The Ultimate Guide to Creating Thought Leadership Content

We need more Thought Leadership Content

While the world doesn’t need more content – we’re already drowning in it – we desperately need more thought leadership content

We need people to make sense of the chaos, to provide clarity in our uncertain world and, most importantly, to present fresh possibilities and alternatives to the choices we have right now.

We need more thought leaders and the key to this is through high-quality content creation.

The Content Creation Manifesto

In this post, I’ll share the Content Creation Manifesto – A manifesto is the foundation piece of content a thought leader needs to create. And this is the ultimate guide to creating Thought Leadership content because the nine principles show you how to make a real difference to real people.

Plus, at the end of the post, I’ll share how a simple framework – like this manifesto – can help you earn money from what you know.

Now let’s look at each of the nine principles of the Content Creation Manifesto.

1 Frame First

When you think content creation most people think of content marketing.

But for thought leaders, they need to think about IP creation. And this needs to come first.

Content Creation = IP Creation + Content MarketingThat’s an example of a frame. It sets the context for what we’re talking about.

And there is another level here: Your IP creation is all about framing. It’s about models, it’s about frameworks, it’s about context shifting.

If you dive straight into creating content for your marketing and fail to identify your overarching frameworks, you’ll be seen as a lightweight giving dull predictable and generic advice. You’ll just be adding to all of the noise that is currently filling up our online channels and social media. Blah, blah, blah…

If you want to be seen and heard and make a deep impact with your content, you need to start with your IP creation – Frame first.

2 Hyper Your Focus

How do you produce extraordinary results?

There is a surprisingly simple answer. It’s to focus on one thing.

Essentialism - The Power of Focus

This brilliant diagram from Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism sums it up. It’s the reason great artists produce great art, why elite sportspeople are elite (and not average like the rest of us). Plus, it’s the reason successful people are successful.

To produce great content, you need to be single-minded.

Three types of capital every thought leader needs to build

To be a thought leader I believe you need to create three goals in your business. You need to build:

  1. Money or financial capital.
  2. Ideas or intellectual capital
  3. People or social capital

Then you need to define these as a single hyperfocus. You need to align them in such a way that one result delivers the next result and then the next one. It’s like lining up dominos.

Hyper your focus to achieve extraordinary results.

3 Don’t Be Selfish

What’s the purpose of your business?

There is a lot of people talking about purpose right now. And I’m not sure that the full conversation is being had.

Peter Drucker Quote - The Purpose of BusinessMost of the time people in business – especially solo business experts – are only talking about their personal purpose. I think this is missing a really important issue.

Management guru Peter Drucker famously said, ‘the purpose of your business is to attract and keep a customer’.

In other words, it’s not about you.

And your content creation is not about you either. The key to creating great thought leadership content is not to be clever, smart or funny. It’s to add value, to shift conversations and to ignite possibilities for your clients.

Don’t be selfish. Know what your clients are thinking and help them fulfil their goals.

As Zig Ziglar once said, “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.”

4 Create New Worlds

Let’s ask the obvious question: What does a thought leader do?

The literal explanation is that they lead with thoughts.

Create New Worlds
Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash

But what do they lead?

The obvious answer is that they lead people.

But that’s not very specific because all leaders do that. An army captain leads people, but you may not call them a thought leader.

Thought leaders lead conversations.

And how do they do that?

It all starts with defining what conversation is being had.

This is the first part of context shifting – the essential skill that every thought leader must build. To lead a conversation, you need to define the current conversation. Then, and only then, can you shift it.

When you shift conversations you create new worlds of possibility, opportunity and action. This is how you lead with thoughts and ideas.

This is what your content needs to be about.

Don’t try to change the world – Instead, create new worlds.

5 Build a Bridge

Build a Bridge
Photo by Andre Amaral Xavier on Unsplash

If there was one big mistake that I’ve consistently made over my career it’s this: I have a knack for having a different way of seeing things to most people. This makes it easier for me to come up with fresh ways of looking at familiar problems. But the mistake I’ve made is that too often I would simply present my ideas as the solution and expect people to grab it with both hands.

In other words, I failed to build a bridge from how people currently think to how they could think based on my big idea.

If you fail to build this bridge, you’ll fail to engage people and fail to build a community of followers around your ideas.

Did you notice the bridge I built at the start of this post?

I said: ‘When most people think content creation, they usually think of content marketing.’ That’s my bridging statement. And then I shared my different way of looking at content creation: As a thought leader, you need to think of IP creation first. That was also my first element in this manifesto: Frame First.

Once we have established this context, I can share my rules, principles and steps for success. And that’s what these nine principles are.

Specifically, what I’m saying is: Inside the context of both IP creation and Content Marketing you need to follow these nine principles to be successful.

Build a bridge.

6 Two for One

When it comes to content creation, most people focus on the wrong thing.

They put all their time, energy and effort into attracting new clients when research published in Harvard Business Review shows that it’s 5-25 times cheaper to retain a client than attract a new one.

