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Six thought leadership tips for communicators

If you are a communicator, work in public relations, marketing or communications, you are bound to have heard of, or are deeply involved in, thought leadership marketing.

Some people groan at the mention of the word, probably because every opinion is labelled thought leadership. But if used strategically, it is one of the most powerful communication tools available to marketers. Like any marketing discipline, however, there are some things that work and others that don’t.

Through years of exploring, writing, speaking and consulting about thought leadership, this is what I have gleaned from thought leaders themselves or individuals who are responsible for multifaceted local and global thought leadership campaigns.

I have distilled these into six points.

1. Client centric – Experienced thought leaders will tell you to make sure your content is first and foremost client centric and that it delivers new and relevant insights. Product-speak and brand-centricity is the death knell of thought leadership.

2. Short content is good – people no longer want long reports. They want executive summaries highlighting the key points pertinent to them. Infographics are a great way to present information – they’re easy to digest and deliver your point of view in a visual story board.

3. Re-use and re-purpose content
– a lot of work, resource, time and effort go into producing your material. Make sure you are leveraging it every way possible i.e. if it is research or a report, ask if it can it be segmented into mini-sector reports or key topic areas and release it over time.

Also think about if and how you can news-jack. This involves looking for opportunities in the daily media into which you can inject your point of view. Relevance is obviously key.

4. Start small, think big, think new, adapt quickly – don’t start off with a massive production, you are probably biting off more than you can chew. Find something on which you can act nimbly, something relevant to the challenges facing your target audience and then deliver some new insights on these challenges.

Ideally it should be a long-term play. The best thought leadership I have seen has run for five years or longer and has been adapted to change with the times.

5. Make it part of the business culture – if it is not owned from the CEO through to marketing and sales it is not going to gain the traction you want. True thought leadership is about empowering the business and all of those in it.

6. It is the sharpest tool in building eminence – those who are using it well all agree that it is the best tool for building eminence for their brand and it is the best brand differentiator they have. Critically it enables you to have conversations and to engage with your audience in a way your competitors cannot.

In the process you build that all important characteristic – trust.

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