10 Ways to Help Your CEO Become a Thought Leader (in Less Than 6 Months)

“If only we could get our CEO to produce more content!”

My guess is, because you’re a genius B2B marketer, you’ve had that thought more than once. You’ve probably attempted to hound your CEO for more content. You’ve probably even been creative with your approach to them:

“Miss CEO, what are your thoughts on our industry’s hiring practices? Could you maybe put that together in a super easy 800-word blog post? It doesn’t have to be perfect — we’ll clean it up for you!”

“Mr. CEO, could you setup a meeting with one of our content marketers and give them 3 insights you have into our industry? We’ll publish it for you as a newsletter. That will really help us start to establish your thought leadership.”

You’ve probably tried these ☝️. But, as It turns out, CEOs are apparently really busy. They also may not love writing blog posts, or your CEO may not appear to value thought leadership or content the way you do as a B2B marketer. 

But you value thought leadership, because you’re a genius. (And because you probably read this study by LinkedIn, that shows just how crucial thought leadership is to a decision-maker.)

LinkedIn Study on Thought Leadership

In fact, after surveying 1,200 decision-makers, LinkedIn showed that thought leadership is more important than B2B marketers realize:

  • 55% of decision-makers use thought leadership to vet organizations 
  • Almost half of C-Suite executives gave their contact information away after reading thought leadership
  • 61% of C-Suite executives are willing to pay a premium because of a company’s thought leadership
  • 60% of decision-makers made a purchase they were not considering, because of thought leadership

But that brings us back to square one:

Time

Your CEO is insanely busy.

They don’t have a ton of time to invest in thought leadership. They don’t have time to write blogs. They don’t even have time to give you a quote so you can write the blog.

I get it. 

If your CEO is anything like most CEOs these days, they’re on the road, they’re at speaking engagements, they’re in and out of hotels, conferences, meetings. They’re putting out fires at every turn, and they’re battling huge decisions every day. 

That’s why we wrote this article.

We have 10 solutions that will turn your CEO into a thought leader in less than 6 months. Your CEO doesn’t have to spend much time on these. These are specifically curated to fit a CEO’s lifestyle, and to maximize their ROI for their time. But, also:

Thought leadership is a long term game.

These tips are uniquely geared to helping your CEO go from a thought leadership stand still to 70 mph in a short amount of time. But, after you reach a good speed, thought leadership still requires a foot on the accelerator. (OK, sorry for the car references. I used to work with NASCAR, so that’s where that’s coming from.)

10 Ways to Turn Your CEO Into a Thought Leader

Here are 10 things you can do to create thought leadership for your CEO:

  1. Original research
  2. Podcast with guests
  3. Create long-form written content (based on your podcast content)
  4. Micro videos
  5. Short LinkedIn posts
  6. Being a guest on multiple podcasts
  7. Creating content with industry influencers
  8. Writing a book 
  9. Speaking on stages
  10. Contributing for a large publication

1) Conduct original research 

Original research is one of the most powerful ways to set up your CEO’s thought leadership, and, the best news is, your CEO doesn’t even have to be involved. And yes, we mean that type of original research — going out and surveying a statistically significant portion of your industry or audience. If that sounds daunting, don’t fear: OG research isn’t actually as hard as it looks (our content team was so excited that I finally used “OG” in a blog post.)

You can use a company like Audience Audit that will help you conduct affordable, industry-specific research, and they’ll even help you analyze all the data to come up with rich insights that your market has never seen before.

And the benefits of original research are pretty limitless:

  • You can do the same report from year to year, giving you annual data that allows you to see (and share) trends that are changing over time.
  • Plenty of other companies will link back to your original research (like we did in the intro, when we talked about LInkedIn surveys).
  • Original research gives you a ton of content that you can then break down into dozens of other pieces of content. GaryVee talks about redistributing content a lot. We also talk about it in this blog post. Original research is large enough that it gives you that one big piece of “pillar content,” that can be broken down into a quadrillion other pieces of content.

Pro tip:

Andy Crestedina is another great resource for original research. Here’s 2 articles by him we suggest starting out with: How to Be the Primary Source and Promoting Your Original Research.

