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thought leader

10 Key Ways To Stand Out From The Crowd & Be A Thought Leader

To be a “thought leader” is one of the most sought-after titles a marketer can hope for.

Thought leaders are influential individuals who play a huge role in informing the public, leading the direction of the industry, presenting new information and breaking barriers.

Theirs is the content that is loved; shared; read; and sought-after.

You can’t just go to school to be a thought leader, though. It requires the careful cultivation of a set of particular skills, strengths and networks. It’s not enough to simply be intelligent, hard working or interested: you also need to be passionate, unique and unafraid of pushing the boundaries of possibility.

thought leader

What is a True Online Thought Leader?

Thought leaders are many things but, to put it simply, they’re the people to whom everyone else goes for new ideas and key questions. They are informed individuals who offer valuable opinions and inspiration for the people who learn from them and they serve the amazingly important purpose of turning intangible ideas into solid realities.

Thought leaders make things happen and, more often than not, they undertake the task of transforming industries and instigating great change across varieties of platforms.

Thought leaders in the content marketing world include Brian Clark, the CEO of CopyBlogger; Brian Halligan, the Co-Founder of HubSpot and Joe Pulizzi, the Founder of Content Marketing Institute.

How to Be a Thought Leader: 10 Solid Tips

Becoming a thought leader is a little bit like becoming a unicorn: it takes a lot of effort and just a little bit of magic. Fortunately, you’re totally capable of both of those things. In the world of content marketing, the process of becoming a thought leader boils down to having unique ideas, expounding upon them in a unique way and offering people real, tangible value.

Follow these 10 tips to become a thought leader in your industry.

1) Be Authentic

Although it’s part of a thought leader’s job description to create high-level content that answers tough questions and provides real value for readers, it’s also important to know yourself and know your audience. This is especially difficult when you take into account the external pressure that is exerted on though leaders all the time. While it can be tough to avoid becoming distracted by things like the analytics attached to your blog, it’s important to remember that those things don’t provide a real window the to the big picture.

Additionally, they make it hard to remember that there are actually people behind all those swoopy lines and numbers. Because of this, the first step to becoming a thought leader is to be authentic, both to yourself and your audience.

You came to this business because some aspect of it was interesting to you. Therefore, there is very little that is more important than continuing to chase that interest. By writing what you know and are passionate about, your content will already have an edge over a great deal of content available on the Internet. Additionally, doing this will allow you to draw a series of followers who genuinely care about your topic.

How We’re Being Authentic (On Social)

One way we’re working on our authenticity is bringing a new level of transparency in our social media. In August 2015 we opened an Instagram account. We’ve started to feature a weekly #virtualworkforceculture post about our remote writers, with a picture of their faces, in their location: and our CEO has been traveling weekly to local businesses for a #localbusiness feature. among other things. Here’s a glimpse:

Featured #virtualworkforceculture of the week – our full time creative #writer, Oana G, based in Milano, Italy: “As you can see, I’m fighting a lost battle with clutter. To be honest, I like to surround myself with eclectic, odd, one-of-a-kind things that offer me the highest dosage of inspiration and energy. I love to connect objects with places and experiences, and I adore my job, because it allows me to get creative in my own environment.” #workfromhome #homeoffice #copywriter #copywriting #writing #marketing #SEO #contentmarketing #blogging #SMM #content #inboundmarketing #growthhacking #marketing #webtraffic #success #sales #expresswriters #photooftheday #loveit #selfie #instadaily #picoftheday #igers #instacool

A photo posted by Express Writers (@expwriters) on

This is the start to a very transparent social account that shows just what we’re up to in the office, and ties together faces in our work-at-home based team.

2) Seek to be a Hub of Information

Nobody wants another loudmouth marketer who takes over a huge portion of the Internet by hawking products or hard-selling readers. For this reason, one of the most important steps in becoming a thought leader is to dedicate yourself to being a hub of information rather than a blaring siren.

Business and personal blogs should act as platforms for reader engagement and should seek, primarily, to offer value to customers. Additionally, these platforms should offer a place for people to gather and engage in conversation via blog comments, tweets and re-tweets or social media shares. By doing that, you serve the most important purpose of a thought leader: inspiring ideas and facilitating cohesion.

