identify material that will be used exclusively to secure bylines in top-tier publications and only then shared through social media. Companies operating without an editorial calendar are destined to underutilize high-value stories. For example, lead-generation pieces intended to pull clients in through SEO should not be lumped together with higher-level thought leadership pieces. Although the themes may carry through, the quality of the content and the associated bylines may diminish the status of your industry-expert contributors.

Avoid taboos: Blatantly plugging your own product or service is strictly verboten, and as counter-intuitive as it is, don’t mention your company’s name in a thought-leadership piece you author. However, as a contributor, your bio should state where you work and establish your credentials—that’s how trust and credibility will be conveyed.

Your thought leadership campaign is an integral part of your marketing mix. Red Fan Communications helps clients craft, execute and measure authentic thought leadership campaigns for businesses of all shapes and sizes. To learn more, contact us here.

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