Updated: Mar 31
“Few terms raise the ire of the buzzword police more than thought leadership” according to Michael Brenner of the Marketing Insider Group. That being said, we still rely upon those with special knowledge and experience in fields that are relevant and of interest to us, areas that intrigue us. Here’s how thought leadership can help you with your content creation.
What Thought Leadership Is and Is Not
Thought leadership is not about celebrity, although sometimes celebrities can be thought leaders. The same goes for politics and politicians who may delve into areas in which they have no knowledge. Look at what’s happened with politics and the pandemic over the past year. In many parts of the world, people have listened to politicians rather than scientists and as a result many have died. According to Michael Brenner “Thought Leadership means you provide the best and deepest answers, to your customers’ biggest questions, in the formats your audience likes to consume.” For some of your customers, that format could be audio format in a podcast. Others might enjoy a video, and still others enjoy a blog post or infographic. And those different formats might be posted in a variety of places, such as Twitter, LinkedIn, or YouTube.
What if we could all spend unlimited time delving into specialty topics that could benefit our brand? Unfortunately, even with excellent time management skills, few of us can dive into more than one topic at a time. We just don’t have the time, and that can hurt our ability to create good content. However, with a diverse staff each person may have far-reaching skills to aid in the team’s efforts. Having different members from key departments creating content can make the whole team more intelligent, as they can all learn from each other.
While not many of us can be a Melissa Swift (@meswift on Twitter) or Adam Rogers (@AdamRogers2030), we can have people with specialised knowledge to help our teams grow intellectually. Here in the UK, Chartered PR, Ella Minty (@EllaMinty), is a leading mind in our industry, inspiring and encouraging new ways of thinking about the world around us; she also gives of her time to mentoring younger practitioners coming up - as well as the not so young!
With someone who has deep knowledge of a topic on the team, everyone becomes inspired. New ideas fill the whole team with enthusiasm. There is a cross-pollination that occurs when people are connected and able to learn from one another. For instance, having a data scientist on a team can make everyone visualize numbers differently. Or can you imagine having someone like Adam Rogers, with his focus on Sustainable Development Goals, on your staff? By the way, you might like my previous article How Small Gestures Can Make Big Environmental Changes.
Those with years of experience in a subject can reach back into history to deliver interesting comparisons. Often, having personal experience in a subject can shine a new light on recent events. And having that consistency of looking into subjects over a long period of time is also critical to creating excellent content. Of course, having a researcher or historian on staff could mean reaching back even farther. That old saw those who don’t know history’s mistakes are doomed to repeat them comes to mind. Having a finger on the pulse of history can help in creating evergreen content. This content can be used and reused over the course of months and sometimes years, with possible slight revisions necessary to update content. Being a passionate PR, I am curious and interested in the stories that have gone before us, they inform and educate.
Soft skills are the non-technical skills that include emotional intelligence, getting along with others, and communication. Mindset, attitude, and certain personality traits also make up the soft skillset. In content creation, knowing what to write about as well as how to share that content become important. For instance, if there’s a national emergency, oversharing of a personal nature could be frowned upon. And sales during a national emergency? A focus on a hard sell is probably not such a good idea and this is something I advised against doing in the last year - it has been, and still is a time to be empathetic. Having the sensitivity to know when and what to share is part of content creation, too. Engagement with others on social media is another piece of the soft skills puzzle that helps with content creation.
Integrity is a soft skill I value. Does someone behave and make decisions in a way that is reflective of their values and beliefs and do they recognise the impact of their behaviour on others. A person of integrity encourages others to be their best self. They hold themselves accountable and people have confidence that they will do what they say and believe. That's good leadership.
"Look for three things in a person: intelligence, energy, and integrity. If they don't have the last one, don't even bother." - Warren Buffet
I also like "If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don't have integrity, nothing else matters." - Alan K. Simpson
Thought Leaders at Work
With thought leaders on your staff, you and your company can take deeper dives into topics of interest, influence others as well as those in-house, and create content that will endure for months and years.
Footnote - some things to consider when you start writing include:
Defining your target audience, know who you're writing for
Tip: If it's an American market, write in American English
Asking yourself what is valuable for the reader to see
Substantiating claims and facts
Will what I say stimulate some sort of action?
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