3) Inspire Action

One of the most important purposes your content can serve is to inspire action within your readers. Your content should be so irresistible that people want to share it on social media, read the book you mentioned, try their hand at something new or travel to the exotic locale outlined in your most recent post. The goal can vary but the outcome should be the same: in order to be a thought leader, your content needs to move people to action.

4) Cultivate Your “Breakthrough Idea”

One of the traits of thought leaders everywhere is that they’re associated with a breakthrough idea. Depending upon your niche, your breakthrough idea could be an area of expertise or a particular approach to an old topic. Whatever your breakthrough idea is, it should inform the rest of your content.

For example, if you’re going to run a blog about optimizing efficiency and getting more done with less stress, your guests should be people who do that very well, your topics should be focused around wellness, productivity and success and your layout should be conducive to the rest of the message. The breakthrough idea informs the thought leader, who then informs the audience.

5) Be Consistent

Even if you write great content with a unique and inspiring message, it’s going to be tough for anyone to get onboard if they can’t predict where you’re going to go next. For this reason, thought leaders need to be consistent. Consistency promotes trust and accountability and gives people something to look forward to within your material.

6) Be Present

It’s hard to be a thought leader if you’re not actively participating in your industry and maintaining a consistent web presence. With that in mind, get out there and get published on a regular basis. It’s great to write several posts a week for your individual blog, but the true leaders will take this a step further by guest blogging, writing for authoritative sites, publishing a variety of content on dozens of different platforms and writing for industry leaders. This promotes a larger audience and contributes to a more recognizable brand.

7) Shoot for the Stars

Nobody ever became a thought leader refusing to hit for the bleachers. Because of this, it’s important to make big claims. Have confidence in your expertise and your brand and don’t be afraid to drive new ideas. This is one of the main things that set thought leaders apart from everyone else: thought leaders make big claims and they deliver results.

It’s impossible to make innovative change in your industry without doing this. Don’t worry about doing it all in a day, however. Just shoot for developing the ability to make big claims and, soon enough, your achievements will change as a result.

8) Network

Networking is an important part of becoming a thought leader. It’s tough to exist as an island and, in order to claim maximum success; you’ll need a network of like-minded individuals around you. In order to attain this, it’s important to work closely with influencers and mentors and participate on several social media platforms.

Additionally, you should be reaching out to followers by responding to comments, tweeting and re-tweeting and getting intimately involved in discussions on sites like Quora. Don’t miss opportunities to attend in-person events and conferences and call on your network when you need it. The easiest way to rise to the top is to have people prepared to help boost you.

9) Break Rules

This goes hand in hand with making big claims but it’s an important part of the equation. In order to become a thought leader, you need to get really comfortable with breaking rules and transcending boundaries. The fact that somebody said it’s not possible should mean next to nothing to you and, if anything, you should take it as inspiration to succeed. Think of it this way: boundaries are there to separate thought leaders from everyone else and it’s your job to figure out a way to jump over them.

10) Think Different

It’s no secret that one of Apple’s most successful slogans was “Think Different.” That’s exactly what Apple has always done and if there were ever a tech industry thought leader, it’s safe to say that it has been Apple and Steve Jobs. In order to become a through leader in any industry, though, it’s important to do just that: by thinking different you help yourself stand out from the crowd. You also fill gaps in content, provide new ideas and help customers connect to you.

Becoming a thought leader is not an overnight process but by working on these 10 points, you can be well on your way to becoming an industry thought leader in no time.

content in 2016

The Key to Memorable Content in 2016: How to Tell Your Best Story

“What do you mean?” he said. “Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?”

J.R.R.Tolkien, The Hobbit, Gandalf speaking

content in 2016

What is “timeless” in our mind, as humans? What stays unforgotten, down through history?

The Bible. J.R.R.Tolkien. C.S. Lewis. Leo Tolstoy. William Shakespeare. Emily Bronte.

These are familiar names that are correlated with stories. Some of the greatest stories, of all time, ever written. And you know what? Nearly 90% of us (I bet those of you reading this post) know those names.

That’s pretty incredible – they’ve stuck that well through years and years of history.

Let’s turn from the world of unforgettable authored storytelling and look at a few marketing stories. Some aren’t boring, luckily.

If you were to sit down right now and turn on the television, what would you see?

Far too many commercials. And all these commercials have one thing in common: a story.

