Why Becoming A Thought Leader Will Make You A Millennial Whisperer


John Hall

August 23, 2016

I already know what you’re thinking. “Great, another article about Millennials. I’m sure there’s a ton of information here that I haven’t already heard or read.”

I hear you. I get it. But here’s the thing: There are already more Millennials in the labor force than members of Generation X, and while they haven’t reached the apex of their purchasing power quite yet, they will soon. If you want to be prepared when that time arrives, you’ve got to know how to connect with them.

And by “connect with them,” I don’t mean that you have to have all the latest technology available at your fingertips or that you should hop on every bandwagon that crosses your path. It means you have to know how to truly connect by building trusting relationships.

The problem is that Millennials don’t trust marketers. Your marketing team probably comes across like the pushy, uncool old relatives your young Millennial audience is forced to spend time with around the holidays. (I fully realize that the more I use the word “Millennial,” the more uncool I sound, but please bear with me.)

We’re all attracted to authenticity, and we can usually sense when something isn’t genuine. Take my three-year-old daughter, for example. When we watch “Aladdin” together, she gets so frustrated with Aladdin when he refuses to admit to Jasmine that he’s not really a prince. My daughter doesn’t understand why he won’t just be himself. She knows when someone isn’t authentic, and you can bet that Millennials do, too.

In fact, members of this generation are specifically seeking out brands and content they perceive as authentic. And that’s exactly what makes authentic thought leadership an effective strategy for appealing to this audience.

Here are three reasons why thought leadership can help you reach this key demographic, communicate authenticity, and build trust around your brand:

1. Thought leadership is the anti-advertisement.

Traditional advertisements don’t influence Millennials at all. Only 1 percent of Millennial survey respondents said an ad — even a great one — would increase their trust in a brand. At a time when Millennials are looking for brands they can trust, a company ad explaining why its product or service is awesome won’t do the job.

Thought leadership is rooted in the very experiences that have shaped a thought leader’s knowledge and expertise. It’s genuine and unique because only this person has these examples to support his or her ideas. Rather than tell their audiences that they should be trusted, thought leaders drive important conversations that engage audiences and show them why.

2. Thought leadership is reliable.

We’ve all seen companies rebrand themselves. You could make the case that rebrands help companies stay relevant and fresh, but these switcheroos sometimes create deviations that can convolute the very messages they’re trying to convey.

Compare these regular brand shake-ups with thought leadership. The only way to establish thought leadership and industry influence is to commit to consistency. You can’t change your tone in every piece of published content or social media update, and you really shouldn’t abandon a distribution schedule that works. Effective thought leadership depends on consistency. When that’s met — and your content is high-quality — you become reliable and trusted by your audience.

3. Thought leadership is interactive.

I will say that some brands are coming up with pretty interesting ways to engage consumers, whether through Instagram, Snapchat, or other social media platforms. But the beauty of thought leadership is that it gives you a direct line of communication to members of your audience. And thought leaders are able to engage and interact with their readers one-on-one through those lines of communication.

Because of its educational nature, it can give you an “in” with the decision makers who rely upon your expertise to help inform their own opinions. And because thought leadership content can come in a variety of forms, you’re not limited by any one platform. You can — and should — distribute your thought leadership content through channels your audience is engaged with.

While it’s not possible to put all Millennials in one box, I think we can agree that this generation demands a certain level of trust and authenticity from the businesses lucky enough to harness their buying power. Focusing on thought leadership — or improving your consistency — will lay the strongest foundation for trust, and that will be essential as companies continue vying for the attention of Millennials.

John Hall is the CEO of Influence & Co., a company that specializes in expertise extraction and knowledge management that is used to fuel marketing efforts.

This article was written by John Hall from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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