The larger a company grows, the more difficult it can become to select which key players should be a brand’s thought leaders. Not only is the pool of qualified candidates bigger — extending from the C-suite and marketing team leaders to subject matter experts throughout the company — but it’s also not uncommon to see transience among leaders. Appointing a few to represent the brand might feel like putting a bunch of the company’s eggs into one basket.
But it’s critical to remember that when a company adopts thought leadership as part of its content marketing strategy, leveraging the human elements of its leaders — complete with their own personalities and individual experiences — is the key to success.
Behind the brand are the talented people who power that company, and highlighting employees’ unique experiences, knowledge, and insights will not detract from the overall messaging. In fact, it’s the best way to build the brand.
By nature, some companies are difficult for the public to relate to. If you’re not specifically interested in advanced aerospace technology, you might not be familiar with SpaceX, a leading company designing, manufacturing, and launching rockets and other spacecraft. But because of his ability to share his unique insights and beliefs, you’re probably much more familiar with the founder and CEO, Elon Musk.
While Musk doesn’t always explicitly promote his companies or associated brands in each interview or piece of content he publishes, he gives his audience plenty of opportunities to learn more about him, his background, and his areas of expertise, and this builds up his brand and those of his companies.
Thought leadership content works in very much the same way, taking one person from an organization and crafting content around his personality, industry insights, and experiences to attract and build relationships with the company’s audience.
Steve Jobs is another great example of an industry leader whose unique experiences and personality helped foster millions of profitable, meaningful relationships between the public and his company. Jobs was an innovative — albeit polarizing and controversial — leader whose company continues to advance the consumer electronics industry, even years after his death.
In the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer, 70 percent of those polled cited industry experts as the most trusted spokespeople for businesses, and those respondents also ranked a “person like yourself” and a “regular employee” higher in credibility than a company’s CEO. That means your brand should be doing a better job of making a CEO or other C-suite executive a “person like yourself” and of getting key “regular employees” published more consistently.
By offering personable, interesting thought leadership content from key employees, a company can successfully differentiate itself from competitors while helping its audience connect with it, form a relationship, and view it as a trusted resource over time.
Of course, not all company leaders have the charisma and public profile of a Steve Jobs or an Elon Musk, but that shouldn’t stand in the way. By connecting with publication editors, companies can create and publish original content on a number of online industry publications.
After surveying more than 150 editors in our network, Influence & Co. discovered that publication editors are hungry for more content from contributors: 86 percent of editors are planning to increase the amount of guest-contributed content on their sites, and 92 percent indicated a preference for content written by industry leaders and experts. One editor even shared with us that “it’s imperative to get direct content and insights from key players in the industry.”
It’s the personality, individual stories, and insights from key company leaders that make thought leadership content so valuable, and that value is ultimately what will separate those leaders from competitors in their industries.
Consistently publishing great content boosts your company’s credibility, but getting personal with your content builds trust, which is absolutely essential for clients and customers to form strong, loyal relationships with your brand. Encourage your company’s leaders to start sharing individual experiences by taking a stance on relevant industry trends and sharing personal insights to increase the value of their written content.
Selecting which key players within a large organization should represent the brand can be a difficult task. Many factors come into play, including the employees’ positions, longevity within the company, niche expertise, public profiles and credibility, and willingness to invest their personal time. But these people, each contributing unique expertise, can give your company a platform of influence. In a large company of qualified employees, choosing thought leaders can be tough, but the decision to embrace an individual’s personality shouldn’t be.
I am a Vice President of Influence & Co. I'm passionate about entrepreneurship, technology, Mizzou, and all St. Louis sports teams. I've contributed to Forbes, Entrepreneur, Under30CEO, and Linked2Leadership.