April 25, 2019 - by Peter Evans
The term “thought leadership” has been exploited by self-proclaimed experts and overuse of the phrase has made the market weary of its practice. But before it was a buzzword, thought leadership was the crown jewel of content marketing.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, thought leadership is “intellectual influence and innovative or pioneering thinking.” In practice, thought leaders leverage research and experience-based content to draw in audiences and support their organization’s reputation as an industry authority. This marketing concept has the power to transform product pitches to strategic insights and approaches into best practices, but not everyone found the same success with their programs – and there are a couple of good reasons why.
This Is A Classified Project
While it’s still true that thought leadership boosts customer engagement, some programs simply lack the depth needed to connect with audiences and see meaningful results. Many organizations are quick to jump on the latest marketing trend, but they don’t always have the vision to turn their expertise into a viable solution for their business. In fact, a leading research and consulting firm, Sirius Decisions, has suggested that “the purpose and process of thought leadership are widely misunderstood and misapplied, causing mixed results.”
One of the most significant issues with thought leadership is that the C-Suite and other top-level teams tend to lead programs in a silo from the rest of the organization. It’s not uncommon for executives to outsource their thought leadership activities to special teams and agencies as a series of projects. This approach leads to disconnected outputs that miss the mark when it comes to audience engagement. It not only prevents subject-matter experts from elevating your content, but it also dismisses the wealth of knowledge they have about your audiences.
Experts know who is looking for content, where they’ll go to find it and which topics they’ll follow. So when you exclude them from the process, you’re going to miss out on opportunities to drive market visibility, brand reputation and new customer connections.
Your Experts Are People Too
When you put something on a pedestal, you make it easy for people to see but hard for them to reach – and that’s a problem in the digital world. People want to deal with organizations who provide the information they need on the channels they use, and in a voice they understand. To be successful with thought leadership, it’s vital to understand these needs and take a human approach to your marketing and communications.
Unfortunately, many thought leadership programs take a campaign-oriented approach and can mimic the dated marketing practices that centre around products rather than people. They come off as too formal and use “corporate speak” which makes them far less approachable. Worst of all, they often lack the authenticity audiences are looking for – so why not let your people do the talking?
Your in-house experts make great brand ambassadors for your organization. By expanding your notions of thought leadership, you open the door for many voices to share your message in a manner that’s inclusive, genuine and accessible. This also makes it easier for you to maintain your online presence and insert diversity into your content marketing. Rather than repeating the same ideas over and over, your broader team of experts will be able to capture varying perspectives and insights – supporting your position as a leader in that domain.
Evolving Thought Leadership
While the concept of thought leadership still resonates with audiences, it’s time to make a few changes. Here are just a few reasons to transition dated thought leadership projects into profitable expertise marketing programs:
As you can see, expertise marketing takes the best parts of thought leadership and makes it more inclusive, sustainable and agile – and all at a lower cost. On top of this, expertise marketing incorporates human connections as a fundamental component of both the strategy and execution. It surfaces diverse expert perspectives, delivers authenticity and creates two-way conversations between you and your audiences. Most of all, it can easily be adapted as our environments change and new audience needs emerge.
If your thought leadership program lacks results, you’ll likely have to broaden your views on expertise and leadership. Take a closer look at all of your people and the value they bring to your business. This inclusive approach to expertise marketing will not only make it easier to manage thought leadership, but it will also deliver the long-term success you want from your marketing.
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