CEO perspectives aren’t the only ones that matter. Here’s why you need a team-wide thought leadership strategy
- Thought leadership plays a key role in amplifying your brand presence and building credibility in your industry.
- Too often, brands approach thought leadership in a myopic way, focusing solely on a single individual.
- Instead, they should invest in a team-wide thought leadership strategy that incorporates experts from all levels.
- Leveraging multiple internal thought leaders allows you to better nurture leads across the sales funnel and provide greater value to your audience—a win-win outcome.
As a CEO, I’ve learned that it’s not enough to make major corporate decisions, lead and motivate a team, and create a company-wide vision for success—you also need to be a prolific thought leader, sharing your perspectives and insights along the way. Part of the issue is that we’ve entered the age of “The Cult of the CEO,” where our business leaders must follow the likes of Zuckerberg or Musk in becoming quasi-celebrities and the driving force of their brands.
This pursuit isn’t futile; I’m the first to tell our clients that the C-suite plays a key role in building industry credibility and connecting with their customers. But too often, brands approach it in a frustratingly myopic way, putting the burden on a single leader to represent the entirety of their brand and its intellectual capital. Other times, brands focus so narrowly on a single argument or conversation that they miss out on key opportunities to demonstrate their full command of their industry.
This often boils down to a lack of strategy: in the dash to make their CEOs thought leaders, marketers can put forward aimless brand statements that stay at 30,000 feet, never actually getting close to the ground where the company’s real work is happening.
That’s why a team-wide thought leadership strategy is so impactful—it demonstrates the collective expertise and leadership of your team. By drawing on experts from across departments and focus areas, you’ll be able to better speak to the nuanced needs and challenges of multiple personas at your target companies and build stronger relationships with stakeholders across the entire sales funnel.
A rising tide lifts all boats: a robust thought leadership program will indeed elevate the profile of your CEO, but it will also speak to the values, intellect, and skills that define your business and employees at all levels. Here are some best practices to keep in mind as you build yours.
Think of your strategy as the hub, and your thought leaders as the spokes
Ideally, you’ve done the research to ensure your content ideas are data-driven, your positioning sound, and your messages timely: this is where inputs like competitor and keyword research, sentiment analysis, and your own content performance come in. Your thought leadership strategy can give you a company-wide view of the individuals who can own these topics and messages, while leaving room to be iterative to account for unprecedented changes or events.
Think of your strategy as a “hub” for all the perspectives and bylines your organization is publishing. Done properly, it should give other subject matter experts (your “spokes”) an idea of where they can join forces, piggyback efforts, or connect the dots between conversations. Putting your head of HR and CTO in conversation for an article on pandemic tech innovation, for instance, can give you a deeper perspective and more interesting slant than two separate articles on the topic might.
Leveraging multiple personal brands also has a force multiplying effect, allowing you to draw on plural networks. Not only that, but it allows you to build engagement directly into your strategy by planning where your other thought leaders can spur generative discussion around your content, either through engagement (shares and comments) or sequential bylined articles that form part of a larger campaign or narrative.
When you take the time to strategize about how your employees can layer onto one another’s efforts and validate each other’s perspectives, there’s a greater chance that you won’t just own a singular perspective in your industry—you’ll start owning entire conversations.
Don’t be so desperate to say something that you end up saying nothing
When Quietly works with thought leaders, they’re quick to tell us about the latest changes in their industry, but hesitant to make forward-looking statements about why these changes matter to their customers.
In response to this, I like to ask “so what?” For every statement an expert makes in their content, they should be able to explain why it matters here and now, and why they should be the ones saying it. By continuously pushing for the “so what,” you should arrive at more meaningful commentary that furthers the conversations in your industry, rather than adding to the noise for the sake of it. The point here is to say something unique that no one else is talking about—and to say it in a way that cements your authority and expertise in the eyes of your audience.
It all comes back to assigning the right thought leaders to the right topics so that you can appeal to the right audience groups. Say you work at a SaaS company that develops identity and access management (IAM) tools for large enterprises. It makes sense for your director of technology to byline an article on securing APIs, speaking directly to the developers who will be using your products. But when it comes to forward-looking statements on how IAM enables long-term business success, having your CEO appeal directly to the executives signing off on your product may be your best bet.
Think long-term and big picture
You wouldn’t approach your marketing strategy as a series of one-off, siloed assets—so why let this happen when it comes to your thought leadership?
By creating a team-wide thought leadership strategy that is guided by data, involves multiple stakeholders, and builds in engagement from the get-go, you’ll successfully showcase your company’s brightest minds, appeal to audiences at the right altitudes, and elevate your brand in the process. We’ve seen what happens when a company puts all its eggs in one basket: make sure you’re building a resilient thought leadership team to last, not a token thought leader.
In the coming weeks, we’ll be posting more about how a team-wide thought leadership strategy can level up your brand. Sign up below to receive the next article in this series.
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Image: N E O S i A M/Shutterstock