As our communication campaigns increasingly address SEO and particularly organic search, thought leadership becomes even more important.
Here’s what I mean and why it’s important to put yourself out there.
When it comes to organic search, Google and other search engines place a premium on backlinks. They interpret backlinks as “votes” for the content.
Of course, to generate backlinks, you must create content that prompts other digital properties to share your content with their audiences. For the type of content that grades out as shareable, it’s typically not product information or a personnel announcement or an industry award — information we characterize as company-centric. Instead, it’s the type of business storytelling that’s useful or informative and ultimately helps people in their jobs.
In short, thought leadership plays at the industry level, not the company level, ideally offering takes that can’t be found elsewhere.
Such dot-connecting points to blogging as one of the best platforms for thought leadership.
At the risk of stating the obvious, defining the objectives for a company blog goes a long way toward determining whether a blog truly delivers on the promise of thought leadership. I was reminded of this point recently in pursuing an award competition for blogs. I established three primary objectives for Ishmael’s Corner back in 2008 that remain relevant today:
- Cultivate an industry resource for communication professionals
- Bring meaning to the concept of storytelling in business communications, offering pragmatic advice/insights
- Create a halo effect for The Hoffman Agency that ultimately differentiates the Agency in new business and the recruitment of talent
With the first objective setting the stage for thought leadership, I went through the exercise of analyzing 126 posts published within the competition’s timeframe. Would the data support my premise that the blog strives for thought leadership?
It turns out that fewer than 10 percent of posts fell into the Agency-centric bucket. Out of the 139 posts published between May 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014, 126 played at the industry level. It seems fair to say that I’ve managed to avoid the “me, me, me, and here’s a little more about me” trap (though this post does deliver an ironic twist to the previous premise).
Drilling down to the next level, I categorized the industry posts by topic which you can see in the pie chart below.
While posts on storytelling techniques + visual storytelling constitute the largest part of pie at 31 percent, there’s still a healthy spread over a number of macro topics. It might seem odd that I write as much on journalism as social media, but this comes from the belief that communicators should be students of journalism. The best business storytelling in today’s world comes from journalists.
Curious about the riffs on news events, I captured those as well:
- Sense of Humor from U.S. Soccer
- Adam Silver Press Conference
- Omnicom and Publicis Breakup
- LinkedIn Enters in China
- Warren Buffett Shareholder Letter
- Lame Tweets at Super Bowl
- Brands in Sales Mode at Super Bowl
- Eight Predictions for Super Bowl Tweets
- Omnicom and Publicis Proposed Merger
Given my love of sports, it’s no surprise that more than half of these posts relate a sporting news event to storytelling techniques.
OK. Now turning back to the question, are others sharing these thought leadership posts?
Again, the reality matches the theory. Open Site Explorer indicates over 40,000 external links to the blog, roughly doubling the number from two years ago.
Taking our own advice seems to be working.
As for the awards competition, I’ll keep you posted (even though that would qualify as an Agency-centric post).