By Kailynn Bowling, co-founder of ChicExecs PR & Retail Strategy Firm.
In 2021, most businesses are thinking about marketing themselves on Instagram or TikTok. While I love social media as much as the next person, it’s not the only promotional strategy in your toolbox.
I believe thought leadership will be one of the most important marketing strategies of 2021. While “thought leadership” might sound fluffy, it has a real impact on your business.
In fact, 31% of customers say trust is the most important thing they look for in a brand. If you aren’t cultivating a trustworthy image, how can you expect shoppers to trust you?
Plus, 2020 showed us how businesses need to get creative to make a name for themselves. With consumer confidence at historic lows, your brand needs to rethink its approach to public relations (PR) and get back to basics with thought leadership.
Why does thought leadership matter in 2021?
It’s a new year, and you have a new opportunity to position your brand as an industry authority. But why should you invest your energy into thought leadership, anyway? Isn’t that a marketing strategy from the 1990s?
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Not at all! Thought leadership is incredibly important in 2021 because:
• More people are online: With 40% of the U.S. saying they’re spending more time online, you have more opportunities to get in front of your audience. Thought leadership ensures you’re churning out quality, trustworthy content for folks to regularly consume while they’re quarantining.
• Customers trust brands less (a lot less): Well, the pandemic showed us that consumers don’t always trust brands. Many consumers don’t want outspoken influencers anymore — they want credible, unbiased experts they can trust. Thought leadership gives you an avenue to do just that.
• It opens doors: Are you having a hard time getting your pitches accepted? Or being invited to speak at conferences? Thought leadership opens doors because it showcases your industry expertise. When you’re the go-to person on a specific topic, everyone wants to pick your brain, which makes it much easier to score free PR.
Three Post-Pandemic Thought Leadership Tips
Brands often overlook thought leadership because it’s a long-haul strategy. You aren’t going to become a thought leader with one blog or after a week of religiously tweeting. But thought leadership is still valuable because it complements all your other marketing efforts by building trust.
Not sure how to do that? Follow these three tips to do thought leadership in 2021.
1. Solve a big problem.
Consumers seek out thought leaders because they have a problem. That might be a problem with:
You name it. For people to take you seriously as a thought leader, you need to zero in on a big, burning problem in your audience’s lives.
For example, a fashion thought leader wouldn’t write a blog about how to find cashmere sweaters (that’s way too salesy). Fashion mavens want to know the latest trends, and a thought leadership piece listing up-and-coming trends in fashion would solve that problem.
Before you do anything, identify the problem your expertise solves. Otherwise, your thought leadership marketing just won’t be useful or credible.
2. Educate instead of sell.
Nobody wants to read a thought leadership blog peppered with sales pitches. Thought leaders are most trustworthy when their goal, above all else, is to inform and educate their followers.
For example, if you’re setting up your CEO as a thought leader, you shouldn’t post promotional or salesy content on their Twitter account. Instead, post in-depth guides, tutorials, explainers or other educational content designed to help your audience. If you sell to your followers in thought leadership content, you’ll lose their trust and undo months of hard work.
3. Engage, engage, engage.
You can’t be a thought leader if nobody listens to what you have to say. That’s why engagement is such a crucial piece of thought leadership.
Your goal is to spread your message to as many people as possible, and that means getting social. If someone replies to your tweet, that’s an opportunity to engage. Ask questions in your posts, and give your thoughts on everyone’s replies.
When it comes to thought leadership, you get what you put into it. If you put in more engagement and interest, you’ll generate engagement and interest.
The Bottom Line
Much like the world, PR is always changing. 2021 is the year to dust off your thought leadership strategy to become a trusted authority in your industry. Be adaptable, stay humble and think on your feet. As long as you focus on reliable, quality information, you’ll do right by your customers and grow your brand in the process.