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The Content Creation Battle for Thought Leaders

Are you uploading content or aerating your ideas?

9
minute read
Published on
June 17, 2024
Invite your followers on a content-creation journey of discovery and inspiration. HEROIC Writing Coach and Ghostwriter Jen Singer brainstorms with HEROIC alumni.

On your thought leadership to-do list, content creation is likely one of the most important tasks (and perhaps the most overwhelming). After all, almost everybody argues you need a blog, YouTube channel, book, social media account, or podcast to build your credibility and expertise.  

And they’re not completely wrong. But also not entirely right. Of course creating content can help build your reputation and attract people to your audience. And researching and providing an in-depth analysis, like in this article, can showcase your knowledge and be valuable to your followers. 

But does more content mean more impact as a thought leader? What type of content is best for you and your thought leadership goals? 

In the most recent article in this series, we explored the most effective ways to generate a following. We discovered that while content creation is helpful, public speaking is one of the quickest and most effective methods. 

However, there’s still a lot of pressure to create content—even for thought leaders who frequently speak on stage. So let’s break down what truly builds your credibility and audience as a thought leader—and introduce a content creation engine that attracts the right type of followers and creates more accurate, relevant, and inspiring content. 

The Content Creation Dilemma 

You see, there are two big problems thought leaders face when it comes to content creation.  

One: It’s extremely time consuming. 

Sure, publishing a book and becoming an author can look really good on your LinkedIn profile. But you have to invest a colossal amount of time to organize, outline, plan, write, edit, publish, and market a new book.  

Over the last twenty years, I’ve written and published seven editions of Book Yourself Solid, as well as Steal the Show, The Contrarian Effect, Beyond Booked Solid, The Think Big Manifesto, and, most recently, The Referable Speaker, with my writing partner, Andrew Davis. 

Some of these books have been NY Times, WSJ, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestsellers. Others had less success. In total, that’s twelve books—and if there’s one thing I wish I had done differently, it would have been to write fewer books! 

Plus, if you set out to write a book today, it’ll likely be at least nine months before it’s published and out on the market (at best, and being very optimistic). 

Can you afford to wait a year to start growing your following? 

The same goes for creating a YouTube channel or podcast or posting content on social media—you’ll likely have to spend a lot of time on the creation phase. Hopefully the return on investment is worth it. 

Traditional content creation can consume your time (and money). Before you know it, it can become a huge source of stress.

 

Two: It’s not always relevant to your audience.  

Most people think of content creation as mostly one-sided. Thought leaders create content, and their followers consume it. They write articles, make videos, and share ideas they think are groundbreaking and revolutionary—without much audience feedback. 

Sometimes it resonates with their followers. But sometimes it just doesn’t. (If publishers and producers knew what would be a hit, they’d only make hits. Same goes for us.) Perhaps it’s too difficult to understand or too complicated, or maybe there are holes or missing parts. 

Most thought leaders create content in a vacuum over a long period of time. They spend weeks, months, or even years working on a book, long-form articles or blog posts, podcasts, or speeches. And they rarely test the water to see if the content is relevant and worthwhile. Instead, they assume they know what their audience will relate to. Often, they’re wrong. 

This type of approach is not the fastest way to grow your following and credibility. (Ask me how I know.) 

Before investing a huge amount of time, money, and energy into writing a book or creating a podcast, you want to ensure your ideas make an impact. You want to be confident you’re delivering quality, visionary ideas. 

There is a better way to create highly relevant content, quickly. 

What you really need isn’t just more content to build your credibility—it’s a content creation engine that allows you to showcase your visionary ideas and get immediate feedback from your followers. 

A process that allows you to share content before you create the “final product.” This ensures that you can create content quickly, and use the feedback to make it more and more relevant to your audience. 

This process in and of itself builds credibility. It ensures you give your audience what they want and need. And it allows you to grow your following and create content at the same time. It can even expose you to new ideas you couldn’t have thought of on your own. 

And, it’s fast—you don’t have to wait months or years to get started.  

Aerate Your Ideas, Constantly.  

All right, how does it work? 

Well, instead of creating content in a vacuum—without any outside influences or feedback and with only your expertise and knowledge to draw from—start aerating your ideas.

Aerating involves sharing your ideas with your followers and allowing their thoughts, beliefs, and feedback to intermingle with yours. This process fosters the growth of new ideas and clears up any confusion or complexity surrounding your original concepts. 

It’s the process of creating content through experimentation and investigation—using all the platforms at your disposal. You can use a weekly newsletter, YouTube videos, your podcast, blog posts, social media, and speeches to share and aerate your ideas. 

For example, you could aerate your idea on social media, get feedback, then test it in a speech to see how it lands. Then, take what you’ve learned and tweak it for a podcast interview. See how your audience receives it, then put the new version in your speech or your book. The key is to keep testing to find new, powerful ideas that resonate with your audience. 

Now, you might be thinking, “I’m still building my following and don’t have even a thousand followers.” 

