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10 Ways Marketers Can Establish Themselves As Thought Leaders

10 Ways Marketers Can Establish Themselves As Thought Leaders

Learn how CMOs can develop a personal brand and become established thought leaders.

Being a successful CMO, or even a would-be CMO today, means establishing yourself as a thought leader should go hand-in-hand with developing a personal brand.

Part of this might stem from the “eating your own dog food” principle. If a marketer is really an expert in making use of content marketing channels to reach their target audience, for example, why wouldn’t they demonstrate using their key insights?

The other driving factor is related to the nature of being a marketer today. Far from acting as the person who simply purchases ad space or oversees the creation of sales collateral, many marketers are now helping to define and articulate a brand’s identity, its sense of mission and purpose. In that sense, they can also join the CEO and other members of the executive team in amplifying the company’s message, but in a way that provides value based on their unique perspective and experience.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of thought leadership, it’s a means of demonstrating expertise and your commitment to being a trusted source for those seeking information. Thought leadership can not only help a marketer in their long-term career but reinforce the credibility and authority of the brand they represent.

This doesn’t have to be a chore or burden to do. Much like the old adage of “write what you know,” thought leadership begins by tapping into what you have seen, heard and done that could benefit your customers and peers.

Once you’ve got something to say, here are some great ways to think about saying it:

1. Build up your byline

Lots of brands run blogs, but too often the author of the posts are simply labelled as coming from the firm’s staff or team. That might be fine for posts related to a product announcement or upcoming promotion, but people will remember your blog based on the posts that left them feeling educated and inspired.

If you haven’t already, create an author profile for yourself on the company blog and develop posts based on topics that relate to the work you’re doing. Pull back the curtain on how you helped lead the firm’s latest marketing campaign, or even more personal insights on where you develop ideas, your approach to being productive or setting goals.

Sometimes your insights might not align with your own firm, and that’s okay. Think about guest-posting on other blogs, publishing as a LinkedIn Post or any other appropriate platform.

2. Develop a downloadable dialogue

There’s no better way to increase your “share of voice” among other thought leaders than by using your actual voice to discuss the latest trends and issues on a podcast. This is a medium that’s still in growth mode, with low barriers to entry.

Don’t feel like you have to record half-hour monologues, though. Think about hosting or co-hosting a podcast that features other members from your team, your customers or even some of your peers in the marketing community.

3. Commit some ideas to the camera

We’ve become a culture of watchers, whether it’s videos on our TV screens, laptops, tablets or even our smartphones.

Videos are another free-form option for content that gives you lots of flexibility in terms of length and approach.

While “talking head” videos were once frowned upon, YouTube is filled with creators who have mastered the art of having a compelling chat directly into the camera. You can do the same and treat it as an occasional series or something more regular. If you don’t love being filmed, there are plenty of tools available to make simple animations to get a point across.

Best of all, videos can often be embedded across multiple social and digital channels, getting you more bang for your efforts.

4. Seek out the stage

You may not be asked to deliver a TED talk the moment you decide to become a thought leader, but many events and conferences put out calls for people to participate in breakout sessions or panel discussions where you can begin to offer powerful thought leadership content to a captive audience.

If you enjoy speaking, consider making a “sizzle reel” that shows you in action, which you can offer to event producers. Of course, your firm may host events of its own, so use those as a launching pad where possible.

5. Don’t just curate, annotate

You were probably expecting to see the use of social media to share thought leadership here, and of course it’s a no-brainer. Channels like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook all offer great ways to weigh in on topics in short but effective ways.

What would-be thought leaders sometimes overlook, though, is the potential to layer some insights on the content they share via social media. Instead of simply hitting the “retweet” button when you share a great article you read on Twitter, for instance, offer one or two sentences on what stood out to you. Annotating like this is like giving some extra guidance to those who follow you on why they should click through.

6. Look for live social opportunities

Almost all social channels are offering the capability to “go live” and provide an experience akin to streaming a sporting event. This includes Facebook, LinkedIn and of course Instagram. You can schedule and inform your followers in advance when you’re going to be streaming, perhaps while attending a conference where you can offer a quick recap or reaction to industry news.

If going live on camera seems terrifying at first, you can also take baby steps with more of a text-based approach to going live, such as hosting or simply participating in a Twitter chat, or taking questions in your Instagram Story.

7. Make friends with the media

Thought leadership doesn’t always mean developing final products, but being ready to give the kind of sound bite that becomes a talking point in a bigger story.

If there are publications you and your customers follow regularly, offer a short email message to the editors summarizing your areas of expertise and how you can be contacted. The next time they’re working on a story and are searching for a good source, they might turn to you, and being part of their story can confer the kind of prestige that money can’t buy.

8. Win with webinars

It may just be a set of slides in some cases, but webinars are one of the tried-and-true approaches to walking through difficult subject matter and hosting a sort of virtual conference. Firms may turn to third parties like consultants or customers to take part in webinars, but marketers like CMOs can often serve as a great moderator.

Much like videos, webinars also provide different ways to reuse content, whether it’s writing a blog post that summarizes what was said on the webinar, sharing the recording on social media or embedding it on your site.

9. Build up to a book

This is often seen as the pinnacle of thought leadership, and for good reason. A book is the ultimate kind of longform content that can influence those in your orbit. It’s also far easier today to self-publish a book, even if it’s a relatively short eBook.

Not sure if you have a book in you? Take a look back once you’ve published a couple dozen blog posts. Can they be edited into a coherent narrative? Try the same thing with transcripts of talks you’ve given or videos you’ve produced. Sometimes the raw materials are right in front of you.

10. Champion the hottest emerging channels

No one likes to fail, but being a thought leader means occasionally taking risks in exploring territories others have yet to tread.

Who’s the top CMO to make use of a social media service like TikTok? Is there a top marketer you can name who is an established thought leader based on virtual reality content? These are still wide-open playing fields, so play with them! If these channels take off, people will be hungry for content, and yours will be there to feed them.

Thought leaders are rarely born, but they can be self-made. If you’re an experienced marketer, it may be time to start marketing yourself.

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