One of the best things you can do to grow your business or brand is to contribute meaningfully to topical conversations online, as well as providing free content that will help people solve their own problems.
While this may seem counter-intuitive if you're actually trying to sell a product or service, if you're actually generous with your knowledge and can help people "help themselves", it's the fastest way to gain the trust of your audience and as a result they will start see you as a "go-to expert" in the marketplace.
Publishing has historically been the domain of authors, journalists and writers of all walks, but the trend to consistent publishing by individuals and brands, particularly in social media, has quickly expanded to the point that most businesses have a content strategy of some description as part of their marketing strategy, (or at the very least the “intention” to publish regularly under their company or leader’s personal brand.)
While this method of growing your brand (and business) can be relatively straightforward, this definitely doesn’t mean it is easy. It takes a lot of time and effort, as well as a knack for positioning yourself strategically in the marketplace.
In order to build up your reputation as a trusted authority in the marketplace while simultaneously running a business, you'll need to lay the groundwork for a content-producing system that goes the distance.
You can’t just jump right into it though, because the first step towards becoming a trusted authority in an area is not about throwing yourself headfirst into the fray and duking it out with your contemporaries - it’s actually about taking a step back, and being honest with yourself if this is even for you.
Those who are new to producing and distributing content tend to not have a firm foothold yet in what exactly they want to talk about, and if you are constantly flipping from topic to topic in an incoherent manner it's hard to build structure around that.
Plus, you're still "finding your voice" which is an important (and exciting!) part of the discovery process. There's no shame in that, and everyone goes through it at some stage as they start to build their reputation online.
In this scenario you’d be best to produce a few pieces of your work, see if it resonates with those who you want to connect with, and get a feel for whether this even the journey you want to embark on.
Once you know what you want to bring, and how you would ideally like to position yourself (or your business), and have validated your message, it then makes sense to go to the next step of articulating and then systematising the type of content that is going to support your objectives.
Developing a content engine that is going to provide the grunt and power your thought leadership strategy isn’t for the faint-hearted or those who are relatively new to business or an area.
To really get yourself out there, build your reputation as someone who really has a lot to contribute to the marketplace in this area, and actually grow your audience, you'll need to be producing authentic, valuable content, consistently.
To sustain this, you'll need to think about developing a content-producing system to power your efforts and your message, an engine that will help you churn out content for multiple platforms or channels with a metaphorical “flick of a switch”.
It is not a simple thing, it will take time and effort to build it up, but it's a great investment because once you do it's an investment that will pay extraordinary dividends well into the future.
Building an effective and sustainable content engine also isn’t for those who have a lone-wolf style, wanting to do it all alone.
In order to have a system that consistently churns out content that is true to your brand values and characteristics, you will need solid processes and support systems in place being handled by people you trust.
On the flip side, a content engine isn’t ideal either for people who are not fussy about their work and are quite happy to outsource it to random freelancers.
You'll need to be strategic about it if you want to produce content that the market has an appetite for, which is content that is authentic, uniquely "you", and relevant.
This happy-go-lucky method of producing content leads to inconsistencies in styles and messaging, resulting in negative perceptions of your brand, which in reality can be far more damaging than publishing nothing at all.
If you’ve asked yourself these questions and cleared the bar, you may be ready to consider scaling up your thought leadership content by laying the foundations for a content production system that goes the distance.
Maybe you are a well-established marketer with scores of people relying on you, taking up all your time because you are the cog that keeps the whole machine churning, or perhaps you are too busy with your clients to focus on yourself - these things can get in the way of setting aside enough time to become the thought leader you know you can be.
Fortunately, having an efficient system in place built upon well-thought out groundwork can free up your time for things that really matter to you.
So how do we lay the groundwork for your thought leadership content engine?
Before you invest precious resources into feeding the perpetually hungry "content machine" you'll want to ensure you've got the fundamentals covered, otherwise you'll be expending time, money and energy without seeing fruit.
The first step is to define your expertise. Easier said than done when you're a "jack of all trades" or skilled in multiple areas.
The "curse" of many entreprenuers and business owners is that they are exceptional in so many areas. As a result it's hard to become known for something in particular. And while this may not need to be your "forever niche" it is important to have a platform from which to springboard a clean entry into the noisy and cluttered marketplace.
Consider these fundamental questions specifically in the context of who you you would want to be coming to you for advice/help:
Who is your audience?
What is your message?
What makes you different?
Asking these questions of yourself can help you rise above the noise of millions of other thought pieces out there.