But you don’t need a huge following for this to work, you just need substantial feedback from a small but diverse audience to decipher what they think and what they believe about your content.

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create content in a vacuum when growing your thought leadership following.
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leverage your audience to generate better, more visionary content.
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A new content creation engine

When done right, content creation can be an interactive and generative process. The secret to success is continuously testing your ideas and content by aerating and getting feedback. 

Now—an aside on feedback—most people think of feedback as criticism. Will they like it or not like it? That’s not what I’m talking about. This is about getting feedback on ideas, which is very different. It’s about asking the right questions to determine what your audience thinks, what resonates with them, and what ideas they have about a certain topic.

When you use feedback from your thought-leadership community to constantly improve your content, you’ll be able to create better content, grow your following faster, and establish yourself as a visionary thinker. 

Certainly, you can use public speaking to iterate your ideas and generate better content—it’s incredibly effective. But it’s not the only way to do so. The type of content you use will depend on your focus and how you want to build your business. 

If you want to primarily be an author, use the content creation engine to craft and write better books. If you want to be a speaker, or a podcaster, or video creator, you can do the same. This process works for any and all types of content. 

During your journey to find new and better answers and solutions—in other words, your visionary quest—you’ll share both visionary ideas and actionable steps. As you do, your audience will share feedback that helps you refine and improve your ideas and content.  

This is the new content creation engine you can use to create relevant content quickly. It’s made up of three simple steps: 

X Mark icon
Don't
think of content creation as a marketing tool.
Check mark icon
Do
think of it as an idea-generation tool.

Step 1: Investigate the problem

 

As you set out on your visionary quest, you’ll research, investigate, and experiment. You’ll come across articles that shine light on your query. Share them on social media. Ask your followers what they think, what resonates with them, what they agree with and what they don’t agree with. 

If what you share sparks more questions, investigate further and share new findings with your audience—in real time, as you learn and discover. 

If there’s a question you’re struggling to answer, ask your audience. If you’re looking for an expert to interview about a specific topic, ask your followers who they recommend, who they trust, who they’re listening to. 

Even if you only have an idea or a hypothesis, you can still share that with your audience. Create a series of Instagram stories or posts that poll the audience or ask optimal questions that your followers are eager to answer.

Step 2: Leverage audience feedback

After you investigate, it’s essential that you listen. 

You might be surprised to find that some of your grand ideas just don’t resonate. Other ideas that seemed too simplistic to you might be your followers’ favorites. 

Maybe your audience will share beliefs and opinions that take your journey (and your message, article, podcast, speech, or YouTube video) down a delightfully surprising path. Maybe they’ll share important information about their day-to-day challenges or in-the-trenches perspective that you simply hadn’t thought of before.  

Leverage this feedback to tweak your message, refine your ideas, and enhance your content. Analyze what resonates with your audience and what speaks to them.  

As you aerate your ideas, you’ll be able to go back and try again in a low-stakes environment (on social media, your newsletter, YouTube videos, and articles). Your ideas will grow and transform as they combine with the fresh perspective of the outside world. 

That way, when you create your final product—whether it’s a book, speech, video series, or white paper—it will be tested and (almost) guaranteed to make an impact. You’ll be confident it will be just what your audience wants. 

Step 3: Amplify what works and cut what doesn’t

When you realize that an idea, framework, or method doesn’t resonate with your thought- leadership community, you can investigate again, then go back and aerate your idea once more. 

And when you find something that clicks—an article that’s really compelling, a controversial quote that brings up a lot of discussion, a podcast interview—lean in. Start diving deeper and investigate more. Amplify what works and cut what doesn’t. 

This process helps you create new ideas your audience is interested in and eager to hear. It helps you create more transformational and more powerful content. It crafts a final product that your audience easily connects with and is eager to share with their colleagues and friends. 

As you investigate, leverage feedback, and make changes based on your audience’s ideas and comments, your audience’s feedback becomes an integral part of your thought- leadership journey. 

Build Towards Your Audience  

You see, the best thought leaders don’t just shove content into their followers’ minds, they prepare curated and precise content their followers love to read, watch, and share. Content that connects and changes the way people see themselves and the world around them. 

No matter what type of content you choose to create, aerating your ideas and interacting with your community will help you constantly uplevel your content—making it more visionary and more beneficial for your followers. 

Don’t make the mistake of creating a final product and presenting it to the world without testing it first. Instead, constantly experiment and put your ideas to the test. It’s all about creating content with your audience as you find the answer (not just waiting to show the world a polished final product). 

When you create a content engine that’s part of your idea-generation process, you can create content faster and ensure it’s highly relevant to your audience. As a result, you'll generate the right kind of audience, and your content—no matter what kind of content it is—will become more visionary, unique, and effective. 

With this unique content creation engine, you’ll build towards bigger and more transformational ideas. And both you and your audience will build towards each other—creating a sustainable and synergetic relationship that can last a lifetime. 

Next time on our thought-leadership journey…

In Part 4 of this article series, we’ll dive into one of the main qualifications for thought leadership—authenticity. Because maybe the secret for being authentic isn’t what to do, but rather, what not to do.

