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Thought leadership: a logical process, not a magic trick

Jun 7, 2024 | Insights

Effective thought leadership doesn’t just happen. You might have ideas, but they’re generally just starting points – they need brainstorming, research, hard work, and practical synthesis to turn them into actionable, compelling thought leadership content.

Pick your team

Start by putting an effective team in place to bring ideas through to something usable. You’ll find you have many people in your company who can contribute different ideas and angles that add value to an initial idea.

Executive leadership is a sensible place to start. CEOs and company founders are typically visionaries with a deep understanding of your industry and are used to spotting and predicting future trends. Use them to set the vision and goals for your thought leadership activities, leverage their expertise on trends and long-term vision, and use them as key spokespeople.

Your subject matter experts (SMEs) are also key players on the team. They bring in-depth knowledge and expertise on specific topics relevant to your business. Their role in thought leadership is knowledge sources, and they should share ground-breaking ideas, participate in content creation, and represent your company at industry events as expert, public-facing spokespeople.

Cross-functional teams are also a smart idea, as you have numerous skills and experience within your company on which to draw. Bring together your R&D, product development, marketing, and sales specialists to ensure a holistic approach to thought management and cover all the bases. With a cross-functional team, you can ensure a smooth flow of information, consistency across messaging, and alignment with product innovation.

Thought leadership is a result of a team working together

Listen to marketing and PR

Your marketing team should be responsible for developing and executing content strategy, and ensure alignment with your overall marketing goals. Tasks should include creating and distributing your content, managing social media activity, and analysing engagement metrics.

Your PR team’s job is to ensure your voice is heard by promoting thought leadership content via media relations and speaking opportunities. Tactics here include recommending the right messages from a journalistic point of view, securing content placements in relevant media, coordinating interviews and speaking engagements, and managing press release distribution.

Where appropriate, you can add value to your thought leadership using external partners and influencers. Working with industry experts, academics, and influential figures who can validate and amplify your ideas can enhance your thought leadership work, and their profile could help spread your message further.

Pulling it all together

With all your people in place, the next step is to effectively turn a lot of opinions – some of which may be contradictory or irrelevant – into an appealing, coherent story. Brainstorming sessions comprising executives, SMEs, and your marketing team are essential in generating ideas, which might be around industry trends, common customer pain points, or emerging technologies.

Your customers can give you ideas for thought leadership, too, so leverage their expertise. Gather thoughts from them using surveys, interviews, and social media monitoring. Work to identify common questions they may have, regular challenges they face, and shared interests that can influence your output.

Tracking industry trends helps foster ideas, so follow industry news, attend conferences, and subscribe to relevant publications. These tactics can help you identify topics that gain traction with your audience and align with your company’s expertise.

Workplace culture plays a role, too, so strive to build a workplace where creativity and innovation are encouraged, valued, and rewarded. Tactics to enable this include hosting innovation workshops, hackathons, and think tanks to brainstorm disruptive ideas that can drive thought leadership content.

Pick the right ideas

When you’ve generated insights, you’ll need to filter out those that work and those that don’t. That means identifying the ideas that align with your company’s vision, mission, and expertise, as well as the needs and interests of your target audience.

Those ideas should be unique and fresh, so ask whether they offer a new perspective or an innovative solution. Stay away from overly saturated or generic topics – boring thought leadership content gets you nowhere.

Feasibility matters—do you have the resources to develop the idea into content? Look at how much time, money, and personnel will be needed and whether your team has the expertise needed to address the topic appropriately and make it worth reading or watching.

Impact is also worth factoring in, so consider how likely your ideas could drive significant change or innovation in your industry. Prioritize ideas that address critical issues or present new opportunities. Your ideas should also be backed up by thorough research, using data, case studies, and expert opinions to help position your company as an expert industry voice.

It’s a team game, not a magic trick

But remember that excellent thought leadership doesn’t simply happen. It’s a process resulting from teamwork, effort, and synthesis – and, of course, good writing and design work! Half-measures can’t do it; successful thought leadership only comes from a collective endeavour. But it’s worth it: 70% of B2B decision-makers say they are very likely to think more positively about organizations that consistently produce high-quality thought leadership.

Further reading

Why thought leadership matters… and how to build it

Why thought leadership matters… and how to build it

What thought leadership actually means

Not yet a thought leader? Here’s how you can start

12 tips for creating compelling technology white papers

Need some support with thought leadership?

Futurity can help you design a programme, manage the content schedule, harness your thought leaders’ insights and support their comms activities.

Reach out to [email protected]

 

 

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