Regardless of whether they’re advertising a drug or a new car, commercials are one of the most easily identifiable instances of storytelling in marketing today.

The best commercial is the best-told, most-shared story.

Take, for example, the Budweiser Super Bowl commercial of 2015:

At first glance, you wouldn’t think that a Clydesdale and a yellow Labrador puppy have much of anything to do with beer, but this commercial did storytelling so well that it went viral with emotional connections (some shed tears).

So what is it about these brands and, more specifically, how are they getting their consumers to relate, love and appreciate their story—and immediately gain that connection?

All with the use of a great story?

And will this grow a lot in 2016?

Let’s find out.

Storytelling & Content in 2016: Why The Brain Loves Stories

It goes without saying that storytelling in marketing wouldn’t be nearly as effective as it is if our brains weren’t ravenous for stories. It’s been estimated that we spend roughly 1/3 of our lives daydreaming, which means we’re constantly searching for an entertaining tale. What’s more, we consume upwards of 100,000 digital words on a daily basis, mostly in the form of advertisements and web copy, and the majority of us (about 92%) want to be able to internalize those words as a story.

For an example of this, consider Budweiser again. What sounds more appealing to you, personally: a list of ingredients including water, barley malt, rice, and yeast or a “best friends” tale of a little dog and a big horse who found friendship on the Budweiser farm?

The answer is obvious.

Budweiser opted for story over facts because the human brain loves stories much more than it loves lists of boring details. In fact, it’s been proven that storytelling in advertising actually activates interactive portions of the brain. For example, if a person reads a list of facts, only the language center of the brain is activated. If a person hears a story, though, the language portion of the brain lights up alongside other portions of the brain that are connected to personal experience.

In other words, experiencing a story makes us feel a personal connection. This is why storytelling in advertising is so incredibly effective: when a brand can tell a story that triggers an emotional connection in the consumer (like Budweiser did when I cried at their advertisement), that story has a higher likelihood of being remembered. This is due in large part to the fact that the brain releases dopamine during intense storytelling experiences, and this, in turn, leads to sales and conversions down the road.

Storytelling also engages the phenomena of “mirroring” in the human brain, which means that people listening to a really great story will share emotions with other viewers, but also with the person telling the story. To put this another way: if you can tell a story that fully underlines how life-changing, unique, important, and special your product, good, or service is, consumers are likely to agree with you.

5 Tips for Finding The Pot of Gold (Your Story) With Content In 2016

If you’re unfamiliar with brand storytelling or you’re simply interested in getting better at it, there are five key things that you can do to outshine your competitors and ensure that your stories are ones that customers want to engage with. These will hold strong in 2016:

1) Get real

Would the Budweiser ad have been as moving if it featured, say, an intergalactic alien duo? Probably not. The reason for this is that regardless of where you are at this exact moment in your life, you can probably relate to the cuteness of a puppy, the bond between friends, and the love of pets better than you can relate to life in outer space.

In other words, the Budweiser ad works because it is authentic.

Over the past several years, authenticity in content marketing has risen to near-epic levels of importance. This is at least partially due to the fact that there are more than 80 million millennials living in the U.S. today and 43% of them rank authenticity as more important than content in everything from news to blogs. With that in mind, it’s clear that the hokey advertising blasts of the 1950s-60s are dead and that a new wave of advertising has entered the picture. Not only does this advertising have to tell a story, but it has to be an authentic story.

For an example aside from the Budweiser ad, consider Rand Fishkin. Founder of Moz and SEO guru extraordinaire, Fishkin has built an Internet empire and is widely regarded as one of the key influencers in the industry. But it wasn’t always that way. In fact, Fishkin almost went bankrupt in the early years of his career and he talks about it openly in a 2011 blog post titled “Just Keep Going.” Now, why would a successful guy like Rand espouse on his near-catastrophic early failures? Because it happened, it is authentic, and it helps people connect with his brand in a real and personal way. When it comes to storytelling, it doesn’t get much better than that.

2) Let your personality shine

There are innumerable companies online trying to sell products, so what’s going to set you apart? It’s likely that the product you sell is also sold, in some form or another, by roughly 742,561 competitors and, in light of that, there’s virtually nothing more important than letting your personality inform your storytelling. Consider Dollar Shave Club for a moment, who is maybe one of the best examples of a company that’s done this exceedingly well.