2) Host a podcast

I’m obviously biased, but heres’ why podcasting is so effective: It takes me literally 15 minutes for an entire episode.

I do almost no prep (I have an awesome team for that), I don’t edit the podcast (I also have a team for that), I don’t find the guests (I have another team for that), and I don’t even have to setup the meetings (I bet you know what I am going to say here). 

I can be on the road, in my hotel room, at home, on a spaceship, you name it, I can host a podcast episode from there. I login a few minutes beforehand, read the notes my team prepared, interview the guest about their expertise, and then send the recording to my team. And we’ve hosted thousands of them this way.

OK, I know what you’re thinking:

“You guys are a B2B podcasting company, and you’re suggesting podcasting for thought leadership for your CEO. How original.” 

But here’s the deal: We cash our own checks on this one: We have several of our own podcasts, and they’ve been central to our business model. They’ve helped develop my thought leadership, and the thought leadership of my co-host, Logan Lyles, and several others on our team here at Sweet Fish.

In a nutshell, podcasting gives you credibility and provides you with a bright & shiny spotlight that you can shine on others within your industry. Plus, there’s no better way to learn more about your customers than starting a podcast. Oh, and of course, you can turn every podcast episode into at least 3 pieces of content (we do it every day).

(And even if you don’t want to use us for your B2B podcasting needs, that’s OK. We give away our entire process right here, so you can DIY it.)

3) Long form blog posts/written content

This one’s pretty meta, obviously: But creating long form written content sets up your CEO for thought leadership and credibility. 

“OK sure James, but the whole reason I’m reading this is because my CEO has 0 time to spend on thought leadership.”

Actually, this is another one where your CEO has to do literally nothing. Once they do “#2: Host podcast,” someone on your content marketing team can take the interview and create a blog post from it, feeding your content engine. 

4) Micro videos

Grab a videographer (you can’t steal ours (Jeremy Wellman) though!) and prepare some questions for your CEO that are pertinent to your industry. Follow around your CEO for a day with the videographer and ask the CEO the questions and record him or her as they answer.

Not sure what questions to ask your CEO? Here are 5:

  • What’s a commonly held belief about our industry that you passionately disagree with?
  • Why are you so passionate about what our company is doing?
  • What are some common mistakes you see our customers making?
  • What’s the story that led to you starting this business? (if they’re the founder, obvi)
  • What are some of your favorite business books? What did you learn from each one?

Then, take the answers to those questions and post dozens of micro videos of your CEO all across their social media (especially LinkedIn and Instagram). Here’s a few examples of micro video thought leadership that we’ve done for co-hosts of our podcasts:

5) Post on LinkedIn

My team and I have really doubled down on LinkedIn content, and we’ve learned a couple ways to really drive this home.

I even wrote an article for Entrepreneur.com that lays out 7 things you can do to get thousands of views on your LinkedIn content.

First off, again, we mostly create LinkedIn content from other content. For us, that’s mostly podcast episodes. From interesting podcast interviews, we can take 1 or 2 highly actionable ideas that were discussed in a podcast and toss them into a LinkedIn post (specifically, a status update). 

Again, I don’t even have to be involved here — my team can do all of this without me: They listen to a podcast that I spent 15 minutes recording, and then they create a long form blog, and, while they’re at it, they take 1 or 2 highlights and create LinkedIn content for me.

There are a couple technical things to be aware of here: 

a) Promote LinkedIn content to engagement group with your peers and employees

You’ve probably heard about these by now, but, if you haven’t, here’s how it works: You create or join a LinkedIn message thread of people that have committed to liking and/or commenting on each other’s LinkedIn content (if they think it’s valuable content). 

These pods are extremely helpful — not only at increasing engagement, but also at getting instant feedback from people. (Josh Steimle goes into a little more detail here.)

Pro Tip: A ninja move here is to create an engagement group (aka LinkedIn message thread) and invite people from your sales and marketing teams to join it.

b) Respond to every comment on your LinkedIn posts

If you post on LinkedIn, and someone comments on our post with anything, even something as simple as: “This is great!” then respond — every single time.

