The idea of tapping into the thought leadership space can be intimidating at first.  But if you take a moment to shelve the imposter syndrome and approach thought leadership objectively, you’ll see the advantages of nurturing and promoting your unique expertise.

In 2020, LinkedIn release the B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study and found 48% of survey respondents spent at least an hour a week consuming thought leadership content and a whopping 89% believe thought leadership increased a brand’s positive impact on them. Additionally, 49% of respondents reported a positive sales impact from thought leadership when it came to purchasing decisions. 

Thought leadership is on the rise. Everyone has something to offer — from unique insights to lessons learned. The best news is? There’s never been more tools available to help you get your message out. You can produce a webinar, live stream a virtual event or conference, and publish articles or ebooks to establish your authority. 

So if you’ve got the ideas and the expertise, you’ll easily find the best solution to get the word out. In this article, we’ll talk about how to build your thought leadership brand with webinars and live video.

What is thought leadership?

Thought leadership is a form of content marketing that establishes an individual or brand as an expert in a specific field. 

Thought leadership isn’t exclusive to lifestyle gurus or a CEO of a billion-dollar enterprise. Organizations like Zendesk reinforced their position as a leader by guiding their customers through the uncertainty of the early pandemic using video to share insights and industry news.

“With Vimeo, we launched a bi-weekly live show for global customers, during a pandemic, in just weeks, not months.”

Alvin Mudun, Senior Web Product Manager, EMEA, Zendesk

Effective thought leadership relies on a solid content strategy. And a thought leadership content strategy begins with a clear view of who your audience is, what their challenges are, what your competitors are doing, and fostering leaders who can share their expertise to serve the needs of your community.

How to build your thought leadership brand with webinars

Depending on your industry and communication style, there are many ways to build your thought leadership brand. The most successful thought leadership content strategies rely on a combination of content including webinars, events, workshops, social media, blog posts, and gated content.

Video can be a powerful way to connect directly with your audience wherever they happen to be. You can share your unique perspective, offer insights, and answer questions in real time.

Here’s seven tips on how to effectively build your thought leadership brand with webinars.

1. Offer a fresh perspective on a topic

Thought leadership requires a compelling speaker, deep understanding of your field, and insights people won’t be able to find anywhere else. Before you start planning your webinar, you’ll want to research widely.

Figure out what your competitors are doing, brainstorm questions that your audience might have for you, and use your company leaders’ combined experience in the field to guide your content.

You can use surveys and polls on social media to get an accurate picture of the challenges that your customers might be struggling with. Do regular content audits on Google comparing your existing content with competitors’ when it comes to specific topics, and internal audits to identify your top performing content to see what people are turning to you for.

Timely and relevant industry analyses, rich personal experiences, data that can’t be found anywhere else, insider knowledge, and thoughtful, perceptive case studies — these are all valuable forms of thought leadership content that can give you an edge on the competition.

2. Build a roster of thought leaders

Once you’ve gotten a clear understanding of what type of information could be useful to your audience, you can start tapping industry leaders from within your company or externally. 

Thought leaders come from all different departments. Think seasoned sales professionals, project managers, engineers, or marketing executives. Their perspectives may be informed by a diverse background, race, age or identity. They don’t need to be naturally extroverted or camera-ready at all times — your leaders might express themselves best as blog writers, podcasters, engaging orators or thoughtful panelists. 

You can also source thought leadership talent from industry events, networking groups, or by taking a look at who/what brands are gaining authority around your field of interest. 

The best thought leaders are people who have deep knowledge and understanding of their subject matter and are constantly seeking opportunities to learn more. They are passionate about what they do and open to being challenged. Moreover, they should love sharing their insights and helping others. 

3. Promote your thought leadership content

When you’re at the early stages of building thought leadership credibility with webinars, a promotion strategy is key. If your company is already well known among your professional circles, you have some advantage here. 

First, the low hanging fruit: change your header images on social networks to promote the webinar, advertise your event with a great landing page, and start collecting email addresses from people who visit your blog and website, and send a video email out to your existing subscriber and customer base. 

But it doesn’t end there. Thought leadership content is unique to content marketing in that you’re marketing the people, not just the ideas. You can look in areas where people expect insider knowledge — by using key hashtags on Twitter and LinkedIn, sharing articles written by some of your thought leaders on Medium, or engaging in industry-specific forums. Make sure your thought leaders are also actively nurturing and growing their own networks. 

