A “nonprofit thought leader” is basically a trendy label that refers to “an organization that is recognized for having ideas, programs, services or research that are valuable.” For example, Malaria No More is considered by many to be a thought leader, because they were one of the first nonprofits applying business principles to the fight against malaria. Once an individual or organization is recognized as a thought leader, they are also thought to have influence over a specific group of people by becoming a conduit for ideas and conversation.

Though that definition is rather straightforward, there is one key consideration necessary as you consider developing thought leadership: Thought leadership can be either intentional or unintentional. Some organizations stumble upon the position as a thought leader through sheer luck, while others arrive there through careful planning and execution. The latter is decidedly more effective than the former for achieving your organization’s stated strategic goals.

To demonstrate this process, we’ll take a look at the key facets to expanding thought leadership through one channel: your organization’s blog.

Tips for Establishing Thought Leadership Through Your Blog:

  • Start with a Position Statement: It is not enough simply to identify a global issue that your constituents are facing and explain it. You need to take a strong point of view on why it is an issue, what is going to happen, and how to deal with the ramifications. Your point of view should be differentiated from competitors’ views, original, and hopefully counter-intuitive. It should be action oriented and ideally point to one of your organization’s services or beneficiaries–though that is not necessary. However, it must be memorable, interesting, and simple. Complex constructs and impenetrable language don’t lend authority and credibility; they simply confuse and frustrate readers.
  • Have a Destination in Mind: When you are planning your blog editorial calendar or deciding which issues you want to address on your blog, develop reasonable goals for this activity, time-lines to accomplish them, and the metrics you will use to assess performance. If you only remember one fact about thought leadership, remember this: “Thought leadership needs to result in impact.”
  • Be Bold: Thought leadership stems from innovation. Before beginning to generate content for your blog, do research to understand what types of content are already published and which topics have been covered frequently. Draw from your unique experience to write pieces that are distinctly yours, or choose relevant topics that have not yet been explored in depth on other blogs. Always be both ready and willing to try something new or to move your organization in a new direction.
  • Always Move Forward: Thinking outside the box goes hand in hand with generating forward momentum. Never be content to rest upon past success. Be sure to write content that is addressing where your particular space is headed, not only events that have already occurred. If you simply continue to repeat the same formula for success, your content will cease to be fresh and it will be difficult to maintain thought leadership.
  • Show Results: As noted previously, it is important that you determine metrics for success prior to beginning a blog thought leadership campaign. Decide what indicates successful interaction levels and identify signs that your content is indeed leading the discussion in your organization’s field. Regularly check the metrics to assess progress and make needed adjustments. Thought leadership through blogging requires being very flexible and responsive to changes and new findings from data analysis. No two organizations have the same metrics for blog success, but some common ones are: unique visitors to the blog, return visitors, pageviews, and the time visitors are spending on the blog.
  • Stay Visible: If your blog sits dormant for days on end, it is not going to hold interest for anyone, much less generate thought leadership. Have a plan from the outset to keep your posts fresh and your blog active. Doing so will put you well on your way to achieving and maintaining thought leadership status. 

The overarching advice on generating thought leadership on your blog involves creating a targeted plan fully executing that plan, and using metrics to guide progress and adjustments. The result will be increased visibility and credibility for both you blog, and your organization as a whole.

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