• Elaine Keep

Can I be a thought leader?

Sometime around 6 years ago, thought leadership became the 'thing'.

We all know that content is thin, patchy and often, not worth the pixels it's written in., so the obvious solution is 'to add value'.

If only it was that simple.

We have written thought leadership pieces for various people in various companies, but the ones that really work follow some set rules which I can share here today. I am referring to the 'one man' thought leadership posts here, as opposed to 'expert advice' and 'guides' which are a different flavour entirely.

  1. You have to be in a position that warrants people wanting your leadership

It's a nice idea to have Andy from Sales talking about the real issues in the energy sector, but if 2 years ago he sold widgets for another company and has no real experience of the challenges in a broad and deep way, he will sound like a fraud and the piece won't get the respect it deserves, even if it is great.

Great leadership comes from leading in the space, or at least experimenting with it and learning some lessons on the way.

Take this blog content. If I was to discuss marketing when I was 21 years old in one of my first jobs, I'd be talking out of my behind, or rehashing something my own manager believed. To have something to say, you have to have lived a little, or have experienced something wildly different and unique. While Steve Bartlett, ex CEO of Social Chain is young, he can garner respect and be a true thought leader because of his success in a short time frame, despite his age. This isn't a rally against being 21 and writing content designed to inspire and motivate, but a call to draw on diverse experiences. That might be something from your personal experience, instead of your limited experience in the energy sector.

Take another young gun, Molly Mae, now creative director at Pretty Little Thing. While she openly admits to not being a veteran of any business, she represents something very valuable - a walking demographic segment of their ideal customer.

In my fictional example, were Andy the only candidate to create leadership pieces we would have to switch it to another perspective and use his personal demographic (age and experience in OTHER sectors) to add a totally unique angle.

It's not worse than a CEO's view, but it will probably be a little less 'certain on it's feet'. That's okay, it's again, just a different flavour of thought leadership.

  • 'What Gen Z probably thinks about your energy loyalty scheme.'

  • 'Investing in cross-generational loyalty campaigns could be the smartest move for energy companies right now. Here's why.'

  • What I learned from moving to energy from selling widgets

  • 'What energy brands can learn from Monzo.'

2. Popular people get more likes

I know, high school never ends. A CEO of a business will likely have a couple of thousand followers on LinkedIn just from their title alone. Sure, there will be a LOT of recruiters in there, but still, eyeballs are eyeballs. If you're Andy publishing a post, it's a lot harder to pick up that traction from your existing network, and given you will have been working 2 years vs 25 - your actual contacts will be much more limited. It's not to say that's a hard and fast rule - but it's just going to be a harder hill to climb if you don't have that 'baked in' position of authority.

3. You should be comfy addressing an actual concern.

Thought leadership doesn't have to be loud or brash or focused on playing devil's advocate, but you should be starting by identifying any serious concerns or areas of improvement in your industry and talking about this in a practical, experience led way.

As every problem has a solution and every process has room for improvement, there are endless ways to pitch this.

From 'upcoming trends' to 'what you learned at Conference X' - you need to present a working solution or a better alternative to that dilemma.

4. You need to get comfy with the long burn

So that you can win

  • Trust

  • Leads

  • & Sales

You need to invest into a short period of talking into the void for a while, refining that strategy, finding your voice and responding to the audience.

If you'd like us to create thought leadership pieces for you, or to show you some of the great examples we have live on LinkedIn right now, get in touch with us.

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