How to turn your corporate leader into an effective industry thought leader

How to turn your corporate leader into an effective industry thought leader

Business leaders have an opportunity to step up and lead the way on the big issues for their industry. Here we explain how to do that effectively – and why it’s worth it.

Effective thought leadership content is a vital tool for B2B marketers, bolstering brand perception, underpinning buying behaviours and giving executives an opportunity to engage with their stakeholders on the issues that matter most to their industry.

But the “industry insight” space can seem saturated and the volumes overwhelming, meaning that creating high-performing content is more important than ever. For the B2B marketing mix, powerful thought leadership can also support the increase in digital interactions between suppliers and customers that accelerated during the pandemic and are here to stay.

Why effective industry thought leadership content is important

Most B2B purchases have become more remote or more digital – a trend accelerated by the pandemic – including identifying and evaluating new suppliers and ordering and reordering, according to research from McKinsey. What’s more, the majority of B2B decision-makers prefer it that way.

 

At the same time, there’s a lot of noise. Around 40% of final decision-makers say there is more thought leadership content than they can manage, or that there’s too much in general, according to Edelman.

Fresh thinking, new perspectives, a take on trends and evidence-led thought leadership is what executives say will pique their interest, while content that’s too generic, lacking originality and sidestepping their problems will prompt them to navigate away.

 

Here are three points to keep in mind as you map out your own industry thought leadership strategy.

1. Know your audience and own your space

Speaking directly to your customers and understanding the issues that keep them awake at night will help tease out original insights. Keep up to date with emerging trends and recurring themes in your industry and how they might affect your customer’s business.

Comment on what’s coming up in your industry or on how the most compelling issues of the day – be it CSR, carbon capture or the metaverse – will directly affect businesses you interact with. More than half of buyers say they look to thought leadership to draw attention to topics that media outlets overlook but that are meaningful to their industry, according to Edelman’s report.

The flip side of that is not getting drawn into saturated areas unless you really have something to add that relates to your industry.

Owning the space by capitalising on your internal resources can also be a good way into thought leadership. Think about evidence, case studies or data that you have in house and lean on those to create your narratives. Consider how your own personal ‘take’ on a challenge or trend can add to the wider debate – we call this “finding a white space”.

2. Show your human side

Finding your own voice is what turns a leader into a thought leader. Do you want to be funny, serious, brave, authoritative, light or irreverent?

Thought leadership is all about putting a personality to an idea. Done well, it should allow the faces of the business to show their personalities. It strikes a balance between being authoritative and provocative, yet human – and can even be fun or humorous in tone. This means it also translates well to social media, which can help reach new audiences or drive traffic.

Finding your voice can also help you tackle sensitive topics as and when they arise. If you have developed an approach and an audience in your own industry then those people will expect you to have a view on any wider issue. For instance, responding to events like the war in Ukraine alongside ongoing industry topics requires an authentic, human approach, like that of Schneider Electric’s Chairman & CEO Jean-Pascal Tricoire.

3. Consistency is key

Consistency in output volume and content tone will breed success.

This doesn’t mean you have to have a unique point of view every time, but it does mean having an informed and useful answer to the big questions your industry and your customers are asking.

Having a consistent presence on LinkedIn, on a blog or on other social media platforms sets you up as a person who’s engaged in your subject and who follows industry trends. Think about what’s keeping your clients and customers up at night – what do they want to hear about and what format do they want it delivered in? Then deliver that to them in manageable chunks.

One of LinkedIn’s most influential thought leaders, with more than 3 million followers, is Liz Ryan, the CEO and founder of Human Workplace. Ryan sometimes posts multiple times a day, often just a line on a topic related to her industry, like this one:

Striking the balance

High-performing thought leadership content is intellectually rigorous, makes clear points that are directly relevant to the industry and is easy to consume.

Investing in sharing knowledge and striking the balance between being authoritative, insightful and provocative – as well as human and accessible – is no easy task. Yet, done well, it can be intensely rewarding, sparking conversations, boosting engagement and ultimately, driving up business.

 

READ MORE:

How to tell your sustainability stories with impact

Defending reputation in an age of misinformation: 5 things communicators can do

 

About the author: Gay Flashman is the CEO and founder of Formative Content. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

Gay Flashman - CEO, Formative Content
Author:Gay Flashman - CEO, Formative Content