Are you thinking like a thought leader?
A thought leader is someone seen to be at the forefront of their industry. They are known for talking about one or two particular topics, and are viewed as the go-to person for anything related to that topic.
On a practical level, establishing yourself as a thought leader means getting comfortable sharing your views and finding ways to increase your visibility, particularly online. Sounds straightforward, right?
It is if you have the right mindset – and are willing to put in the work.
Sharing what it really takes to become a thought leader is Jason Van Orden, a business and marketing strategist for expert influencers. He joined me on episode 212 of The Content 10x Podcast to share how to develop a winning thought leadership strategy and why content is your secret weapon…
Press play to discover just some of Jason’s words of wisdom…
Or listen to our full conversation on the podcast…
Or keep reading to discover the highlights of a winning thought leadership strategy.
What is a thought leadership strategy?
Thought leadership is a key component to building a successful personal brand. It means sharing your views, beliefs, and talking about problems that you can help people with.
So a thought leadership strategy is a way of getting known. By putting your thoughts out there, you attract attention. If you’re doing it right, that’ll be from people who are interested in what you have to say and who are aligned with your views.
Gaining a following can do two things. One, it helps your message spread far and wide. Have you ever seen a LinkedIn post written by someone you don’t follow, but because someone you did follow liked/commented/shared it, you saw it too? That’s what engagement (particularly on social media channels) can do. It can explode your visibility.
Secondly, it boosts your business. There are lots of factors at play here, but in essence, more visibility equals more touchpoints with your audience. More touchpoints and more buzz about you helps people trust you more (that’s social proof in action!). And greater trust leads to more sales.
Now, it’s easy to say, okay, I’ll just post more on social media. But that’s not a strategy. And “just posting more” isn’t thought leadership. Like any marketing strategy, becoming a thought leader means you have to take a certain approach – and create the right content for it.
How to create a thought leadership strategy
Jason Van Orden built a business helping people boost their exposure online in the right way. He’s an expert in personal branding and advises that if you want to start raising your profile, the best thing you can do is create and share content.
“It starts with your ideas and expertise, and your message or your story, or the thing that matters to you that you want to share. And one of the best ways to do that is to create and publish content.”
But it’s not all about creating content. Jason rightfully says that ideas have an impact when they’re in a format that people can find. It’s the classic, if a tree falls in the woods and nobody’s around to hear it, did it make a noise? Utilizing channels for distribution is equally vital to a winning thought leadership strategy, so that you can establish your authority and visibility.
Before you dive headfirst into creating thought leadership content, Jason suggests refining your strategy. You can do this in three simple steps…
Step one: take stock
If you’re already creating content for your business or personal brand, the chances are you’ll have what Jason calls a “beautiful mess of assets”.
Leadership can get messy, but this can be a good thing! You might have lots of content to work with already. Taking stock of what content you’ve already got and how you can use that going forward is a great place to start. This might include:
- Testimonials from clients
- Books, research, or white papers you’ve written
- Workshops, webinars, and presentations
- Blogs, podcast episodes, videos (including guest appearances)
Jason advises pulling together all the content that shows your credibility and authority. This way, you won’t have to create content from scratch, you can repurpose your existing content into more content, and build your thought leadership content library from there.
Step two: understand your goal
To increase its effectiveness, your thought leadership strategy needs to have a goal.
Do you want to make an impact? Make a difference in your industry? Get known outside of your current community? Boost your income?
These goals might be more business-related or personal – after all, we are talking about your personal brand!
Step three: create a plan
Jason suggests taking a step back and thinking about your personal brand and business as a whole. This is where you can work out what opportunities you may be overlooking, what content assets you’re underleveraging, or how to accelerate your progress towards your goals.
Then it’s all about putting this together and combining content with strategy – then executing your master thought leadership plan!
Maximizing your thought leadership strategy
As a thought leadership strategy is tied so close to your other business and personal goals, you might want to work towards more than one goal at once. Whilst it’s important to maintain a direct focus and not spread it too thinly, Jason advises pursuing activities that can help “stack the ROI”.
“Stacking the ROI” as Jason calls it, is doing one thing that can move you towards multiple goals at once. Jason used an example of wanting to bring more leads into your business, and so starting a podcast.
Creating a new type of content and distributing it consistently on new channels is a fantastic way to reach more people and generate new leads. But Jason’s “stacking the ROI” theory is all about making the most of those fringe benefits too. For podcasting, those benefits include:
- Having a rich library of content to use as you wish
- Raising your profile in a new space
- Networking with guests, listeners and other podcasters
- And of course, building your personal brand
Podcasting is brilliant for sharing your thoughts (so it’s a great content type to tie into your thought leadership strategy). But if podcasting isn’t for you, there are other ways to tap into this ROI stacking process too. Jason says writing can be just as effective…
“You can be writing blog posts regularly, and eventually that starts becoming pieces of your book. That way, you're testing out pieces of your book, but you're also doing content marketing, and building up anticipation that whole time as well.”
Whatever medium you chose, using your content to test your ideas is another key component to Jason’s advice. Getting your ideas validated by your audience will show you what they want more of, and what they don’t like. As a thought leader, you need to take this feedback into account. Listening to what your audience want and creating more of that content is going to keep them around.
I’ve spoken before about using content to test your business ideas. Find out my process in the blog post and podcase episode, How to Validate Your Content Ideas.
Why repurposing is core to a winning thought leadership strategy
Creating content for any business leader is time consuming, and you probably have a million other things to be getting on with. Jason sees this all too often with his clients. This is why repurposing is core to his thought leadership strategy development.
Just as branching out into a new content type, like podcasting, can “stack your ROI”, so can repurposing. In fact, Jason’s coined term is a great way to describe repurposing your content. And Jason’s seen it in action.
Jason spoke about one of his clients who had repurposed chapters of her work-in-progress book into content for her membership site. She repurposed the chapter into a theme for each month and used the feedback to help her craft the final version of her book.
But she didn’t stop there. She also sold packets of completed essays to university professors, used pieces in her marketing, and incorporated pieces into her newsletter too.
By creating and repurposing her content, Jason’s client was able to create multiple new offerings and nurture many relationships and revenue streams. Repurposing her thought leadership content allowed her to build her brand in multiple directions at once and really stack her ROI.
Jason’s number one tip for creating thought leadership content
Jason notes one final, important thing not to overlook when embarking on a thought leadership strategy, and that’s finding a medium that’s best for you. For him, it’s podcasting. Jason is a passionate podcaster and really enjoys it, which is why he’s stuck with it for over ten years.
This ties in nicely with my one piece of advice I always give to those considering starting a personal brand…just get started! Get the ball rolling by sharing your thoughts and opinions on social media, podcasts, videos, whatever suits you…and your personal brand will begin to grow.
Jason shared plenty more business and marketing strategy tips in our conversation – far more than I could include in this post! Scroll to the top of this page and hit play on the podcast player to listen.
For more from Jason, sign up to his newsletter and check out his podcast via his website.
Want to get started with your thought leadership strategy? Podcasting can get you in front of your niche fast. We can help you set up a podcast and work with you each week to transform every episode into engaging social media posts, graphics, blog posts and more. Find out how here.
Podcasting not for you? We offer a service to help share your expertise without the stress of content creation. Click here to find out more.