Behind the scenes: What I didn’t say on the ‘thought leadership’ video chat
My gut feeling is when most people hear the term ‘thought leadership’ they roll their eyes; who wants to follow yet another person ‘building their brand’ or a company ‘trying to appeal now for a sale down the line’.
But that’s not what true, effective thought leadership is… and I had a blast sitting down (zooming down?) with Sivan and Aliza at TwoHeads to consider what it is, and why it’s worth pursuing as an individual or brand manager.
Watch our conversation here, or at the end… What I really came to do here was share my scenes notes I jotted down in prep for our video chat:
Spoiler: It’s about building trust with your audience, in an honest, human-first, true-to-self way.
If we’re true to our professions, work really hard, and have accrued experience — we have a lot of valuable insight to offer others. And instead of only pouring that experience back into the work you do, you can also showcase it in a way that builds trust, relationships, and, yes, brand, with the people who make up your audience, community, customers.
It’s more organic, it’s honest, it’s staying true to your company DNA or your own brand DNA. As humans, we enjoy hearing from people who know what they’re talking about. It’s true in our industries too.
So why is building trust this way important for a company?
Stand out! Here are two ways thought leadership strategy done right helps companies stand out in a crowded field of content production:
- An invitation to bond: Putting forward an honest, true depiction of your company’s values, beliefs and goals via the smart, experienced people who fuel it — and inviting your audience to join you for that ride as you navigate your industry. It is a bonding experience for thought leader and their audience to go through this together in the longer run.
- Nothing to hide: Showing that you/your company’s drivers offer real value because you actually know what you’re talking about; it’s not hot air, it’s actual experience and you’re sharing it openly. People are attracted to authenticity, especially from places they don’t normally access it.
Why invest resources in thought leadership?
You already have the hard part — the actual expertise in what you do. Now you have to craft it and distribute in the ways that will accomplish your brand goals — being the #1 at this, or being a trusted voice in that, etc.
What ‘should’ that look like?
People assume we’re talking about podcasts and ‘talking head’ videos… but it’s so much more. It can be any medium where you feel comfortable presenting yourself and also able to create the communication and trust with your audience. Maybe it’s in a private community forum you built as part of membership to your platform. Maybe it’s webinars. Maybe it’s weekly ‘thoughts from the Head of Product’ in an email to your relevant list. Or it’s sharing in social media posts. Or it’s interviewing customers and distributing those to create foundations for sharing insights in how you operate.
Is it really thought leadership if your marketing team worked on it?
What’s the motivation behind your thought leadership strategy? Is it to put fresh faces to your brand? Or is it to actually take the people who are your experts and share their wisdom?
If you’re supporting the effort by outlining and scripting for your brand’s ’faces’ that’s certainly a way to go, but that’s not really thought leadership.
By all means — if you’re the brains behind the thought leadership program and script outlines, that’s great — make sure the face is the actual thought leader bringing their experience forward. That’s where this program’s value will come from. And yes, most people worth listening to need help with outlining, direction, staying focused. But it should be their experience and voice that comes through.
Finally — take a bat and smash the following assumptions:
- “I have nothing to say” — The problem is not that you have nothing to say, it’s that you don’t realize how someone outside your head would find what you have in there really insightful, and what in particular that is.
- “It’s been said before” — This can feel true a lot of the time. But it’s also about access — not everyone is seeking out what’s already been written — they want to hear from you specifically (because they already trust you), or they want to hear ‘in the now’.
- “I don’t know how to write” — You don’t need to. You need to know how to speak with humans like yourself. It’s about communication skills, not necessarily writing skills. But there are exercises you can do to help you craft your message; take a look at this article I wrote with some tangible tips.
If you’ve got thoughts to add or want to take me up on something — get me on Twitter: @eliesheva.
For more I didn’t cover here — watch the under-30 minute chat: