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The world is looking for thought leaders who stand for something.
According to the Edelman Trust Barometer 2021, people currently trust your company more than their country’s government, news media and NGOs.
Like consumers, B2B buyers look for purpose – even in their transactions. You are looking for partnerships with companies that not only offer a product or service, but also publicly represent a purpose and noble values and beliefs. When we buy leading companies and brands that stand for something, we no longer feel like cogs or members of the ABC Company’s procurement team. We are now a partner to make the world a better place.
Nearly 48% of decision makers say they consume thought leadership content for at least an hour each week, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions and Edelman found. Almost 90% of respondents say that thought leadership improves their perception of an organization, and almost 50% say it regularly influences their purchasing decisions.
Put simply, standing for something is good for business in 2021.
There is no shortage of examples in the B2C world: Nike stands for racial equality, Dove (real beauty campaign, Athleta’s support for female athletes of all ages and sizes.
I know what you’re thinking: we’re a B2B company, not a large consumer brand. Does the world really care if we speak out against gun control? What could we stand for that is not already “caught” by a larger whale?
Fortunately, thought leadership is much more nuanced.
Ask yourself: Is your CEO, President or CMO talking about industry-specific changes and current trends?
Is he / she on fire listing how your company is leading this change or initiating a larger movement?
During the pandemic, did he / she develop a unique business operations or employee engagement strategy that stands out as an example of industry leadership?
If so, it’s time to give the mic to that business leader.
Have them express their point of view in a POV blog post.
Become a thought leader: The POV blog post
A POV blog post shouldn’t be a soap box for your CEO, but rather a chance to convey personal values - and those of your company – to the world.
Tim Ryan, US President and Senior Partner of PwC, is a case in point. His POV blog posts are one of the reasons PwC emerged from the pandemic as the organizational leader. Tim advocates building a workforce based on diversity, equality and inclusion, as well as building trust in PwC’s workforce and customer base.
Since the pandemic began, Tim’s POV blog posts have grown so popular that he created a LinkedIn newsletter called Talking Tomorrow with Tim Ryan, which has attracted over 23,000 subscribers in less than six months.
Another example is Jeff Muto, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer at Veriforce, a supply chain risk management software company. Its oil and gas, renewable energy, utility, and manufacturing customers are grappling with today’s skills shortage. His POV posts revolve around the challenges of attracting workers to the craft.
Jeff’s contributions (The Changing Landscape of the Global Workforce, Get Off the Couch, America: The Skilled Trades Need You! And Unlocking the Challenges of the Transient Skilled Workforce) appear in journals, on the Veriforce website and on their social media channels, aiming to increase the skilled workforce, worker by worker.
Like Tim and Jeff, your business leaders can create POV content that will transform members of the C-suite into thought leaders and drive real change in the industry.
Four tips for creating POV content correctly
1. Identify a key topic or two
Regardless of their industry, PwC clients are drawn to messages about diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) and trust. Likewise, every Veriforce customer will have to contend with the skills shortage for at least the next decade. Keep your thought leader focused on the topics he or she has chosen so that the posts don’t come across as a sermon.
Note: Both Tim and Jeff select problems that their company can actively help solve and tie their contributions to the bottom line.
2. Brainstorm possible topics and subtopics of your topic
If possible, set the themes throughout the year. When planning, factor in seasons, industry conferences, and more.
3. Write effective POV blog posts
Use current and relevant statistics to anchor the post. Tell real stories from customers or employees. Address the readers in the first person and speak directly to them.
Remember that the POV still reflects your business and therefore should not be a leader’s individual stream of consciousness.
4. Spread your blog post
As B2B marketers, we know that where, when and how a post is distributed is often just as important as creating the content. If you don’t get it in front of the right audience, how can it make an impact?
I advocate a three-pronged sales strategy for POV content:
- Company’s own media: Your website as well as internal and external newsletters.
Tip: It is arguably just as important to annoy your employees about what your company stands for as it is to tell your customers.
- Industry publications: Print magazines, daily or weekly email newsletters, video interviews and conference publications.
Tip: Industry publications have a greater need for content than ever, which goes well beyond their monthly print edition. You like to post your content in at least one of your media – sometimes in multiple locations.
- Social media: Your company’s social channels, your executive and POV writer’s social media posts, and those of any organizations he / she belongs to or the boards they sit on.
Tip: Industry organizations also want to support the core values of your company. Using your author’s established clout to get a POV post off is another great way to get your business message moving.
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Bring your thought leadership position at the center. Put in-house marketing and PR efforts the same way as the rest of your content.
Because today it’s not just about sales. It’s about appearing authentically in order to lead your customers and your industry into the future.
More resources to become a thought leader
Do you want to become a thought leader? A framework and guide for your thought leadership strategy
How to Build a Thought Leadership | MarketingProfs webinar
How to Become a Thought Leader (And Why You Should Be): Mitchell Levy on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]