What is Thought Leadership?

TLPR Introduction to Thought Leadership

Many people ask, “what is thought leadership?”, and usually get a woolly answer, such as it builds trust, authority, and it opens doors to partnerships and opportunity.

All these are true, but the functional definition of thought leadership is that it’s a tool to build your personal brand and raise your professional profile – the most organic tool there is.

In this article, we outline what makes someone a thought leader, the differences between thought leadership and content marketing, and the value of earning coverage on third party platforms.

What is a Thought Leader?

Thought leaders are those recognised as a go-to authority in their field. In order to become a thought leader, you need to have a strategy in place when it comes to thought leadership. Thought leadership content can take the form of written articles in the media, talks at well attended events, an inspiring interview on an industry podcast, a social media profile that people take note of, a series of professional videos, a book, a white paper and anything else that showcases expertise and offers insights or solutions to problems.

The Benefits of Thought Leadership

The benefits of becoming a thought leader might seem obvious, but it’s worth thinking about what you want to achieve when adopting thought leadership as a strategy.

Aside from building your brand, thought leadership can help you to differentiate yourself from others in the same industry, giving you a competitive advantage. It can also help directly with SEO and appearing higher in the search results. Thought leadership articles in digital publications generate backlinks and mentions, which is a crucial aspect of what makes you more visible and means that your content will rank higher. And while thought leadership content isn’t all about conversions, it does help you create a loyal audience and turn members of this audience into customers. As well as bringing new leads in, thought leadership helps you to keep the clients you already have.

Thought Leadership Vs Content Marketing

Thought leadership is not the same as content marketing. Anyone can churn out a blog for their website or send a newsletter to their client list. Content marketing is a product, thought leadership is a strategy to create content that truly adds value to the people who consume it. It can offer guidance, provide new insights, instigate fresh thinking. It has the power to influence opinion, inspire leaders to do better, and encourage companies to address problems. And, for the thought leaders, it brings a prestigious reputation that will last the test of time.

Thought leaders don’t just write articles. They get their views, expertise and articles into industry or mainstream publications. Thought leaders don’t just put on a free talk to draw in prospects. They get asked to talk at top industry conferences. Thought leaders don’t just launch a podcast or self-publish a book or start a YouTube channel to drive traffic to their website. They attract the attention of the mainstream. They drive opinion, influence the news agenda and are known for their original, brilliant insights. To find out more, read our article on how to become a thought leader.

Picture of business section in a newspaper to showcase media coverage.

The Value of Earned Media

It goes without saying that a third party platform is a better way to showcase your expertise than owned media channels (such as a blog or social media). When your audience sees that you’ve been published, it gives a stamp of approval. Prestigious content leads to prestigious leads. And quality platforms come with a google ranking, which puts you on the radar ahead of rivals doing similar things to you.

This doesn’t mean the personal blog is dead. To increase your authority as a thought leader to your maximum potential you should aim to get your thought leadership content on a combination of platforms – getting quoted in the consumer media, writing an op-ed in your industry press, going onto a podcast, as well as your own SEO optimised blog. Getting a mix means building a buzz.

The common theme which defines thought leadership is that it captures the zeitgeist and this also points to why thought leadership is important. Your content – whether it’s an article you want to submit to a publication, or a book you want to write – needs to reflect what is being talked about by the masses. Your views need to be fresh and insightful. A talk needs to break new ground. Thought leaders are, as the term suggests, pioneers of new attitudes that can truly influence the public’s way of thinking.

For examples of thought leadership we’ve helped our clients amplify, have a look at one our six month coverage books, showing highlights of the media coverage we’ve secured – Click here to view.