Modern Thought Leadership's Golden Chance

November 4, 2021

Many companies and CEOs want thought leadership, but only a few are successful at it.

That's how it's always been. Clients often approach agencies with the purpose of "thought leadership." We want our executives to appear in the media more often. We want our executives and leaders to appear on television. We also want our executives to have large followings on LinkedIn with high engagement numbers.

That brings me to a recent research titled "The 2021 B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study" by Edelman + LinkedIn.

The following are the important takeaways from the two companies:

  1. During the epidemic, there was a deluge of lousy, low-quality thought leadership material.
  2. Good thought leadership, on the other hand, is as crucial as ever, despite the fact that cutting through the clutter is more difficult than ever.
  3. Executives must be authoritative, opinionated, and human in order to provide strong thought leadership.

I completely agree with all of those ideas, particularly the third. Let's take a look at each one separately.

To begin with, the pandemic did result in an overabundance of low-quality thought leadership. One major signal: During the epidemic, all of the C-level executives we'd been lobbying with to join LinkedIn suddenly did so. The only issue is that they share a lot of low-quality thought leadership articles.

Second, there is still a market for excellent thought leadership material. "71 percent of Decision-Makers say that less than half of the thought leadership they consume provides them with valuable insights," according to a statistic from the research.

People are consuming thought leadership material online, according to Edelman's research. Despite most businesses' less-than-stellar attempts, they continue to seek it out. So, the possibility is still there, but executives need to find out one thing: your consumers want your point of view. They're interested in hearing your thoughts. They don't want you to be cautious.

Finally, when it comes to creating thought leadership material that their consumers desire, executives and communicators don't seem to understand it.

The following figures from the report tell the story:

  • Almost half of customers (47%) believe that most thought leadership isn't tailored to their individual requirements (read: we're not paying attention!).
  • 67 percent want a recognizable author's point of view to be clearly featured in the text (read: we're not opinionated enough!)
  • 81 percent desire material with interesting thoughts that challenge my preconceptions about an issue (read: we're not opinionated enough!)
  • 62% want material that analyzes current trends that are likely to effect my company today (read: I want content that is relevant to me, not you!)
  • And 80% want material to include 3rd party data and insights from other reputable organizations or individuals (read: I want information that is relevant to me–not you!)

It's true that bad thought leadership material stinks. Because the majority of it focuses only on the business and its goods or services–and only the business and its products or services.

Furthermore, most thought leadership material, surprisingly, does not provide a really distinctive viewpoint. Sure, the executives will claim that they share a strong viewpoint. But, let's be honest, let's be honest. Most are playing it safe, offering bland thoughts that don't hold buyers' attention for more than a few seconds.

Finally, have a look at this statistic, which says it all: According to 64% of buyers, thought leadership content is a more reliable foundation for analyzing an organization's skills and expertise than marketing materials and product brochures.

As a result, the need of effective thought leadership material is emphasized even more!

To me, this is a really straightforward problem to tackle. Too many "thought leaders" want to do one of two things: 1) just speak about problems relevant to their goods and services, or 2) provide dull or uninteresting "opinions" on industry issues.

The majority of "thought leadership" material comes into one of these two categories. Unfortunately, this is true.

As a result, I would suggest that this is a much more successful strategy for executives to use:

Begin by paying attention. Examine trade publications. Sign up for their e-newsletters. On Twitter, you may follow editors and influencers. Find out what your consumers are talking about and what interests them. Look for current case studies on which you may provide a remark.

Look for industry trends on which you may comment. Look for issues on which you can have a lively discussion and have a strong viewpoint.

Create a compelling point of view and put it to the test with your peers. Start formulating a strong perspective after you've picked a subject that's significant to your audience through listening. This is an excellent approach to consider it: You want to have an opinion on a topic that you haven't heard from anybody else in the listening phase.

That's the goal you're aiming towards. It might be a controversial viewpoint. It might even be counterintuitive. Whatever course you choose, make sure it's one-of-a-kind. That is the secret to everything.

Make a list of industry magazines, bloggers, and important opinion leaders to include in your articles. When KOLs see their stats/findings in your material, it will offer you immediate credibility and earn you karma points.

At the end of the day, I believe many companies and executives overlook one basic principle: thought leadership is all about developing trust, not pushing leads. If you use the suggestions above, you'll be able to produce more intriguing thought leadership material that your consumers will like.

Thanks to Arik Hanson at Business 2 Community whose reporting provided the original basis for this story.

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