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The Principles of Thought Leadership

In the information age, knowledge is shared continuously through online blogs, social networks and website content. Creating a following in a vastly crowded online marketplace can be a challenge. The task of making yourself heard above the crowd becomes a great deal easier if you can position yourself as a leading thinker in your sector.

What is Thought Leadership?

Thought leadership is the unique content brands create to get information out there, but not specifically about their product or services. The greatest thought-leading marketers constantly add to their brand or company by sharing stories and events, bringing their brand to life across a wide range of channels. Google is a great example of this, intertwining powerful marketing and advertising insights throughout its data. With brands like Google, their stories are everywhere. This doesn’t happen all by itself; great exposure happens through the telling of great stories.

How do you Establish Yourself as a Thought Leader?

First and foremost, it is important to find out which subject or areas your brand has great knowledge of. Know the specific and unique areas that your brand is knowledgeable about, and claim this knowledge. For example, a video streaming service can claim knowledge about the speeds of different broadband providers. However, while your brand may have expertise in a range of topics, you must identify those that will be appropriate for thought leadership. A health insurance firm will have huge amounts of information about how people die, but this isn’t the way that they want to present themselves to their customers. Keeping up to date with what makes a company the most innovative in its field, such as a manufacturer knowing and using environmentally friendly materials, can be useful when deciding which parts of your companies knowledge is appropriate for thought leadership.

Most importantly, find the gaps in the competition: Find the unmet needs and the anxieties of the customer, and what solutions and reassurance you can offer. Find the perfect balance of your brand’s knowledge and key values, and knowing how you can help the customer.

Keep an Eye on the Competition and Create Alliances

You must, of course, remember that there are likely to be others out there with similar ideas to those of your brand – competitors in your field who are trying to reach the same customers as you. Making friends and gaining allies can help you to reach even wider audiences and advertise your brand. Look at who has connections with the audiences you want to reach and get in on them (or buy them). Pepsi have had great success with sponsorship of music and sports events, aligning themselves to their customers heroes and heroines.

Another technique for gaining friends in your field is sponsor and organise events or conferences relevant to your business. By doing this, you present yourself as a leader, with other experts and brands rallied around you. This is the perfect position to make connections and get in on other brand’s alliances and links to the customer.

Push the Boundaries

To succeed at thought leadership, you must be willing to go above and beyond what other brands will do to get yourself out there: dominate the topic beyond the level of your competition. Lego is an excellent example of this, reaching its target audience of children, and their parents, through it's partnership with the Star Wars franchise and many other movies, cartoons and films, video games, Lego Club magazines, books and comics, and even theme parks. This shows their great commitment to content marketing and turning thoughts into thought leadership, giving them a dominance no competitor can match.

Be a Serial Publisher

You also need to be able to break down your big stories into smaller pieces, which are interesting enough to stand alone in your various channels of reaching your audience. Find quotes, profiles, glossary items and maps relevant to the story. Enhance this with background information which can provide context. Another great step would be to share the story with key influences for their reaction to quote. Breaking up a story and releasing it chapter by chapter gives people a chance to find the story and lets the audience grow. Build it up: let each chapter’s release become an event.

The above principles allow the best thought leadership programmes to thrive and build brands into a positive position to last. By following this advice, you too can create a brand and a business that can have great thought leadership, and ultimately success.

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