Thought leadership is a flashy term—a buzzworthy term in the world of marketing. And the person who came up with it was probably themselves, a “thought leader” of sorts.
Throwing the word around in the context of content marketing and building brand awareness isn’t a hard thing to do. Not as hard, anyway, as actually getting people to define what it means.
In its simplest of understandings, a thought leader is someone of authority and influence. They have ideas and when they speak on them, people listen.
With the shortening human attention span in mind, of course, it’s appealing to want to build a following that’s interested in what you have to say. The problem is, most underestimate just how difficult this is to do.
Instead, they create a blog and start mimicking the content others in their space are creating. Or toss the goal to a marketing team to figure out on their behalf.
Becoming a thought leader takes a lot of time and energy to achieve. And more importantly, it requires leadership. You have to offer a unique perspective that’s worth the follow.
Rather than haphazardly working towards becoming a thought leader, here are a few other avenues that might be a better use of your time.
Build Your Personal Brand
One of the major issues with people jumping into “thought leadership” is that most don’t think through the logistics around what kind of leader they want to be.
You can’t convince people of the things you know that they don’t when you’re not even sure of what it is you know. Where’s the authority in that?
As an entrepreneur, start by mapping out a list or word cloud on subjects you’re passionate about—ones you could weigh in on from experience. You could then plug them into a tool like Answer The Public for a look at how others think about and search for content relative to your interests.
Make sure all of the foundational elements—e.g., your website, blog, email newsletter—are in place and optimized. After all, outside of the actual content you create, getting it seen will require plenty of strategy around how it’s promoted.
Focus on Relationships
We’re all mesmerized by our screens but that doesn’t mean the value of relationships has diminished. The company you keep is crucial to your ability to be seen.
Outside of your ideas, think about the qualities a person must have to be considered a good leader. It’s someone who listens, actively engages with their community, and is constantly learning.
If your goal is to simply spit out content without putting in the time to get familiar with your readers, thought leadership might not be for you.
Invest in Quality Content
Rather than simply striving to become a thought leader, consider making it a goal to focus on creating high-quality content. This could be realized as blog posts, a podcast, webinars, videos, all of the above, etc.
Ask yourself whether what you’re creating is something you’d spend time reading, watching, or listening to.
When you prioritize what goes into your content above all else, you’ll realize just how much work it is. And this kind of realization can quickly put your initial motivators into perspective.