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A new content creation engine

When done right, content creation can be an interactive and generative process. The secret to success is continuously testing your ideas and content by aerating and getting feedback. 

Now—an aside on feedback—most people think of feedback as criticism. Will they like it or not like it? That’s not what I’m talking about. This is about getting feedback on ideas, which is very different. It’s about asking the right questions to determine what your audience thinks, what resonates with them, and what ideas they have about a certain topic.

When you use feedback from your thought-leadership community to constantly improve your content, you’ll be able to create better content, grow your following faster, and establish yourself as a visionary thinker. 

Certainly, you can use public speaking to iterate your ideas and generate better content—it’s incredibly effective. But it’s not the only way to do so. The type of content you use will depend on your focus and how you want to build your business. 

If you want to primarily be an author, use the content creation engine to craft and write better books. If you want to be a speaker, or a podcaster, or video creator, you can do the same. This process works for any and all types of content. 

During your journey to find new and better answers and solutions—in other words, your visionary quest—you’ll share both visionary ideas and actionable steps. As you do, your audience will share feedback that helps you refine and improve your ideas and content.  

This is the new content creation engine you can use to create relevant content quickly. It’s made up of three simple steps: 

X Mark icon
Dont
think of content creation as a marketing tool.
Check mark icon
Do
think of it as an idea-generation tool.

Step 1: Investigate the problem

 

As you set out on your visionary quest, you’ll research, investigate, and experiment. You’ll come across articles that shine light on your query. Share them on social media. Ask your followers what they think, what resonates with them, what they agree with and what they don’t agree with. 

If what you share sparks more questions, investigate further and share new findings with your audience—in real time, as you learn and discover. 

If there’s a question you’re struggling to answer, ask your audience. If you’re looking for an expert to interview about a specific topic, ask your followers who they recommend, who they trust, who they’re listening to. 

Even if you only have an idea or a hypothesis, you can still share that with your audience. Create a series of Instagram stories or posts that poll the audience or ask optimal questions that your followers are eager to answer.

Step 2: Leverage audience feedback

After you investigate, it’s essential that you listen. 

You might be surprised to find that some of your grand ideas just don’t resonate. Other ideas that seemed too simplistic to you might be your followers’ favorites. 

Maybe your audience will share beliefs and opinions that take your journey (and your message, article, podcast, speech, or YouTube video) down a delightfully surprising path. Maybe they’ll share important information about their day-to-day challenges or in-the-trenches perspective that you simply hadn’t thought of before.  

Leverage this feedback to tweak your message, refine your ideas, and enhance your content. Analyze what resonates with your audience and what speaks to them.  

As you aerate your ideas, you’ll be able to go back and try again in a low-stakes environment (on social media, your newsletter, YouTube videos, and articles). Your ideas will grow and transform as they combine with the fresh perspective of the outside world. 

That way, when you create your final product—whether it’s a book, speech, video series, or white paper—it will be tested and (almost) guaranteed to make an impact. You’ll be confident it will be just what your audience wants. 

Step 3: Amplify what works and cut what doesn’t

When you realize that an idea, framework, or method doesn’t resonate with your thought- leadership community, you can investigate again, then go back and aerate your idea once more. 

And when you find something that clicks—an article that’s really compelling, a controversial quote that brings up a lot of discussion, a podcast interview—lean in. Start diving deeper and investigate more. Amplify what works and cut what doesn’t. 

This process helps you create new ideas your audience is interested in and eager to hear. It helps you create more transformational and more powerful content. It crafts a final product that your audience easily connects with and is eager to share with their colleagues and friends. 

As you investigate, leverage feedback, and make changes based on your audience’s ideas and comments, your audience’s feedback becomes an integral part of your thought- leadership journey. 

Build Towards Your Audience  

You see, the best thought leaders don’t just shove content into their followers’ minds, they prepare curated and precise content their followers love to read, watch, and share. Content that connects and changes the way people see themselves and the world around them. 

No matter what type of content you choose to create, aerating your ideas and interacting with your community will help you constantly uplevel your content—making it more visionary and more beneficial for your followers. 

Don’t make the mistake of creating a final product and presenting it to the world without testing it first. Instead, constantly experiment and put your ideas to the test. It’s all about creating content with your audience as you find the answer (not just waiting to show the world a polished final product). 

When you create a content engine that’s part of your idea-generation process, you can create content faster and ensure it’s highly relevant to your audience. As a result, you'll generate the right kind of audience, and your content—no matter what kind of content it is—will become more visionary, unique, and effective. 

With this unique content creation engine, you’ll build towards bigger and more transformational ideas. And both you and your audience will build towards each other—creating a sustainable and synergetic relationship that can last a lifetime. 

Next time on our thought-leadership journey…

In Part 4 of this article series, we’ll dive into one of the main qualifications for thought leadership—authenticity. Because maybe the secret for being authentic isn’t what to do, but rather, what not to do.

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