6 Ways to Build Thought Leadership with Content

One of the best things about content marketing is how it builds credibility, amplifies authority, and makes you a thought leader.

But what exactly is thought leadership?

Wikipedia defines a thought leader as someone who “is recognized by peers for having innovative ideas. Thought leaders often publish articles and blog posts on trends and topics influencing an industry.”

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Forbes offers a two-part definition:

“A thought leader is an individual or firm that prospects, clients, referral sources, intermediaries and even competitors recognize as one of the foremost authorities in selected areas of specialization.”

“A thought leader is an individual or firm that significantly profits from being recognized as such.”

Based on these articles and the definitions they provide, it’s safe to say that thought leadership involves several things:

  • Being on the cutting edge
  • Constantly innovating
  • Being recognized for expertise and innovations
  • Sharing expertise and knowledge

Being recognized as a thought leader in your field is even more powerful form of inbound marketing than content marketing. But if you’re not a thought leader yet, content marketing (in addition to these self-promotion ideas from Harvard Business Review) makes it easier than ever to achieve that coveted status.

Use these 6 ideas to leverage your content marketing to build thought leadership:

1. Write about timely, trendy topics.

This type of expertise-building content works really well on your blog and in articles published in trade magazines. You can write about new laws and regulations in your industry, growing or declining trends, and your reflections and predictions in your field.

Here are some tools to help you write about timely news and trends:

2. Present at conferences and other events.

thought leadership

Being asked to speak at a national event in your industry means some people recognize your thought leadership already and is an opportunity for you to show others your expertise.

Start small with your local Chamber of Commerce and other organizations, and work your way up the ladder to national associations and conventions. Remember you can sometimes nominate yourself as a presenter to the organizations planning these events, or get some colleagues to suggest you.

After your speech, turn your presentation material into a SlideShare show, a series of blog posts, a short video or two, an ebook or even–if you’re lucky–a book contract.

3. Host your own events.

If you’re not widely recognized as a thought leader yet, getting a speaking gig at a national conference is practically impossible. But you can host your own events instead to demonstrate your expertise and make the local market more aware of you.

Consider organizing workshops, seminars, or even small expos in your area of thought leadership. Then do the same things with your material as if you had been at a bigger event:

  • publish your presentation on SlideShare
  • turn the workbook you created into a free PDF download
  • write up your notes as blog posts
  • share a video of your presentation on your blog and YouTube channel

If you handle it right, events are a great way to get free publicity from your local newspapers and TV stations, too. Make sure you give them advance notice of the event and send them a media kit.

4. Always be researching and innovating.

True thought leadership is equal parts expertise and promotion. You should be continually researching and innovating in your industry to stay on the cutting edge.

Then you can utilize your research in

  • data-heavy blog posts
  • articles
  • ebooks
  • infographics
  • charts
  • and more

…all of which prove that you walk the walk in addition to promoting yourself.

5. Use and offer expert interviews.

When you’re working your way up to thought leader status, interview other experts on your blog, video-sharing channels, and podcasts. You’ll be helping your audience and increasing your authority by association.
When you’ve become a thought leader yourself, be the expert others want to interview as often as possible. You can share the interview you were featured in the same ways: on your blog, video channels, podcasts, and more. These interviews are even more powerful if they land you on TV.

6. Write a book on your subject of expertise.

Even in the digital age, publishing a physical book with a big publisher still carries the most weight when you’re building authority and thought leadership.

Getting to a position where you can sign a book contract is hard, but once you do, it makes all the above ideas much easier.

Until you get to a point where you can publish a traditional book, self-publishing ebooks is a great way to go. Ebooks tend to have more value than the free content on your blog and other venues, and if you can prove how popular your ebooks are, they might help you land a traditional publishing contract.

How have you used content to become a thought leader?
Please share your ideas and experiences in the comments below!