The world is looking for thought leaders who stand for something.
Right now, people trust your business more than their country's government, the news media, and NGOs, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer 2021.
Like consumers, B2B buyers are searching for meaning and purpose—even in their transactions. They're looking to partner with businesses that not only provide a product or service but also publicly espouse a purpose and noble values and beliefs. When we buy into leaders and brands that stand for something, we no longer feel like a cog in the wheel or a member of the procurement team for ABC Company. We're now a partner in making the world a better place.
Close to 48% of decision-makers say they consume thought leadership content for a minimum of 1 hour every week, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions and Edelman found. Almost 90% of those say thought leadership enhances their perception of an organization, and nearly 50% say it regularly influences their purchasing decisions.
Simply put, standing for something is good for business in 2021.
I know what you're thinking: We're a B2B business, not a big consumer brand. Does the world really care if we come out against gun control? What could we possibly stand for that isn't already "taken" by a bigger whale?
Thankfully, thought leadership a lot more nuanced than that.
Ask yourself this: Is your CEO, president, or CMO talking about industry-specific change and current trends?
Is he/she on fire when listing the ways your business is leading that change, or initiating a larger movement?
Did he/she develop a unique strategy around business operations or employee engagement during the pandemic that stood out as an example of industry leadership?
If so, it's time to give that business leader the mic.
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 soapbox for your CEO, but a chance to communicate personal values—and those of your business—to the world.
Tim Ryan, PwC's US chairman and senior partner, is a case in point. His POV blog posts are one of the reasons PwC has emerged as an organizational leader coming out of the pandemic. Tim is vocal about building a workforce built on diversity, equity, and inclusion, and also about building trust across PwC's employee and customer base.
Since the onset of the pandemic, Tim's POV blog posts have become 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, utilities, and manufacturing customers struggle with today's skilled workforce shortage. His POV posts revolve around the challenges of attracting workers to the skilled trades.
Jeff's posts (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 trade magazines, on the Veriforce website, and on their social media channels, seeking to grow the skilled workforce one laborer at a time.
Like Tim and Jeff, your business leaders can create POV content that turns members of the C-suite into thought leaders and drives real industry change.
Four Tips on Getting POV Content Right
1. Pinpoint a central theme or two
Regardless of their industry, PwC customers will be attracted to messages of diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) and trust. Similarly, every one of Veriforce's customers will struggle with the skilled labor shortage for at least the next decade. Keep your thought leader focused on his or her chosen themes so the posts don't come off as preaching.
Note: Both Tim and Jeff chose issues their business is equipped to actively help solve, tying their posts back to the bottom line.
2. Brainstorm possible topics and subtopics of your theme
If possible, map themes out throughout the year. Consider seasons, industry conferences, and more when planning.
3. Write effective POV blog posts
Use current and relevant stats to anchor the post. Tell real stories of customers or employees. Address readers in first person and speak to them directly.
Remember, the POV still reflects your business, and so it shouldn't be a leader's individual stream-of-consciousness rambling.
4. Distribute 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 distribution strategy for POV content:
- Business-owned media: Your website, and internal and external newsletters.
Tip: Getting your employees riled up about what your business stands for is arguably just as important as telling your customers.
- Industry trade publications: Print magazines, daily or weekly email newsletters, video interviews, and conference publications.
Tip: Industry publications have more content needs than ever, extending well beyond their monthly print issue. They're more than happy to publish your content in at least one of their media—sometimes in multiple places.
- Social media: Your business's social channels, your executive leader and POV author's social media posts, and those of any organizations he/she belongs to, or the boards they sit on.
Tip: Industry organizations want to support your business's core values, too. Using your author's well-established clout to get a POV post published is another great way to further your business' message.
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Bring your thought leadership POV front and center. Put internal marketing and PR efforts behind them the same way you do the rest of your content.
Because today it's not just about the sale. It's about showing up authentically in a way that leads your customers and industry into what's next.
More Resources on How to Become a Thought Leader
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