In Parts One and Two of this series, I talked about the tricks I use to get my own thought leadership out in the world. (Like enlisting a writer and repurposing my podcasts and interviews.) I’m far from the only person at my company with valuable insight to share, though, and, if you’re only tapping your CEO for your brand’s thought leadership, you’re missing out on potential gold from the rest of your team. And not just the exec team.
Everyone and their mother is hearing from the world’s VPs of marketing about their SEO tactics and CRO wins. (Sorry marketing leaders, it’s just jam-packed with you out there on the internet.)
When it comes to your product or customer service team, however, saying interesting and different things is easier. Those teams are rarely interviewed or seen as thought leaders—and it’s a shame, because those individuals often have a wealth of specific, nitty-gritty insights into your brand and industry, thanks to their more direct, day-to-day dealings with your customers. And the insights they can share likely appeals to a large, untapped, and information-hungry audience.
The difficulty? Making that insight accessible. Boiling down expertise into interview-friendly soundbites or pull quote-worthy nuggets is an acquired skill that takes practice. If your colleagues aren’t used to talking to an audience, they may not be good at verbalizing their knowledge—but that doesn’t mean it has to stay locked away in their brain forever. It just means they’ll need some help getting it out.
If getting your CTO to write more than a one-liner email sounds like pulling teeth, don’t worry. We’ve boiled down the extraction process to three easy steps—no novocaine required.
1. Ask the Right Questions
Not everyone can launch into a five-minute monologue from an open-ended “So, that new interface, right? Tell me about it.” Or worse, your programmer will launch into a monologue, and you’ll learn everything you ever needed to know about the supposed elegance of the code behind the UI and nothing about how it makes life easier for your customers.
Put together a list of specific questions to elicit interesting, relevant content for your audience. Think about the questions your existing customers ask, or the ones your leads might have. Think about what your sales team might not know about your dev team’s process, and vice versa. Ask your product team about a few of the particular choices that went into creating your product that your audience might be interested in.
Most importantly, set up your team for success by letting them talk about the areas they know best. Recognize the unique depth and breadth of knowledge they have in their particular fields, and ask questions that showcase those strengths and help make that knowledge accessible to a wider audience.
2. Make It So Easy
The easiest way to get your team’s insight out is to send them your carefully crafted questions and have them record the answers in a voice memo. Or record a zoom call with them. Or use QuickTime player.
For the more reluctant members of your team—the ones who mysteriously went offline when they first heard you mention “thought leadership content creation help”—reassure them of just how small a time commitment this actually is. They don’t have to come up with a theme, sit down for an hour-long interview, or even write a single word. All they have to do is answer a few questions on their own time on their own phone. Easy-peasy.
If the questions have been languishing in their inbox for weeks with no reply, ambush them in the parking lot and you record their answers in a voice memo. (Kidding, of course. You’ll have to ambush them over Zoom. Or, you know, just ask them for ten minutes between meetings.)
If you’re still having trouble capturing their expertise—or want to get a video you can use for extra points in the content game—try a more structured interview through a platform. One of my favorite intake processes is Storyvine’s method for guiding multiple team members in a company to answer the same questions so they can quickly assemble an amazing video with incredible production value.
3. Put It All Together
Even if you’ve asked the best questions, that voice memo is likely an enlightening but incoherent mess of quotes and ideas at this point. Our trains of thought rarely run straight from one point to the next—they’re more Thomas the Tank Engine chugging around willy-nilly than a Swiss machine of clockwork precision.
That’s okay. There are people who can spin those highly functional but less than captivating piles of straw into shiny SEO gold, and they’re called writers.
Give the voice memo and any relevant background information on your team member to a writer and have them distill that expertise into a standalone piece of content. By giving the recorded insight structure and context, they’ll be able to produce a thought leadership post that captures your team’s expertise while giving more value to the reader than just a simple Q and A.
Good writing is about more than putting words on a page. It’s about telling a coherent story. A writer will find the thread that connects the various jumbled ideas, weaving a narrative that carries the audience along from start to finish. They’ll make your team’s insight accessible to your audience—and they’ll make you sound good in the process.
Looking for a good writer? We know a few. (A few thousand, that is, and thought leadership pieces are just one of the content types they create.)
4. Help Them Promote
While your lead engineer may not be known as an active player in your brand’s social media strategy, the odds of getting buy-in from your team on the promotion front do go up if they’re actually featured in your content. This is especially valuable because those team members likely have new networks for your company to reach—and networks that, as I mentioned earlier, have been relatively underserved on the thought leadership front.
That doesn’t mean you won’t still need to help them toot their own horn a bit. Have your marketing team make it as easy as possible for others to share by writing a post and guiding your other employees through where, how, and when to promote the finished piece.
Some people on your executive team are good at talking. Those who aren’t, however, can still fuel your company’s thought leadership through a combination of the right questions and the right writer—and, by incorporating more of your various departments, you’ll bring more perspectives and more voices to your brand. (You’ll also give yourself some breathing room on the writing front.)
But this isn’t the only way to keep your content game rolling. To recap, here’s our 3-part recipe for producing consistent thought leadership:
For more executive wisdom in podcast form, check out The Verblio Show and find my full conversations with an all-star list of guests in your favorite podcast player.