The Value of Thought Leadership: What to Know Before Diving In

On platforms like LinkedIn, anyone can find a large audience for their thoughts. Our feeds are full of posts in which industry leaders share kernels of wisdom, insider tips, and lessons they’ve learned through their unique personal experiences. Leaders around the world and across every industry are marketing themselves as thought leaders and subject matter experts, right from the comfort of their own computers. 

The question is, why?

As professionals invest more of their time and resources in thought leadership, it’s worth asking what the real benefits of this approach are—and whether you should be dabbling in thought leadership yourself. Here are a few things to consider. 

Why become a thought leader?

Thought leadership content doesn’t just benefit the people who read it. There are lots of great reasons to become a thought leader:

1. Establish yourself as an expert. Whether your field is saturated or sparse, you want to stand out as the expert that people should turn to for advice and insights. Publishing industry-specific content is a quick way to demonstrate authority on an issue.

2. Prove your strong communication skills. Whatever industry you’re in, there’s value in demonstrating your ability to communicate through writing. A substantive thought leadership piece can show off these skills in a manner that’s professional, but not overly stiff. 

3. Make connections. Thought leadership content isn’t just designed for passive reading. On social media platforms like LinkedIn, it can serve as a reason for other users to connect with you and reach out. Directly or indirectly, this can often lead to new clients. 

4. Gain exposure. Online professional networks are a great place to get your message out to potential clients, job seekers, peer organizations, and everyone in between. If you can cut through the clutter and make a splash with a useful, insightful thought leadership piece, you can earn exposure not only for your company, but also for yourself. 

How can you make your thought leadership content stand out? 

So you’re interested in publishing some thought leadership content. Great! Now you need to differentiate your post from the pack to ensure it grabs readers’ attention—and holds it.

To ensure your content isn’t just white noise that people scroll past, here are some tips to consider before writing or sharing:

1. Know your audience. If you want to be a successful thought leader, your first question should always be, “Who am I hoping to lead?” If you don’t know your target audience through and through, you can’t write content that speaks to their specific challenges, wants, and needs. Don’t be afraid to hone in on a somewhat niche audience—if you try to speak to everyone, you’ll wind up speaking to no one.

2. Be specific. Anyone can talk about the importance of hard work or the power of perseverance. Your thought leadership content doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel, but it should have information that’s specific to your experiences—otherwise, it won’t stand out from the crowd. The more relevant details you share, the stronger your voice will come through—and the more unique your content will feel.

3. Give actionable advice. Sweeping aspirational statements are encouraging—but not always particularly helpful. Industry-specific, small-scale advice, on the other hand, is likely to get your readers moving, making them more likely to spread your content around. If you shared an article detailing how your company optimized its website, for example, and a reader followed the tips and found success, they may feel incentivized to share your content with their network, lending it legitimacy and putting it in front of more eyes.

4. Tap into experiences that are relatable. Even the biggest industry leaders started somewhere. Just because they hit it out of the park today doesn’t mean they haven’t struck out a dozen times in the past. People love a rags-to-riches story, so without giving too much away, lean into the relatable mistakes you’ve made over the years—and, more importantly, the lessons you’ve learned from them.

5. Quickly answer the question: “Why you?” Whenever you write thought leadership content, think about why you’re the perfect person to write it. Are you writing about an industry you’ve been working in for years? Have you done something that no one else has done? To create content that resonates, aim to quickly establish why you’re the authority on this topic. If you don’t, people might start looking for someone who is. 

How can you get started with thought leadership content?

Easy! If you have an hour to spare, or even ten minutes here and there, just start jotting down your thoughts and ideas. Before long, you’ll get into the habit, ensuring the content well will never run dry. And if you don’t have time or don’t feel confident in your writing skills, you can always get a little help from the experts.

Good luck!

Having worked as a ghost tour guide for five years, Samantha knows how to get a reaction using only words. Hailing from bonny Scotland, she spent years gathering weird, eclectic experience (from laboratory assistant to radio DJ to Sunday school teacher) before finding her true calling–writing. She came to New York to see what MarketSmiths could teach her, and never left. Copywriter by day, amateur horror writer by night, she has a passion for words and is drawn to the strange and unusual.

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