thought leadership manifesto

My Thought Leadership Manifesto

What first comes to your mind when you think of thought leadership?

It’s probably not the best thought if we are being honest. It most likely makes you think of someone who shares relatively obvious platitudes on social media to farm engagement within their niche.

You might have wondered how they have time to be so present on social media while executing to the incredibly high level that they brag about in their social media posts.

Two answers fit 95% of cases. These people either aren’t as much of an expert as they claim to be, or they hire a team of content creators to maintain their digital presence while executing in their field of expertise.

As a ghostwriter, I work with CEOs, startup founders, and service entrepreneurs who are too busy passionately pursuing their professional goals to reflect upon their expertise regularly through content.

These are the type of people who would love to have the time to share their expertise with folks who they know could benefit from their content. They typically never do, though, because they simply cannot spare enough time to get good enough at any single content form or social media platform to get noticed. 

I extract their expertise through informational interviews. Then, I turn that expertise into long-form content, which I then re-purpose into social media content for any platform my clients prefer.

I also work with some content creators who can create video or audio and turn some of their best episodes into long-form content.

This is essentially what every ghostwriter does. HOWEVER, what separates me from the pack is my manifesto on thought leadership marketing. It is based on these five foundational principles:

  1. People build trust, not brands
  2. Functionality is more important than virality
  3. Passion and expertise are the only content sources
  4. Depth of community over the breadth of audience
  5. A Ghostwriter is a Medium, not a creator

1 – People Build Trust, not Brands

The standard in B2B marketing is to have educational content come from a brand voice. The author of the content is rarely listed. This is because so much marketing content is farmed out to SEO agencies who don’t even speak directly to an expert within an organization when writing their blog content.

They just do their keyword research, do a deep analysis of what the top results are saying, and then synthesize the information, so it is “unique” in the eyes of Google’s algorithm.

This format worked tremendously for years, but the problem is it worked too well, and now there is a sea of 3,000 blog posts that dominate the SERPs in every niche.

I believe the era of authorless educational content is over.

All content on a brand’s blog should be “authored” by a subject matter expert within that company. I put that in quotes because someone like me can indeed write it, but the expertise itself must come from a primary source.

Trust and authority are built by people, not brands. Today’s consumer wants to build a digital relationship with the face of the brand. This is typically the CEO or someone else at the executive level but could be other team members depending on the content topic.

I help my clients decide what they want that ‘face’ to look like and then create that image through content published under their names.

2 – Functionality is More Important than Virality

Vanity is the easy sell in the thought leadership game. Ghostwriters will often pitch on the idea that having a ghostwriter crank out threads and think-pieces will get them a steady stream of people into whatever digital sales funnel said person has set up.

There is a small kernel of truth to this, but I do not target this type of client.

I look for the folks who are so heads-down in applying their expertise that they barely have time for social media.

These people aren’t wrapped up in virality. They care more about reaching the right people, and the legacy of knowing their expertise positively affected others within their niche.

I rebuke the concept of virality. Functionality over virality is my motto. I’d rather have ten people read an article who exactly fit my reader persona over 1,000 random clicks.

3 – Passion and Expertise are the Only Content Motives

There are only two ethical reasons for pursuing the creation of thought leadership content:

1. You are an expert on something that other people find valuable.

2. You are incredibly passionate about a topic that you find valuable.

These two reasons often overlap, but they can exist separately as well.

Any content created that isn’t fueled by one of these core reasons is not thought leadership. It’s content marketing.

Such content is still valuable, but I approach thought leadership marketing content in a way that is distinctly different than SEO-driven content marketing.

I create content with the sole purpose of cultivating an ever-growing community of people who “follow” my client because of the tangible value they receive consistently.

As I mentioned above, vanity-based metrics geared towards virality don’t interest me.

4 – Depth of Community Over the Breadth of Audience

This pillar is an extension of function over virality. The downside of using social media platforms for marketing is that it is easy to fall into chasing follower milestones. This leads to the cultivation of an audience rather than a community.

You broadcast to an audience. They consume your content, and that’s it. No one expects to build a relationship with you or other people like them.

You communicate with a community. Any piece of thought leadership content that I write for a client is written with a tangible takeaway. If it is educational, then there is some sort of framework to apply.

Suppose the content is designed to make the audience think. In that case, I include thought-provoking questions and then use them to help the client generate conversation on the social media platforms their community frequents most.

5 – A Ghostwriter is a Medium, not a Creator

As a ghostwriter, I will never work with a client who wants me to create the perception of expertise for them. That is not what a ghostwriter is to me.

I see myself as a Medium who channels my clients’ expertise, experiences, and feelings and serves as the petri dish in which these elements alchemize into impactful content.

I don’t “write” the content; I just let it flow through me, letting my expertise as a writer mix in as the final element of the alchemical process.

If you are interested in creating impactful thought leadership content that builds an inspired community around your digital presence, I’d love to chat.

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