Gary Vaynerchuk, known for his exponential rise on social media, once said,
“the first step towards building a personal brand is to be self-aware about what you have to add to the conversation. You have to understand what you do and the thing you want to talk about.”
Simply rehashing opinions from others is not enough - you need to be original.
And being original is not something you can artificially manufacture. Your authenticity will only shine through if you are honest with yourself about your characteristics - as a person and a marketer.
Your potential audience doesn’t just want to know about a particular “thing”, they want to know your perspective on it. They need a reason to read your content instead of someone else’s.
In order to rise above the clutter, you need to have a position that matters and can inspire action or change in the consumer.
Only when you deliver valuable content to your audience in a way that is uniquely you, you are portrayed in their minds as a person with expert opinions and a refreshing perspective.
Once you have defined your expertise and what you stand for, the second step is to be a resource for your audience.
You need to serve them with valuable content across multiple formats - think social media, media articles, podcasts, videos, blogs, and even email (yes valuable content, not spam and promos). It’s no good having groundbreaking knowledge on a topic if no one ever hears about it.
Don’t box yourself into the digital sphere either; put yourself out there and meet people face-to-face! One of the best ways to build relationships with people is to connect with them on a more human level beyond the screen of your laptop. Go to networking events, accept offers to speak in public, become a voice in your industry by submitting your work for publications in trade publications etc.
This third step in laying the groundwork before you build your content engine is to build genuine connections with your audience. One of the most powerful ways to connect with them is to deliver authentic, "life-improving" content, forming a bond that goes beyond a simple buyer-seller relationship.
Providing genuinely helpful content on a consistent basis demonstrates your usefulness to them and establishes your credibility, which leads to a deeper connection between you and your audience. People naturally trust those who are authentic and knowledgeable, and tend to veer away from people that seem too “salesy.”
Once this relationship has formed, your audience will trust you and will be more receptive to your messaging, allowing you to leverage the principle of reciprocity, increasing your effectiveness as a marketer.
Completing these three vital steps will give you a solid foundation as before you can build a content engine to power your content production, you first need to be in a position know that you're producing the right message, for the right people.
It's vital that you check that your messaging even resonates before you begin to scale it.
And there's really only one litmus test that will give you the validation you need.
If so, that's excellent. These are signs of a promising start on your way towards becoming a respected thought leader - because a thought leader is someone who's is being "followed" by others.
You don't have a leader without followers, and you're only a "thought leader" if they're following you for your "thoughts" and insights.
Building your content production systems will take a lot of hard work and honest conversations with yourself, so it's worth getting the foundations right, and even many experienced entreprenuers, marketer and business owners take time to really nail the pieces above in the context of building their own reputation online.
But once you do it, you can then start to get things in motion that will help you scale your message and get it in front of the right people, who will be helped and impacted by what you have to share.
And ultimately putting time and effort into this process will sow seeds of success that you can harvest in the future, eventually rewarding you with more time to spend on things that are important to you.
If you are established in business, have a message to share, and you are ready to take your position as a trusted authority, but not sure how to start, grab my book Becoming a Respected Thought Leader: The Ultimate Guide for Experts, Entrepreneurs and Business owners.
In it you'll learn exactly what it takes to deliver high quality, thought-provoking, action-inspiring content that will position you as the go-to expert and keep your audience coming back to you for more!
About the Author:
Nina Christian is passionate marketer and mentor to young marketers and entreprenuers in Australia and around the globe.
She specialises in leveraging timeless strategic marketing principles along with branding psychology to help businesses, experts and entreprenuers succeed by strategically positioning them as thought leaders through transformational content.
Her marketing agency Braveda, founded in 2000, is a boutique marketing agency (est. 2000) that specialises in building brands through thought leadership and content creation, and was named Best Marketing Agency at the 2018 Australian Marketing Excellence Awards and Nina was named 2018 Certified Practicing Marketer of the Year (Victoria).
Nina believes believes every marketer deserves the chance to build a career that inspires and is helping young marketers become the marketers the world wants and needs through Launch Your Marketing Career.
She is also an entrepreneur with several start-ups under her belt, including a successful exit in 2008 of a pioneering ecommerce brand she co-founded in 2001.
She is a Fellow of the Australian Marketing Institute, and Chair of the AMI State Committee in VIC.
Nina is a regular speaker on the subjects of Marketing and Entreprenuership and believes there has never been a more exciting time to be a marketer.
Outside of work (which she loves!) Nina enjoys the outdoors, is an active CrossFitter, and after 3pm most days is off-duty having fun with her five young children and doing mum stuff.
Interested in some of the "behind the scenes" goings on?