That suggests if you were only going to create one set of content, then you’re better off creating content for your existing clients.

But what about attracting new clients?

Do you have to create two sets of content – One to attract new clients and the other to keep existing clients? No.

How to create your Capital Content

The smart move is to create Capital Content. That’s where you create one set of content that addresses the needs of both new clients and existing ones.

You simply need to find out what both groups of people want. That’s two for the price of one.

7 Stop Competing

The great tragedy for a lot of people creating content is that they put a lot of time effort and money into creating content that nobody sees.

The problem is that social media is like a big party. There’s a lot of loud music and lots of people yelling and screaming just to be heard. And this just means people yell and scream even louder to be heard above all the yelling and screaming. You don’t want to compete like that.

Red Ocean and Blue Ocean Strategy
Photo by Mathyas Kurmann on Unsplash

Instead, you want to follow the framework of the Blue Ocean Strategy.

The world of social media competition is like swimming with sharks in the red ocean. It’s a feeding frenzy of people trying to be the centre of attention in any way they can.

In contrast, a blue ocean strategy looks for creating uncontested market space.

The simplest, easiest and most obvious uncontested market space is right in front of you. It’s your existing clients.

The Content Kick

That’s why the Content Kick approach is so powerful.

  • Stop publishing content like a machine – Start sharing with real people.
  • Stop competing for attention – Start serving the people that already love you.

8 Find Your Frank

What is the most popular song played at funerals in the UK?

Even my Dad said he wanted this song played at his funeral. It’s a song that was made popular over 50 years ago – back in 1969. In the UK it spent 75 weeks in the Top 40 music charts – the second-highest of all time.

It’s Frank Sinatra’s My Way.

If we study the lyrics of this song, I think there are two key lyrics that stand out:

  1. I’ve lived a life that’s full.
  2. I did it, I did it my way.

I think they reflect our basic human desire to have autonomy and choice about how we spend our lives. We want to be able to say we have spent our time wisely – lived a good life.

Most people don’t stand out in the flood of content because the way they produce content is generic – the same as everyone else.

Geoff's Signature Style - Weekly Done pages

For our content creation, you need to find your frank. In other words, find your unique way to create and share your content, your ideas, your thoughts.

  • Are you naturally funny?
  • Do you create great visuals?
  • Do you have a way with words?
  • Can you dance like a star?
  • Are you clear and concise with your explanations?

Find your signature way.

9 Behave Yourself

Yoga - Behave Yourself
Photo by Emily Sea on Unsplash

If you wanted to perform a yoga pose like this, what would you need to do?

Firstly, you would not just jump up out of your chair and try. That would be a recipe for failure.

To perform anything at an elite level requires three things:

  1. Preparation – you need to warm up and practice
  2. Performance – you need to deliver the result when it matters
  3. Recovery – you need to rest and recuperate so you can do it all again better the next time

That’s a simple recipe of: Before, During and After.

The same applies to your content creation.

To only define what you need to do is not enough. You also must define how you are going to do it.

This includes:

  • Preparation so you can perform at your best
  • Practise and train to improve your skills
  • Rituals to help you perform when it matters
  • Habit building to be consistent
  • Recovery so you can do it better next time

To master your content creation, think like an elite performer. Behave yourself to be at your best.

How to Earn Money from What You Know

The purpose of this post was two-fold.

  1. I believe we need more thoughts leaders. And the key to this is creating better quality content. I wanted to share my manifesto to give you some principles to help you create better quality content.
  2. Plus, I wanted to demonstrate how to share thought leadership ideas in ways that can help you earn money from what you know.

Now that you’ve seen the basic manifesto, here are some simple ways to extend this into fee-earning products and services.

The key distinction here is to give your ideas different creative expressions.

The Seven Question of the Content Creation Canvas

For those of you who have read my previous on the Content Creation Canvas, you might have noticed that I re-used the same principles from the canvas in this manifesto. That’s what I mean by a different creative expression.

Further, I have:

  • Had several people asking for a book. One chapter on each of these nine principles would make a simple structure for a great book.
  • Since posting the canvas last week, I already have one new coaching client who wants to apply the canvas to their business.
  • A cunning plan to run a group coaching workshop based on the canvas. Coming soon.
  • Lots of content creation ideas from this framework could become more blog posts or videos.
  • A strong framework for delivering keynote presentations on thought leadership and content creation.

Can you also see my first principle – frame first – in action here?

By creating the framework of a manifesto and a content canvas, I now have distinctions and models to use to create an ecosystem of content.

More on creating Thought Leadership Content

Here are three more posts to explore to help you create more powerful, more persuasive and more compelling Thought Leadership Content:

  1. Content Creation Canvas: Build Thought Leadership Attract New Clients
  2. The most important thought leadership skills to develop
  3. Capital Content: A Daring Content Creation Idea to Double Your Results

Add your comment

Which of the nine principles has captured your attention? Why? Love to hear your thoughts.


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