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Thought Leadership: Using Your Experts’ Expertise

Sara Tetreault

Brand Strategy Director, Forum One

For many mission-driven organizations, a big part of their strength lies in the expertise of their people. Using this expertise to share innovative ideas and be thought a leader in their field can be a valuable part of ensuring credibility.

Before we get started, let’s clarify by saying that we are talking about “thought leadership,” a term that many see as nonsensical or jargony. That withstanding, the “essence” of the term “thought leadership” is important for organizations that peddle in the business of ideas, particularly research, innovation, and policy. No matter what we decide to call it, using the expertise of your team is an effective way to increase brand awareness, ensure that your audiences see you as credible, and be a valuable voice in the dialog about your area of work. By the way, if you are reading this blog, you are helping us position our experts as “thought leaders.”

If you aren’t engaged in building thought leadership at your organization, maybe you are wondering where to start. Perhaps you are already using your thought leaders to create content, speak at conferences, or share their expertise with the world but want to make the most of it. Either way, this post covers some easy to execute tips for how to successfully leverage thought leadership to build credibility and share your organization’s work.

Figure out what you want to say

Starting with your mission and vision, determine what kind of expertise you want to leverage to bolster your work. Perhaps you are looking to increase donations for a particular issue, this might require building expertise in a particular area so that people are more likely to think of you when donating to a cause. Maybe your organization’s strategy is to secure partnerships with like-minded organizations to conduct research on a particular topic and you can leverage your existing researchers to share out information about this topic. Determining what you are trying to say will help you better formulate how you are going to say it and to what end.

Determine who is going to say what

First and foremost, you should determine what your experts have to offer. Likely, everyone within your organization is either an expert or interested in being an expert on one specific topic. Identifying who can best share their expertise that best relates to what you want to say will help you share their work while leveraging the organization’s mission and vision. 

For each expert you have identified as a thought leader for your organization, determine how you can best use their unique tone within the organization’s brand voice. This is key is ensuring that they are both a part of the organization’s voice, but that they are able to retain their own tone that will allow them to build leadership as an individual. Consider this as similar to how editorials or longer investigative journalism pieces are written for a publication or website; they are clearly a part of the parent brand but use their own unique style.

Find the most effective channels

If you are to effectively reach your audiences, you should have a general idea of where and how your audiences consume content. Blogs are typically a great place to store your content, but perhaps there are other areas where you can leverage thought leadership as well such as social platforms, online publishing such as Medium or editorial placements in larger publications. Events are another way to share expertise, whether that is a standalone event such as a webinar or talk, or participating in a session or workshop that is part of a larger event.

The key is to determine where your audiences are most likely to be. This information could be gathered through audience and desk research, data analytics, or past channels that have been successful in helping achieve your stated thought leadership goals.

Make the most of your experts’ time

Effectively positioning your organization as a leader in your area of work takes time. It is a slow progression of building a set of content and experiences that your audiences can trust. Be sure to make the most of your experts’ time by ensuring that you have a strategy for why you are asking them to create content.

Written By

Sara Tetreault

Brand Strategy Director, Forum One

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