Ask the Expert: Shannon Stubo on Thought Leadership Strategy

An ongoing LinkedIn series featuring marketing thought leaders

November 18, 2014

If anyone has valuable insights to offer on how to get started creating thought leadership and finding your own voice as a thought leader, it’s LinkedIn’s own Vice President of Corporate Communications, Shannon Stubo. In this post, we’re sharing Shannon’s thoughts on a variety of thought leadership-related topics.

You can find the full interview, along with a comprehensive guide to developing and executing your thought leadership strategy in The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Thought Leadership.

Q&A with Shannon Stubo, VP Corporate Communications, LinkedIn

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

Shannon Stubo: Before launching your first bit of thought leadership content, clearly define what you’re trying to say and why. If you want to be a thought leader, it’s important to make sure you have ideas to share on a consistent basis that are valuable to your target audiences. Ask yourself: What’s your special sauce as a leader? What unique experiences or areas of expertise do you have to share? What are the important influences in your life and career that have shaped your leadership style and worldview? Which of your learnings could benefit others?

Once you define what you want to say, create a rough line-up of themes and ideas that you can work off of over time. This is the start of your personal “editorial calendar.”

For each theme, think about which format and channel would be best to connect with your audience. For formats, you can choose from videos, presentations, webinars, podcasts, articles, posts, social media and many more. For channels, there are a wide range of outlets to share your ideas. Think about the format and channels that will allow you to reach your business goals by engaging the right group of people.

LinkedIn: As someone who has executive communications experience for multiple global brands, what is your advice for marketers who aim to create bold, memorable thought leadership campaigns but worry about maintaining the best interests of the brand?

Shannon Stubo: Always start with your brand’s core values. Once you have placed careful thought into creating and communicating a set of values your brand should be known for, then messaging, regardless of the topic, falls into place more easily. While the topic or conversation may change, your values always remain the same.

LinkedIn: For aspiring thought leaders who are just now entering the workforce, do you recommend publishing right away? Or do you recommend practicing now and publishing later?

Shannon Stubo: With today’s accessible communications tools, people have been empowered to shape and grow their professional brands as a portable asset they can carry with them throughout their careers. It’s a terrific opportunity to become known early and quickly for a point of view or an area of expertise. However, there’s no need to dive in before you’re ready, and in fact, the risk of launching a thought leadership campaign too soon is that you could dilute your professional brand by sharing ideas that are not fully baked or ready for prime time.

As a starting point, I recommend picking social media “mentors”—people who you look up to in your field or industry. Follow them closely. Take time to understand their messages and watch them evolve.

Observe what works well, and how they handle things when they falter.

It’s definitely okay to take the safe route at first. Be helpful to your followers by curating outstanding content and sharing it with your thoughtful insights. You can start with social messages and move to blog posts as you develop your online voice to see what feels natural.

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

Shannon Stubo: I like what HSBC is doing to connect with the international business community with relevant, useful and well-placed content that helps their target audience perform their jobs better. They’ve also used native advertising such as LinkedIn Sponsored Updates to grow their community. In return, they get an audience that is well-steeped in their core values and thinking on a variety of important business issues.

Shell has also been a trailblazer in this area, and it shows. Their thought leadership pieces are clean, clear, beautifully designed and well-tied back to the brand values.

Learn thought leadership from those who do it best. Download The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Thought Leadership today for the full interview with Shannon, and also gain access to our comprehensive guide to establishing yourself as a thought leader.