Thought leadership strategy is becoming increasingly important for standing out and growing your personal brand. In a crowded digital landscape, developing your unique perspective and voice as a leader in your field can help you connect with your ideal audience.
But how do you go about crafting an authentic and compelling thought leadership strategy? Where do you even start to find your voice?
I had the opportunity on “The Business Storytelling Show” to speak with Emily Crookston, founder of The Pocket PhD, to get her insights on elevating your thought leadership game. Emily works with entrepreneurs and executives to develop their thought leadership platforms through ghostwriting services and strategic guidance.
In this article, I cover:
- What is thought leadership strategy and why is it valuable?
- How to approach thought leadership content
- Tips for finding your unique voice
- Optimizing your thought leadership for your goals
What Is Thought Leadership Strategy and Why Does It Matter?
Thought leadership strategy is about owning and sharing your expertise with your audience. As Emily put it:
“I think of a thought leader as an expert who owns their expertise.”
Rather than just creating content, you’re aiming to put forth innovative ideas and perspectives that make people view you as an authority in your niche.
This serves several important purposes:
- Positions you as an expert. When done right, thought leadership clearly establishes your knowledge and elevates your status in your industry.
- Attracts ideal clients. Sharing your insights and big ideas draws in potential customers who align with your message.
- Provides value. Quality thought leadership educates and helps your audience, rather than just promoting your services.
- Sets you apart. With so much content out there, thoughtful ideas help you stand out from competitors.
- Supports your business goals. Your thought leadership should ultimately align with and reinforce your offerings.
- Creates opportunities. Thought leadership, such as writing a book or speaking, can open doors like media appearances, conferences, higher consulting fees, etc.
As Emily emphasized, thought leadership strategy is about the long game. While it may not drive immediate sales, it builds awareness and trust over time.
How to Approach Thought Leadership Content
Now that we’ve covered the “why,” let’s discuss the “how” of thought leadership. First, let’s highlight some of the channels:
Your written content
Written content like blog posts, LinkedIn newsletters, and other channels still works and despite all kinds of new content types, writing still matters.
Consider publishing a book. “Author” still has a certain level of cache attached to it.
The spoken work
Launching and maintaining a podcast is also a great way to build your brand.
Video blogs, and short-form videos are also popular and really highlight your personality.
You don’t necessarily have to do all of these, but it’s good to understand the high-level options to make an educated decision on which ones might work for you.
Let’s look at some more tips on how to level up your thought leadership strategy:
Connect With Your Audience
Creating thought leadership content isn’t about impressing other experts – it’s about sharing your ideas with your target audience in a way they can understand and relate to.
As Emily advised:
“You have to have big ideas. And that’s one of the things we help our clients with the most – how do I start talking about my business? What’s my personal brand? That can be really hard to do in isolation by yourself.”
Truly connect with your audience by teaching them something new and valuable. Help them see concepts in a different way through your unique lens.
Test Your Ideas
Use platforms like LinkedIn to experiment with different ideas and see what resonates most with your audience before developing them further.
Pay attention to engagement and feedback to determine which concepts have legs and warrant more in-depth treatment through long-form content.
Translate Your Expertise
Avoid excessive jargon and “expert talk”. Make your knowledge accessible. Break down complex topics into understandable concepts.
Emily encourages her clients:
“I always like to talk about translating your expertise for non-experts. Most of my clients are trying to speak to non-experts.”
Find The “Big Ideas”
As Emily noted, thought leadership content should be built around “big ideas” – those key concepts or perspectives you want to be known for.
Big can be relative. Your ideas don’t have to be radically groundbreaking. They just need to move your audience’s thinking forward.
Match Your Business Goals
Align your thought leadership focus with your offerings and target customers. Your content should ultimately support your positioning and services.
How to Find Your Unique Voice
Now that I’ve covered some best practices for developing your thought leadership, let’s discuss how to find your authentic voice.
Your voice is what makes your perspective and ideas uniquely yours. It’s your thoughts communicated in a way that is true to who you are.
Here are some tips from Emily for dialing in your unique voice as a thought leader:
Imagine Conversing With Your Audience
Treat your thought leadership content like you’re having an informal discussion with your readers. Use natural language. Don’t fall into the trap of stuffy “writer voice.”
Study How You Naturally Communicate
Pay attention to how you speak about your expertise in conversations and calls. Look for key phrases, expressions, jokes, or ways of explaining things that capture your voice.
Write How You Speak
Aim for thought leadership content that meets somewhere between conversational tone and polished writing – not strictly one or the other.
Your thought leadership voice needs to align with how you actually talk and work with clients. Don’t manufacture a persona that doesn’t reflect your true communication style. Authenticity matters.
Identify Your Differentiators
What qualities do you want to be known for as a thought leader? Warm? Witty? Wise? Identify differentiators and let those shape your voice.
Play to Your Strengths
Highlight your innate communication talents in your writing, whether humor, storytelling, simplicity, passion, etc.
Work with a strategist or writer to refine your ideas and voice. Getting objective feedback is invaluable.
Give It Time
Dialing in your distinct thought leadership voice is a process. Don’t expect to nail it immediately. Experiment and evolve.
Optimizing Your Thought Leadership Strategy for Your Goals
As we’ve covered, thought leadership should ultimately align with and support your business objectives. Here are some final tips for optimizing it:
Match Content Style to Goals
Thought leadership drives awareness. Conversion happens through concrete marketing content. Write accordingly.
Long-form thought leadership content has a different voice than short persuasive copy.
Define Your Audience
Get very clear on who you want to reach. A focused niche target allows more specific messaging. Casting too wide leaves content generalized.
Set Proper Expectations
Educate stakeholders that thought leadership is a long-term play, not a quick marketing win. Manage expectations around ROI timeline.
Track meaningful metrics like audience growth, shares, and discussion. Thought leadership aims to build community and trust.
Developing true thought leadership takes time and discipline. It’s about crafting content around your big ideas while finding your authentic voice.
As Emily summarized:
“It’s not always obvious that how you want people to feel is part of your writing style. But it can be, and I think it should be when you’re creating this kind of comprehensive thought leadership platform.”
Hopefully the guidance above provides a framework for elevating your thought leadership strategy. By focusing on your audience, honing your voice, and aligning your efforts with your goals, you can become a respected leader in your field.