The foundation of our Thought Leadership Machine is content.
Creating high quality educational content that adds value to your target audience is the starting point for all successful thought leadership development campaigns.
Content for content’s sake is worthless and it has to be tied into an overall strategy, we’re big believers that content is really just about creating collateral that can be used in sales, marketing, and media outreach efforts.
Here are 4 content ideas that you could write in one sitting and use as collateral to highlight your expertise and start building your foundation of Thought Leadership.
Prediction content is just what it sounds like. It’s content that predicts where your industry is headed in the future written in your own unique voice and aims to highlight your unique perspective for what’s in store for the industry.
This is one of the most successful of all the content pieces we use because it gives you the opportunity to position yourself as a pioneer in your industry.
Key #1: Supporting Facts
The more out-there your prediction, the more important it is to backup the prediction with some type of tangible fact such as a piece of data from a third party research lab or survey. The most established you get, the less this matters but assuming you are in the early stages of your thought leadership development, if you want to be taken seriously, it’s important to have something to support your prediction.
Key #2: Interesting & Unique
This almost goes without saying but we’ve seen many clients come up with predictions that are just extremely obvious. If you want to generate any interest for your prediction piece, it has to be unique and interesting to your target audience and the media. The more interesting and unique the prediction, the more likely it is to generate interest as long as there are facts support the claims.
Key #3: Strategy Alignment
The most important part of your prediction piece is to ensure there is alignment between your prediction and what your company has to offer. Coming up with a bold prediction can be easy, getting it to truly align with your company’s value proposition can be much more challenging.
To give you an example of this, with one client, we worked with them to develop their strategy-aligned predictions.
They are in the eCommerce Fashion industry but have developed a big data technology capable of predicting fashion trends which then feeds directly into their direct-to-consumer manufacturing factories which are maintained with the highest regard for employee quality of life. Their predictions for the fashion industry?
1.) Increased use of Big Data technology to identify trends instead of relying strictly on creativity and personal opinions.
2.) Direct-to-consumer manufacturing over wholesale retail distribution.
3.) Fashion brands continued use of overseas factories but increased concern with workers quality of life and working conditions.
With the support of data and facts, they were able to support these predictions which painted a clear and exciting picture for the future of the fashion industry while ensuring that these predictions directly aligned with their thought leadership development strategy.
#2 Data-Based Storytelling
This content piece can be focused on either one data set or multiple, even if they are from different sources.
The goal here is to collect data that already exists then use that data to tell a unique story that’s never been told before. Instead of spending the time to generate your own data set by running a survey or hiring a research firm, a simple search online can give you access to thousands of unique data sets to use.
Key #1: Tell a Unique Story
Because you are taking a data set/s that already exists, you need to inject it with your unique perspective. This is your chance to take this existing data set and tell a story behind it that’s never been told before.
Key #2: Focus on the Problem
At the core of every business is a problem that a specific audience is experiencing. When creating a data-focused piece, start with finding data that supports the problem that your company provides a solution to. Often times, people don’t realize the problem they have is a problem that others have as well. By leveraging data from a third party, you can confirm to your audience the problem exists and the solution comes from the story you are telling behind the data.
Misconception content focuses on what consistent misconceptions you see from your target audience.
Understanding these misconceptions is why having a clear understanding of your buyer persona is so important. Without it, you are basically just flying blind. These pieces are so important because they help you to show your audience that you understand them.
Once they believe you understand them, they will be a lot more likely to believe you can help them solve their problems. In this post you’ll want to aim for 10-15 misconception that you hear on a regular basis and summarize the misconception then explain in detail why it’s not correct.
Key #1: Ask!
First, ask your sales team what types of things they consistently hear from your customers and prospects that they believe is a misconception. Second, arrange customer interviews to discuss with your current client base what misconceptions they had before they began working with you.
Key #3: Thread Carefully
At the end of the day, when you list these misconceptions, you are essentially telling someone that they are wrong. If you don’t do this correctly, you can come across arrogant and have the opposite effect you intended. One of the best solutions here is to use the support of statistics and undeniable facts as often as possible in order to let those do the talking, not just your opinion.
#4: The Big Bang
These pieces are all about telling your audience about the moment the “Big Bang” occurred.
This is the moment when you finally realized enough was enough, you needed to develop a solution to their problem. For most companies out there, there was always that moment these breaking points finally occurred. Telling your audience the story of how it occurred, can you help you connect with your audience in a unique way.
Storytelling is becoming more and more popular with marketers these days. When telling yours, it’s important to treat your story like you are writing a book or a movie script. Your story should have all the key elements of a good story and should help you connect direct with your target audience.
For example, our story was one that every entrepreneur can relate to. Our company came from a massive failure.
In 2013, we had a Fintech startup and hired a leading tech-PR firm to help establish us as an industry thought leader. After burning through $20,000 in retainers in 3 months, there was nothing to show for it but lots of wasted “strategy” calls and some really nice reports that provided a full breakdown of where that $20,000 went (Fun fact: over $10,000 was spent on these “strategy” calls). So, with no choice, we just started doing our own PR, developing strategies that were far outside of the traditional PR industry and ended up getting coverage in several hundreds outlets including Forbes, Fox News, Business Insider, CNBC, Financial Times…in about 6 months.
While we got huge PR coverage, in the end, the business model didn’t work and finally on December 9th 2014, Bloomberg was the first to announce the failure of the company. That evening, while out to dinner (Read: Heavy Drinking), depressed and embarrassed of the public failure, fellow entrepreneurs gave the ultimate feedback advice: Your company sucked but, you were good at PR. So, start a PR firm, don’t suck, and we’ll hire you”.
The next day, we launched HackPR.
Key#1 : Relate to Your Audience
One of the core traits that can make you successful when it comes to executing a thought leadership strategy is knowing exactly who your audience is. Once you know who your audience is, you can then connect directly with them in a more intimate and meaningful way. By knowing the pain points of your audience, your story can be crafted in a way that touches on these core points and demonstrates to the audience that you are on the same page.
Key #2: Be Vulnerable
While many think it’s cool to be mucho and project an image of perfection, when it comes to telling your story it’s all about being honest and truly opening yourself up. Looking at our story, for example, does it suck that we had a massive public failure? Ummm, yes, of course. But by being open about what happened to us, we’re able to show that we are in fact human and make mistakes, just like everyone else.