The CEO’s Role as Thought Leader in the New Era of Engagement

It is critical for CEO’s to champion a trustworthy voice for their company’s brand and execute a consistent content cadence

By Alan Young - President of Puzzle Partner Ltd.

17 April 2018
  • The CEO’s Role as Thought Leader in the New Era of Engagement

Young

Gone are the days in which CEO's can expect to remain a faceless, behind-the-scenes force of the company. Think Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos – and the growing list of rock star C-level execs. Within a dynamic industry landscape, CEO's across all verticals are stepping up to become the driving market force behind their brand, openly advocating for their company's values, culture, and intellectual capital.

A company's brand is often an extension of their chief executive's reputation. Many CEO's have nurtured the organization's products and services from initial conceptualization, to the (sometimes uncertain) beginnings and through to those first indicators of success and consumer-driven momentum. As a CEO, you're committed to the long-game. Positioning yourself as an industry thought leader will give your company a sought-after voice, create a competitive edge, build customer loyalty and ultimately boost revenue.

Effective thought leadership establishes a company as both customer-focused and innovative while demonstrating a clear sense of direction and industry expertise. An active thought leadership strategy can even act as the catalyst that helps CEO's to test new ideas.

We're entering a new era of consumer and industry engagement that focuses on company leadership. Thought leadership is the driving force of this new era. Not sure where to begin? We can help.

Thought Leadership is About Expertise, Not Sales

The first step to effective content marketing lies in the understanding that brands need to give, before they expect to receive. The problem with most content marketing strategies today, is that they clearly demonstrate a one-dimensional intention: to sell. Sales pitch after sales pitch, blogs become a long-form, copy-rich version of unimaginative banner advertisements. Essentially, you're not providing them any value, before asking them to give you something (their business). You're expecting them to invest in you, without investing in them, first. Unfortunately, this mentality fails to understand the dynamics of successful consumer courtship in 2018. Consumers today are experts at sifting through content across various platforms and, as a result, their engagement is entirely selective and often dismissive to this transparent, sales-driven approach.

When it comes to most products and services, customers remain loyal to companies they trust. You want your company to be seen as having mastered your industry and offering, continuously bringing new and relevant expertise to the table. Delivering innovation is also key to ensuring that the viewership understands that you have a full grasp on the future.

CEO's should jump at the opportunity to address their customers and industry colleagues directly, not just with lead-generation content, but with their own expertise. Being a thought leader does not happen overnight simply because you declare yourself one; it happens when you establish a trustworthy voice for your brand and execute a consistent content cadence.

Think about some of your favorite brands and products - how cool would it be to have one-on-one time with those CEO's to pick their brain? That is, at its core, the value of thought leadership.

Establish Your Content Cadence

If you aren't committing regular time and content space to thought leadership, you aren't doing it correctly. CEO thought leadership is much more effective — or should I say, only effective — when it's consistent. Because when it comes to establishing and maintaining consumer interest, content cadence is everything. With this in mind, carve out weekly space within your monthly content strategy calendar that is directly allocated to thought leadership.

As aforementioned, these articles shouldn't be created with the intention to sell or specifically promote your product; instead, they are meant to connect with your audience and cement you as a leading expert and a trustworthy face of your company. Find the topics that are most important to your target audience and use these articles to tackle those industry questions, news, latest breakthroughs, foresight and more.

There's Value in Visibility

When it comes to content marketing these days, we are all operating within a heavily weighted pay-to-play landscape. Quite simply, visibility can come at a price. However, with a firm grasp of thought leadership and industry-relevant content, the trajectory of visibility drastically increases. Companies are no longer merely paying to occupy a spot on a web page; rather, their CEO's have established a reputation of newsworthy, insightful content and industry commentary.

These are the articles which boast higher engagement, earn that 'featured' spot and are more likely to be picked up and shared across partner publications and LinkedIn channels. While traditional PR remains important to a brand's success, it's the inclusion of this kind of genuine content momentum that will help make a household name for your brand.

Further, don't be afraid to engage with content after it's shared. Thought leadership content should not be confined to a 'publish it and forget it' mentality. Those leaders who remain part of the conversation on their channels, use panels to start relevant discussions and engage their audience are those which establish the most trust and an authentic brand voice.

Keep Your Expertise Specific

Content creation doesn't come naturally to all of us and being a thought leader doesn't mean you need to spend hours slaving over an empty document, at a loss for the words to articulate your expertise. While the ideas, voice, and direction need to be the product of the CEO, there are plenty of opportunities to subtly outsource to industry experts to bring your ideas to eloquent fruition.

However, with this in mind, steer clear of outsourcing to generalized marketing or content writers. Thought leadership isn't meant to be general or cookie-cutter in nature. You're not putting out content just for the sake of putting out content — you're looking to make waves and say something of substance. In order to remain faithful to this purpose, ensure you work with industry experts who are aligned and well versed in your ideas, specific subject matter and industry.

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Alan Young

Alan E. Young is the President of Puzzle Partner Ltd. and co-founder of Next Big Thing Travel & Hospitality. Previously, Alan has held executive sales and marketing level positions with startup companies such as Newtrade Technologies, (acquired by Expedia), Hotel Booking Solutions (acquired by IBS Software) and TrustYou. Alan is past Chair of the Board of Directors of The OpenTravel Alliance and has been very involved with other industry associations most notably AHLA, HEDNA, and HTNG. With over two decades of experience in the travel and hospitality technology world, Alan specializes in helping innovative companies achieve winning performance and dramatic growth.

Alan Young

CEO
alan@puzzlepartner.ca