Are You a Thought Leader or a Thought Follower?

PropelGrowth Blog

When you publish content, do you sometimes have that fear that someone is going to publicly disagree? Is that a rational fear? Several people publicly disagreed with an article I wrote this week for an industry publication.

The Article Started a Conversation

Creating compelling thought leadership content can sometimes mean being at the center of controversy.The article triggered comments and online discussions in several places – both in comments on the publication’s site and in LinkedIn groups. That was the goal – to start a conversation and build awareness around an issue in financial services that I (and my client) believe deserves more attention.

Not everyone agrees with the conclusions I drew in the article. That’s a good thing, because they’re talking about it. One of the keys objectives in an effective thought leadership strategy is to trigger a response and to get people talking and sharing. That’s how you build awareness and capture mind share.

It is OK to be Provocative

If you write bland content that you’re confident everyone will agree with, then they’ll be less likely to pay attention or talk about it. Writing the same thing that everyone else is saying is not thought leadership, it’s thought followership.

Are you a Thought Leader or a Thought Follower?

If you’re going to be a thought leader, you need to take a stand. Your content should take a clear position on an issue. Not everyone will agree, and some may dismiss your company because they disagree. Hopefully, they’ll disagree vocally, because that helps to get a conversation going.

Compelling Does Not Have to be Controversial

Being provocative does not mean that you necessarily have to take a controversial position. In the financial world, banks have to be particularly careful with being too controversial. But even regulated companies need to produce content designed to provoke a response. Otherwise, there is little point in creating content at all.

Being Provocative Does Not Mean Being Confrontational

Part of being compelling is provoking a response. But that does not mean that the content has to be confrontational. It could take a collaborative tone, taking a position and encouraging opposing views. For example, think about live panel discussions you’ve attended. Are the most interesting and engaging panels the ones where everyone agrees, or where they politely disagree and explore opposing points of view? Which approach is more educational and useful?

Think of Your Content Like a Persuasive College Essay

At some point in our pasts, we all had to learn how to write a persuasive essay. Remember the approach? You present the case, discuss the opposing point of view, and make the case for why your point of view is correct. So why can’t you employ that writing style in your blog? In case you do not remember, here are the steps to writing in this style:

  • Start with a compelling hook. The first sentence is what will draw the reader in.
  • State your thesis. This is a summary of your argument.
  • Create body paragraphs with your arguments. Include facts and evidence to support your opinions.
  • Incorporate the counter-argument. Think of points someone might use to argue against you, state them, and rebut them.
  • Restate your thesis in a conclusion

Not Everyone Can Engage

I realize that for some companies in the financial services world, regulations restrict how much you can allow public online conversations. You may not be able to allow commenting on blogs or participate in online conversations. Some bank corporate communications departments frown on any kind of controversial content. But if you’re trying to leverage the power of  content marketing, you must find ways to use content to provoke a response, even if the response needs to be handled offline.

Take a Chance

So, take a chance with your content. Be compelling, be provocative, and start a conversation. Make an argument, give your client a chance to learn something. That’s how you move from being a thought follower to a thought leader.

What are your thoughts? Share them in the comments box below.

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