In an age where audiences face information fatigue and consumers are more skeptical than ever of companies and individuals who self-promote, the traditional advertising strategies just don’t get the job done anymore. Instead, consumers are moved by thought leadership, where business leaders provide genuine value to consumers without even the slightest trace of self-promotion.
We all know it takes more than a toque hat to be a chef. But nearly every industry has a surplus of thought leaders advising on best practices and inspiring others. So, what makes some leaders stand out from the crowd in today’s noisy marketplace? Here are some strategies that can help business leaders prime their voice, tell their story, and be heard in even the most crowded of spaces.
Show don’t tell
The advantage of successful thought leadership lies in demonstrating expertise without simply talking about it. Yes, your wall of illustrious awards and that trophy cabinet are indeed impressive. But, more importantly, your audience wants to know what you’ve done (and the results secured), to earn these accolades. Therein lies the true value for them.
For example, if you’re an expert on sustainable business practices, you don’t want to just merely talk about how much you know about the field or outline the recognition you’ve received. Instead, you’ll want to roll out a comprehensive content strategy that develops in-depth articles tackling specific challenges and exploring the tactics businesses are using to save resources. Rather than provide the reader with a sales pitch, you are showing them the ‘proof in the pudding’. When done correctly, you can demonstrate that you’re the go-to expert in your field and somebody who is 100% worthy of their trust!
Effective branding is driven by storytelling because it connects you with your audience on a human-interest level. As is the case with corporate branding, your executive branding voice should resonate specifically with your audience. They should be able to relate to and essentially see themselves in your service or product.
When you are your own product, as is the case in executive branding, you must get personal in telling your story. If your content lacks individuality, authenticity and could probably be posted by anyone else in your field without distinction, it’s time to add your own personal charm. Focus on making sure the messages you send reflect your unique perspective, which will ultimately add context, purpose, and passion to your work.
Go for depth, not bulk
It’s important to remember that being a thought leader doesn’t mean knowing everything about every aspect of your field. Instead, it’s about being the go-to expert within your particular niche, which can and should be very narrow.
To prove expertise, the stories you tell must dig deep. A singular detailed blog post that is backed by research and personal analysis will take you much further than 20 high-level, vague posts. Rather than mass-producing articles to automate a constant stream of content, redirect your energy and focus to developing very thorough, comprehensive pieces that confront the most pressing challenges in your field and draw from specific experiences you’ve had.
If you stick to what you do best and develop that niche over time, you will end up in a less noisy space with more opportunities for your voice to come through and be heard by those who matter most.
Make providing value a core priority
People often make the mistake of thinking executive branding merely asks, “Who am I?” But, more importantly, it begs the question, “What value can I provide?” After all, if you can’t provide value or at least incite introspection on a topic with your skill set, then that topic shouldn’t be part of your brand.
At face value, the driving purpose of work seems simple: do work. We’re hired for our jobs to perform tasks, complete projects, and achieve goals. It’s straight forward or so it would seem. So what gets in the way? The vast difference between plans and actuals: people get sick, budgets get cut, vendors are late or the requirements of a project become more intricate than originally expected. Or a pandemic shuts down major parts of the global economy.
Change is the only constant and we need to expect the unexpected. Making problem-solving a core value will help you scale any roadblock that comes your way. When you integrate value into your executive brand, you’ll be empowered to tell compelling stories about confronting problems with effective solutions – which will establish you as a problem-solver.
Get a team of experts behind you
Have you ever wondered how some people in your industry rise to the top seemingly out of nowhere and snatch up the best clients, speaking engagements, and contributor spots? More often than not, these outliers have not done it on their own. After all, executive branding requires a range of skills such as writing, design, media relations, social media, digital marketing, etc. Not to mention, the amount of time needed for strategic planning and execution. The most successful people don’t try to do everything on their own. They play to their own strengths and then surround themselves with the people who can help them in other areas.
An expert team knows that executive branding is about much more than pretty pictures and a good one-off story. Your executive voice must speak to the bottom line of your business and tell a consistent and cohesive story, encompassing the right messaging, visuals and brand strategy/positioning. Hiring an expert team is the best option for leaders who need to focus on managing business and serving clients, rather than getting caught up in learning new tools and techniques.
When you get an expert team behind you, you won’t be alone on your professional branding journey. You’ll receive a precise plan backed by years of experience, deliverables for success, and, most importantly, the peace of mind that comes with hiring the right professionals who know how to get the job done.
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