This article was co-authored by Don Broekelmann, the Executive VP of Brand Managament at Influence & Co.
There are a lot of definitions of thought leadership floating around these days. People declare themselves thought leaders because they wrote a book or because they have an occasional speaking gig. Thought leadership is more than an article, a book, a speaking gig, or an award: It’s truly leading a space in thought and serving as a resource for others in your area.
And if you do it correctly, you’ll be rewarded across all your marketing channels. Here are six areas that will reap the benefits of a successful thought leadership campaign:
1. Reputation Management
Reputation management firms are typically fueled by companies or individuals haunted by negative search results. I’ve seen people endure everything from a “Peeping Tom” reputation to a “sued for fraud” result, and companies will pay anything to get rid of these landmines.
Are you the type of company that waits for your car to break down, or do you perform preventative maintenance? Look at reputation management the same way. If your employees are consistently positioning themselves as thought leaders, there will be so many positive awards, mentions, and pieces of content that negative things will be less likely to hurt you. Rather than being put in a position where you have to pay astronomical fees to salvage your reputation, prevent the damage before it’s too late.
Not many days go by where I don’t encounter a company that has been screwed over by a PR firm. I’m still sore from my first beating. When you pay a PR company, you’re generally using their relationships — which you will never gain yourself. You’re creating a dependent relationship from the start.
When you come at it from the thought leadership angle, you’re positioning your company as an industry leader. As a Forbes contributor, I look for sources who are leading their industries. I don’t want to do a ton of homework to determine if you’re the real deal. If you release content consistently and it’s quality work, you will be rewarded by attracting your own PR relationships. It won’t happen overnight, but if done properly, it will keep the ball in your court — and you won’t have to rely on someone else’s relationships.
3. Content Marketing
Ah, the buzzword of the year: content marketing. Being in the content marketing arena, I hope the interest keeps up. There’s a reason why it’s a hot topic: because it’s effective! Articles pop up every week with data that proves it provides results.
In fact, here’s a recent article from Tomasz Tunguz about the compounding returns of persistent content marketing. Thought leadership pieces are the core to a good content marketing strategy. They position your company as a leader in content, which will immediately draw credit to internal content on your site. You can also kill two birds with one stone. Use the content that you place in media outlets on your site. Don’t duplicate the content; either use a Google rel author tag or summarize the content and link back to the original.
4. Lead Generation and Sales Conversions
Companies don’t often think about how valuable content is in lead generation or sales unless they have a strong background in online marketing. Let’s keep it simple:
1) Use content to nurture leads. There’s nothing better to further a relationship with a potential lead than to actually give her value. If your content is valuable, then it will help her out while simultaneously drawing positive attention to your company.
2) Use content for sales conversions. If you’re working on a sale, you should know what’s holding people back. Send them an article you’ve published that supports why they would want to move forward. For example, if somebody was worried about budgeting for content marketing, I would send him a link to this article and show him how thought leadership pieces can help other marketing channels, saving him money overall.
5. Social Media
Reengagement is vital to a successful social media strategy, but you have to do it the right way. If you keep reengaging your community with a new sales pitch every day, you aren’t providing value. One of the best ways to reengage is to offer valuable content. That doesn’t mean a tricky 10 ways list that asks them to click on a link to buy something.
If you’re truly leading your area with content, then you should share that with your community. When your thought leadership pieces are published in new outlets, you’re tapping into their channels to bring their readers into your social audience. I would take one engaged reader who came from an article of mine over 100 people who followed me back on Twitter simply because I followed them.
That’s right — I said the word “SEO.” It sometimes feels like a bad word these days. One of the reasons is because old SEO was so shady that everybody was distancing themselves from “black hat” tricks. I guess we finally realized that Google had smart people and would eventually figure out how to penalize the quick tricks and cheaters. Google seems to be rewarding, above all, quality content. That means content that offers value to the readers, is shareable, and can be tracked back to you.
Google’s Author Rank is becoming increasingly valuable for companies that want to build an online presence. When you publish bylined articles, you can tell Google that the content came from you and be rewarded for it. Don’t feel like one Forbes or Inc. article is going to do it; you want to do it naturally. Consistently release content in niche publications, with some authority links mixed in. When you do things the right way, you will be rewarded.
Thought leadership doesn’t have to be a mystery. If you do it right, you’ll find it not only gives you more time to do what you do best, but it will also bring more business your way — and that’s how you become a thought leader.
John Hall is the CEO of Influence & Co., a company that assists individuals and brands in growing their influence through products and services ranging from creating and publishing bylined articles to facilitating in residence programs for brands and much more. Influence & Co. is one of the leading providers of high quality expert content to the world’s top publications. Connect with him on Twitter or Google+