Ask the Expert: Joe Chernov on Thought Leadership Strategy

An ongoing LinkedIn series featuring marketing thought leaders

November 3, 2014

If expert guidance is what you need to kick-start your thought leadership campaign, look no further than Content Marketing Institute’s 2012 Content Marketer of the Year Joe Chernov. Joe is currently the VP of Marketing (Content) at HubSpot, and also works as an advisor for several digital marketing startups.

From our series of interviews featured in The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Thought Leadership, here is a sampling of Joe’s always-astute answers to the questions we asked him regarding thought leadership strategy.

Q&A with Joe Chernov, VP Marketing, HubSpot

LinkedIn: For those looking to create thought leadership content for the first time, what are the best opportunities to get started?

Joe Chernov: The very best way to get started is to not think of it as thought leadership content. You earn a reputation for being a thought leader by delivering content that people find interesting, useful, and fresh. Thought leadership should be considered an output, not an input.

It’s also important to note that thought leadership requires patience. Very few people have said one thing or written one post that thrust them to the front of the line. Anyone looking to fold thought leadership into their program should give it at least a year before deeming it a success or a failure.

LinkedIn: How important is thought leadership for gaining a competitive advantage?

Joe Chernov: I think it’s a pre-requisite. I don’t think you can gain a competitive advantage without thought leadership. The reason why thought leadership is a pre-requisite is because trust is a pre-requisite, and thought leadership is a way to build trust.

LinkedIn: What LinkedIn marketing tactics can brands use to implement thought leadership campaigns?

Joe Chernov: I think of thought leadership on LinkedIn as lots of little. I wouldn’t think of marketing on LinkedIn and promoting one’s thought leadership as ‘let’s reach as big an audience as possible.’ You are able to segment the profiles and skills you want to reach, so you should focus on reaching exact subsets of your audience. It’s more about multiple small campaigns than one large campaign.

LinkedIn: Can you think of a brand that is nailing thought leadership? What are they doing right? What are they gaining from it?

Joe Chernov: First Round Capital, an early stage venture capital firm, has a blog, First Round Review, which is the best blog on the internet (aside from HubSpot and LinkedIn, of course). Here’s why: They know their reader as well as any blog knows its reader. They write about what is interesting to the human as the entrepreneur, not just the business person. Their posts are fundamentally interesting because they appeal to the curiosity that drives an entrepreneur.

LinkedIn: What is one thing you’ve learned about thought leadership that you wish you knew five years ago?

Joe Chernov: It’s ephemeral. It can go away. You have to continue to earn it and you can’t rest on your laurels very long. At the same time, thought leadership is like a road race where you don’t want to expend all your energy in the first mile because you will suffer the rest of the race. I wish I had known this. You can over-extend your brand. You are better off parsing your exposure to sustain interest in yourself and your brand over a long period of time.

Patience and small steps are key. Take a step back and allow the process to unfold naturally instead of trying to rush through it, and your efforts will pay off over the long term.

Want to gain additional thought leadership insights from Joe? Download The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Thought Leadership today to read the full interview. You will get all the expert advice you need to craft your thought leadership strategy with confidence.