Seriously. If you post on LinkedIn, you must respond to every comment. That response is what gets you the last mile of the LinkedIn engagement race — if you are leaving comments un-responded too, it’s like you ran 26.1 miles of a marathon, and then refused to go that last .1 of a mile.

You’ve already done all the hard work … just comment back.

Why? Because LinkedIn will reward you with MUCH more reach on the post. And that reach is totally free!

6) Go on a podcast tour

Quick caveat: A podcast tour does take a little more time … but, again, your CEO can literally be a guest on a podcast from anywhere. I’ve done it from the top of Mount Everest. (OK, that’s not entirely true.)

Anyway, setting up a podcast “tour” for your CEO is a great way to display their thought leadership for the entire industry. Also, if your company has produced original research, or has their own podcast, it’s pretty easy to have good content to share on anyone else’s podcast.

Pro tip:

To help streamline the scheduling process, checkout InterviewValet — they take your info and your objectives, and help you find tons of best-fit podcasts for your CEO to promote their thought leadership, their book, etc.

7) Create content with industry influencers (podcast, master classes, webinars, virtual summits)

Picture this:

You go to the mall and see a picture of the Jonas Brothers (and me). And then, you turn on an interview with the Jonas Brothers, and I’m sitting on the couch with them. They get on a YouTube video to talk to their fans, and the Jonas Brother + James are all there. 

If everywhere you saw the Jonas Brothers, you also saw James Carbary, people would eventually start asking questions like:

“Who are you James? Do you sing, too?”

No, I can’t sing, but I’d be guilty by association. People would assume I could sing (or I had good-looking hair, or was some sort of cool something) just because I was hanging around the guys who can sing and have cool hair. Just by being associated with the Jonas Brothers, I’d get a little of their celebrity status all over me.

Your CEO has one step up on this whole scenario: They probably do have something to say. So, if you can get them associated with other experts in your industry, some of that influence will splash all over them. There’s a variety of ways to do this:

  • Invite experts on a podcast
  • Do masterclasses with experts (here’s one of our master classes!)
  • Do joint webinars
  • Sit on a panel with other industry influencers 
  • Host virtual summits

8) Write a book 

Here’s the thing — your CEO doesn’t actually have to physically write a book.. I used a combination of Scribe and our internal writing team, and with all the content I’d put out on podcasts, blogs, etc., it made the process a lot smoother. A book leverages your CEO’s thought leadership in a few ways:

  • You can repurpose portions of the book into long form blog posts and/or LinkedIn content.
  • It’s a $12, high-quality business card.
  • When your CEO authors a book, they’re far more likely to book speaking gigs (check out the next point about why these are so great).

9) Speak on stages 

Speaking gigs are incredible for thought leadership. Every speaking engagement your CEO lands can easily turn into a dozen or more pieces of content:

  • You can create tons of micro videos of your CEO.
  • Your writing team can create plenty of long form blog content (and LinkedIn posts).
  • With just a few simple technical tweaks, speaking gigs turn into podcast episodes. (We help the godfather of ABM, Sangram Vajre at Terminus, do this all the time!)

Pro tip:

To help your CEO land speaking gigs, checkout Advance Your Reach and GrantBaldwin.com.

10) Contributing for a large publication

There are few things that give your CEO the thought leadership and street cred like saying, “featured in Huffington Post/BusinessInsider/Entrepreneur.com/Forbes/etc.”

Even if the CEO only creates one piece of content for any of these well-known publications, it’s a golden ticket to sending off the “thought leadership” bell in anyone’s mind.

I wrote a few pieces for Huffington Post in 2017. I wrote one piece for Entrepreneur.com over a year ago, and I get comments and new connection requests pretty much every week referencing that article. I’ve also published an article for Business Insider, and now, I’m listed as a “guest writer” on their website.

Just remember… 

I really hope these 10 thought leadership tactics were helpful! I know they’ve saved us a ton of time and resources as we’ve developed my own thought leadership, and the thought leadership of others on our team.

Just remember:

Thought leadership is not a one-and-done practice. You have to build systems that allow you to be consistent.

Working with us

If you’d like to leverage our team to help you create more content for your CEO, let us know!

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