A well thought out promotional content strategy paired with networking doesn’t just help familiarize your target audiences to your thought leaders, but also helps to test new material. This will help you hone your voice and offer attractive, needed and relevant content for your industry peers.  

4. Provide actionable insights for your audience

So you have a webinar date, and a handful of promotional materials. Your audience is engaging with information on social media channels or your company website. But creating a webinar is different from building short blog posts, updates, or quick-hit analysis. It’s a thought provoking and data-rich resource with the potential to disarm and inspire your audience.

Here are a few ideas to consider when scoping out your webinar content:

  • A well-informed but unconventional opinion on the culture of work in your industry
  • A case study with tons of data and rich insight 
  • An inspiring personal narrative drawing from an oft-overlooked perspective
  • Game-changing industry analysis or benchmark report
  • A fireside chat or panel discussion with some of the best known names in your field 
  • An in-depth tutorial or whiteboard analysis of a new trend or technology taking your industry by storm

A successful thought leadership webinar should be data-driven and confidently delivered. It should help your viewers improve their internal processes, encourage new approaches to the topic in relation to their business, and leave them curious to learn more about what you do.

5. Rehearse your content

Expect the unexpected and plan for several run-throughs with all speakers present before the webinar. 

Budget time for a tech run to test your tech and make sure everything is running smoothly. Closer to the date, do a dry rehearsal to make sure everyone is comfortable presenting content and to iron out any kinks. For this rehearsal, have a few members of your team watch along with the rehearsal to report any issues with stream, audio, or video quality.

6. Use engagement tools during a live webinar or event

A live webinar is a great way to deliver thought leadership content while keeping your audience engaged. After all, very few people have the patience and attention span to just take in information for an hour, no matter how riveting the message. 

Instead, mix it up with engagement tools: Ask some icebreaker questions and have a team member keep the chat going, post some polls, and include a Q&A either in the chat or at the end of the presentation. 

Remember that at the heart of thought leadership is relationship-building. Just as your audience is gaining useful information from you, you are also gathering inspiration from your audience about what they want to learn more about in the future.

“We used Vimeo as our streaming platform and utilized all of the engagement tools, chat, and Q&As, to broadcast in HD. For our leadership conference, that used to be a 150-person event, and this year we opened it up to 1,500 people. Vimeo allowed us to do that without much investment.”

Joel Basa, Creative Services Manager, Paychex

7. Be authentic

More than any other forms of content marketing, thought leadership draws from the charisma and expertise of the speaker. Leading with personality, authenticity, and a refreshing delivery fast-tracks you to more qualified leads. 

After all, audiences respond better to real and relatable people. And if you have information or insight that could help them reach their own goals? That’s magic. 

“Live video encourages both the host and the guests to be more present. You feel more vulnerable, but that makes it a more authentic experience for the viewer, which I think keeps people more engaged.”

Eileen Wertzberger, Kansas State University

Leave plenty of opportunities for your audience to sign up and follow during the presentation, through links in the chat or in the presentation description. Gently follow up with them in the days after, either with a feedback form or an invitation to book a call. 

And don’t forget to maximize your audience engagement with a webinar recording and a clear video distribution strategy. When done well, thought leadership content can be as evergreen as you want it to be.

FAQs on thought leadership

What does thought leadership mean?

Thought leadership is a type of content marketing where individuals and brands establish themselves as an expert in their field of specialization. The goal is build authority in a specific field and become a go-to source for information. It can take the form of a webinar, a keynote speech, ebook, or series video or blog content that accrues authority.

How do you demonstrate thought leadership?

You can demonstrate thought leadership by producing content that offers a unique point of view or personal narrative, rich data analysis of industry trends, a case study with an insightful takeaway, a panel discussion on a specific topic, or expert predictions on the health of your field.

Which platform is best for thought leadership?

Thought leadership is best when it can live on a variety of different platforms. Aim for content that can travel widely and be shared frequently without the content going stale, and mix video, audio, and written content.

Wrap up

Thought leadership can’t be established in a vacuum. Video and other tools are critical for individuals and organizations looking to distribute their message and connect with the right audience.

Leveraging video can be a powerful way to reach your audience, share insights, build brand recognition and establish yourself as an expert in a specific field. Discover more ways video can help forward your brand.

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