Building Trust, and Business, through Thought Leadership

Wendy O'Dea

Building and maintaining trust is one of the most fundamental aspects of business. It not only solidifies relationships with existing clients but can also play a critical role in driving sales. In fact, according to research by The Drum, more than 80% of consumers consider trust a deciding factor in their buying decisions. And, in a 2023 communications survey conducted by Forrester, 90% of respondents said that B2B buyers place the most trust in their industry peers and the least amount of trust (29%) in salespeople.

While building corporate trust can be tricky, and may seem elusive, a strategic ongoing thought leadership program can be an effective tool. Thought leadership helps establish your people as experts in your field — and by extension your company, products or services — and allows them to lead conversations that matter to your business success.

To build trust and confidence in your organization, here are five things to consider when building an impactful thought leadership program that resonates with your target audiences, especially potential customers.

While building corporate trust can be tricky, and may seem elusive, a strategic ongoing thought leadership program can be an effective tool.

1. Play the Long Game

Unlike some communications programs that have clear start and end dates, we view thought leadership as an ongoing effort that evolves and grows over time and is based on one or more of the following:

  • Audience interests and engagement
  • Where your products are in their lifecycles
  • Customer journeys
  • Your business or marketing priorities

And, as with any relationship, building trust takes time and consistency. One-off tactics rarely move the needle.

When developing a thought leadership program, we work with our clients to identify subject matter experts and create an ongoing platform of topics to which they can speak. By creating this expert knowledge bank in advance, we’re able to tap into it to consistently position our clients as forward thinkers and problem solvers.

As with any relationship, building trust takes time and consistency. One-off tactics rarely move the needle.

2. Focus on Issues that Matter

Mine for topics that will resonate with your target audiences. For example, we’ve leveraged research findings, social listening and analysis of keyword searches to determine audience interests. Conversations with members of the sales team have also been helpful in driving content, as they often have their fingers on the pulse of what matters most to buyers.

For sustained success, thought leadership content should focus on subjects or data that is timely, enlightening, and/or provides new perspectives. Don’t be afraid to push the envelope to advance important conversations. After all, that is what often captures attention.

3. Collaborate with Third-Party Experts and Share Customer/Physician Stories

To lend additional credibility and create a more robust thought leadership campaign, consider partnering with third-party experts and sharing stories about their experiences. This could include physicians, patients, current customers, and even influencers, who may have meaningful stories to tell about your company or its products.

For our client, Miach Orthopaedics and its innovative BEAR Implant, the first treatment that is clinically proven to restore the natural anatomy and function of a torn ACL, we developed a series of videos featuring orthopedic surgeons answering commonly asked questions about ACL tears, ACL surgery and the BEAR Implant. The videos are designed to reach potential patients to increase awareness and consideration. Each video is uploaded to a BEAR Implant FAQ playlist on YouTube with descriptions optimized for search and shared across Miach’s social channels to extend the reach.

Creating a steady drumbeat not only reinforces your company’s key messages but is more likely to reach your key audiences.

4. Map Out the Routes

Given the abundance of ways people can access information, there are many routes for distributing content. As we shared in our M-Powered Marketing blog post, we design client plans that will reach audiences through a variety of media channels.

Whenever possible, we integrate the PESO (Paid, Earned, Shared, and Owned Media) framework to leverage newly created content and repurpose and extend the reach of existing content. This may include direct email marketing, organic and paid social media, speaking opportunities, bylined trade and business articles, media outreach and interviews, podcasts, webinars, etc. We also create videos, infographics or other visuals to enhance our content. Creating this steady drumbeat not only reinforces your company’s key messages but is more likely to reach your key audiences.

For example, we designed an in-depth thought leadership program for Boston Scientific to educate and empower physicians. After creating an online content hub where physicians could read about techniques, best practices and clinical evidence, we created mini-campaigns and social media content to ensure that these stories reached the target audience through multiple channels. Over the course of one calendar year, this campaign resulted in 1.25 million impressions from website visits and both organic and paid social media.

Rarely is anyone won over by being talked at.

5. Stay Engaged

As with any relationship, staying engaged and being a good communicator is paramount to building trust. Rarely is anyone won over by being talked at. We encourage thought leaders to be themselves and, when possible, engage in two-way dialogue using their authentic voice. Taking time to respond to comments, questions, and feedback will demonstrate that you are listening, and you respect and value your audience. It can also enlighten and provide new insights you may not have previously considered.

While these are just a handful of factors to consider, what’s most important is to ensure that your content is substantive, supports your objectives, and positions your thought leaders as forward-thinking problem solvers who not only participate in relevant conversations, but who lead them. That, in turn, will help build trust and drive sales over the long term.

If you’re interested in working with us on developing an effective thought leadership platform, you can contact us here.