This article originally appeared on Forbes
Thought leadership is an overused word, but there’s a reason that everyone is clamoring to own it. In a highly competitive market, where we are inundated with creative promotions and daily news about the most innovative startup, directly engaging your audience with valuable insight is still a top way to reach and connect with customers, partners, and other industry influencers.
Yes, it takes time to step away from the day-to-day to really think about your point of view in an ever-changing landscape. And it takes even more time to create systems and find resources to showcase that point of view. But there’s no way around it — whether it’s through a blog, a podcast, a LinkedIn post or by becoming a media go-to, securing your spot as the leader of industry discussion matters.
It Sparks Important Conversations
When your company’s mission is to revolutionize the world — or at least one aspect of it — what better way to drive for change than showcasing who/why/how/what it will take to get there.
“CEOs of companies big and small, old and new have the unique opportunity to use their platforms to encourage dialogue, foster a sense of community, and facilitate innovation within their areas of expertise and beyond.
They have the ability to spark important conversations that promote forward-thinking initiatives like diversity and the advancement of women and people of color. At the heart of every decision, we make at Werk is a commitment to building a better future, and that is why we carve out time to speak at conferences, write essays, host educational events, and, importantly — build the argument for a new future with hard data.
Thought leadership isn’t just a marketing tool–it’s the best way to push the future toward the world we want to live in.”
—Annie Dean and Anna Auerbach, cofounders and co-CEOs of Werk, a startup championing flexibility as the future of work
You Have Real Advice to Share
No one rises to the top without a few war stories and major lessons learned. In this age of mentorship and yearn for professional development, people want to be able to understand how you got there and what you learned along the way. There are no shortcuts, but writing gives you the opportunity to spread your message to a larger audience.
“I never thought I would write a book. In fact, even after being pushed by my closest friends and colleagues, it still took me about 8 years to put pen to paper. But then I realized that every single time I was meeting with women about their careers, they were asking me the same exact questions. Most specifically, they all wanted to know how to succeed in business while still being nice. They were sick of playing a part that just didn’t feel authentic. So after the millionth conversation, I realized that by writing this book, I could reach so many more women and help change the vernacular and stereotype of what a strong leader looks like. The book gave me a platform to share my personal stories and advice and also the wisdom and anecdotes from some of the smartest, most successful people I know.”
—Fran Hauser, media executive, startup investor, and author of the soon-to-be-published The Myth of the Nice Girl
You Are Driven to Help Your Audience Solve Real Problems
A common misconception of thought leadership is that it’s a soapbox and an ego boost for one person. And while one’s expertise and wisdom is incredibly valuable, some of the best leaders use their platform to provide real service to its readers.
“In our experience, thought leadership is most effective when it provides a great amount of utility to your core audience. That’s why we think First Round Review has resonated like it has. It’s not about promoting a persona or brand. Instead, it seeks to understand what our audience needs but lacks to build great companies and careers — then focuses intently on delivering that extremely well.”
—Camille Ricketts, Head of Content & Marketing, First Round Review
You To Want to Learn More From Your Peers and Pioneers
The best leaders admit when they don’t know everything. Interviews with others in your industry—learning their founder story, mistakes they’ve made along the way, and the best advice they’ve received—is interesting and inspiring for your consumers and for you, too.
“I wish I could say that the success of Lumi’s podcast and YouTube show comes from a grand strategic vision. The reality is that my co-founder Jesse and I love to express ourselves through words and imagery. We would both be doing it regardless of Lumi. The content comes out of our genuine interest for the subject, which makes it more interesting and valuable to others. Lumi is an obsessively curious company, and anything we learn we try to teach. Creating content is a way for us to make sure we understand we what we are talking about. As Nicolas Boileau said ‘Whatever we understand well we express clearly, and words flow with ease.’”
—Stephan Ango, Cofounder and Chief Product Officer of Lumi.com, a Los Angeles-based company that provides packaging for online brands
No, thought leadership doesn’t happen overnight. But it’s never too early to start thinking to start an important dialogue with your audience. And from what we’ve seen, if you don’t do it– someone else will
Cari Sommer helps high growth tech leaders and VC’s create influence and inspire action through compelling content and PR. Find out more at www.sommercg.com.