Dollar Shave Club sells razors, which is nothing new. But the way they’ve gone about it is. In the beginning of the brand’s career, the brand raised $75 million to fend off big name competitors like Gillette. Since the 2012 launch of the company’s now-viral promotional video, starring founder and CEO Michael Dubin, the company has grown to account for 13.3 percent of all razor sales in the U.S., with a subscriber base of more than 2 million customers. Part of that success is certainly due to a great product, but a healthy portion of it is due to creative storytelling that brands the company as unique, quirky, and fresh.

3) Create characters your audience loves

In the days of old, people used to wait months to read serialized versions of novels, all because there was a character in the story that they related to on a personal level. It’s a very powerful thing for a brand to create characters their audience wants to connect with and doing this ensures not only that the brand will be remembered by consumers, but it will also be recommended by consumers.

Consider Progressive Insurance, for example, who has created Flo. Flo is portrayed by Stephanie Courtney. The character has her own Twitter and Facebook profiles and has appeared in upwards of 100 of the company’s commercials.

Flo Twitter Screenshot

While insurance companies may all blend together for consumers, it’s likely that even if people don’t remember Progressive’s name, they’re going to remember the company’s advertisements and, thanks to Flo’s quirky, relatable nature, they’re going to choose Progressive over a company with a less effective advertising persona.

To follow in Progressive’s footsteps, create characters that your target persona will relate to and root for. This enhances consumer bonds to your product and ensures that you’ll outshine your competition in 2016.

4) Give it structure

We all learned in middle school that every good story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. This holds just as true for brand stories as it does for novels. In the beginning of a story, you should immediately establish the setting and characters. The middle should focus on the conflict that is central to the story. The end should offer a resolution. For a fantastic example of this, consider Amazon’s recent commercial advertising its “Prime” subscriber service.

The beginning of the commercial opens with the main characters (Jessie and his dog Flash). The middle of the commercial establishes the fact that Flash is in a cast and that he can’t romp with the other dogs and, frankly, that he feels a little embarrassed about his current state. The end of the commercial provides resolution when Jessie heads to Amazon Prime and orders a baby-wearing device (with free two-day shipping, of course) to tote Flash around in. The story is wrapped up in a neat little bow, the consumer is happy, and the value of Amazon Prime has been established through the structure of the advertisement.

5) Pace yourself

In storytelling as in life, it’s important to pace yourself and not give everything away at once. An effective storytelling campaign, much like an effective novel, is very careful to build and maintain a sense of tension. This keeps audiences wanting more and ensures that they’ll keep coming back to find out what happens next.

When a brand paces its storytelling effectively, it creates an environment in which the consumer is virtually embedded in the brand experiences. For a recent and timely example, consider the Christmas ads that Target has been running on television lately. The commercials are organized into Chapters (a nod to the novel) and tell the story of several children (all dressed in Target clothing) and Bullseye, the trademark Target dog, who go on an epic quest to light a huge Christmas tree for the enjoyment of the people.

 

Like the Advent calendars of yesteryear, this storytelling method provides excitement, fun, and anticipation for the consumer. After a consumer has viewed the commercial, he or she is directed to a special portion of Target’s website where the consumer can interact with a virtual storybook and access curated gift lists for kids of all ages.

 

Target Screenshot

 

In addition to promoting Target’s various products, this form of storytelling also borrows a bit from the epic adventure stories we all know and love. In this way, it makes audiences feel involved, excited, and linked to Target’s brand, while also helping people get into the Christmas spirit.

Find Your Story: Tell It

 From novels and movies to commercials and beyond, stories have always been deeply ingrained in the human experience and, when they’re good, they’ve always been one of our favorite ways to feel connection to other people.

Marketing has changed by leaps and bounds throughout the last several years and, today, the marketer who is the most likely to be successful is the one who can best establish an emotional connection with clients. One of the most sure-fire ways to do this is and has always been through brand storytelling.

While storytelling has existed as a marketing tactic for decades, storytelling in 2016 promises to be more colorful, more personal, more intriguing, and more exciting than ever. As customers move toward favoring brands that are authentic, innovative, reliable, and unique, marketers can stay ahead of the curve by following these tips on storytelling and ensuring that every piece of content your brand puts out engages your customers through effective, irresistible storytelling.