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9 Thought Leadership Examples To Learn From

Becoming a thought leader is easier said than done. Besides extensive experience, you need to have a knack for creating content for a specific target audience. And then, you have to do it consistently to become an established thought leader in your respective field.

Easier said than done, right?

Today, we're going to show you some great examples of thought leadership content and what you can learn from each one.

What you will learn

  • How different companies and personalities communicate thought leadership in different content types

Brian Dean using SEO

You've probably come across Brian if you've searched for content on SEO or content marketing. Brian was able to grow his blog, Backlinko to about 5 million visitors per year and eventually sell it to Semrush.

He's a particularly good example of a thought leader who mostly just relied on creating actionable content for his audience.

Unlike other personalities, Brian's influence comes from his long-form articles demonstrating how to perform the task he's talking about in simple actionable steps.

No cookie cutter templates here and you'll find that his blog Backlinko caters to audiences who don't have to be marketing professionals or experts.

This marketing strategy led him to receive several mentions from industry magazines and high authority websites.

What you can learn

Brian's SEO blog Backlinko, espouses the build it and they will come mentality.

Of course, this doesn't work for all industries and channels but is effective in SEO.

Focus on creating valuable content for your readers that can solve real world challenges for them. Break down complex topics like you're speaking to a 10 year old and use graphs and images to drive your point home.

Anyone can do this with some research and effort. In fact, Brian says he wrote most of the content on his blog himself.

Marie Forleo using video content marketing

Marie Forleo is a famous entrepreneur from the USA who has been in the world of business for almost 20 years.

She is probably known best for her books.

The most popular ones are Everything is Figureoutable and Make Every Man Want You.

If you need proof of her thought leadership skills, she was named by Oprah as a thought leader for the next generation.

MarieTV is her award-winning YouTube channel and video series.

In MarieTV, Marie Forleo invites other thought leaders from various walks of life to discuss their own journeys and important issues.

For example, there are guests such as Brene Brown, Tony Robbins, Ariana Huffington and Oprah.

What you can learn

If you're just starting off, partnering with known brands and personalities can help you gather a following.

Telling their stories in an effective way can help you be seen as a necessary figure.

Humanizing famous people by delving into their struggles and wins can resonate with audiences who see you as a means to reach and understand celebrity figures.

Once you become a thought leader yourself, it becomes much easier to rely on others for thought leadership content.

When you're an established name in your industry, it becomes much easier to reach out to others and ask them to become guests on your platform of choice.

Growth Design blending design with content

Growth design's approach is simple. They focus on breaking down onboarding and user flow case studies from a design and CRO stand.

The website has no fluff about the creators, or even an about page.

In fact the homepage is a hero section designed to extract your contact information.

Growth Design's thought leadership comes from breaking down different case studies in an inimitable style that is more reminiscent of comic books than B2B white papers.

It's because of this unique approach to communicating a traditionally boring piece of content, that the website has attained the status of a though leader.

What you can learn

Adopting a unique angle can work wonders, even in a typically boring industry.

If you are a B2B marketer, chances are that you feel restricted to typical content formats. However, thinking and executing outside the box can definitely elevate your brand's credibility.

You can see that from the 140,000 people who have subscribed to Growth Design from companies like LinkedIn, Adobe, Shopify and the like.

Liz Ryan using LinkedIn

LinkedIn is where a network of professionals are looking to hire, get employed or talk about work.

Liz Ryan knows this well and has used this to become one of the top LinkedIn creators today.

Her secret is taking real-life situations at workplaces and giving her take on them.

This thought leadership method works because it's the kind of content people want to consume on LinkedIn.

But she also routinely posts relevant articles and information that can benefit both employers, and employees.

Another thing that makes Liz Ryan a thought leader is the variety of formats she uses. You can copy her leadership content examples:

  • Q&A posts
  • Polls
  • Statements where she asks readers for an opinion
  • How-to posts
  • Open-ended questions

She sells a consulting services and training courses on HR and related topics.

Thanks to her frequent thought leadership content, Liz is able to stay top of mind for her target audience.

What you can learn

Choose your channel wisely and get in front of the right decision makers.

Experiment with different content formats as social media algorithms evolve at a rapid pace.

Don't just aim to share knowledge - ask your audience about their experiences too.

Don't try and sell right off the bat - let the audience figure out your value. Do this by sharing information that they care about and can relate to.

Nir Eyal publishing books

If you're not familiar with books, Nir has a couple of bestsellers on behavioural design and consumer psychology.

His book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products is considered mandatory reading for product managers and designers.

Of course a lot of people write books but Nir is especially known for his blend of academic study with practical application for casual readers.

He delves into the psychological mechanisms that drive user behavior, providing a framework for businesses to adopt.

His work has influenced how companies think about user engagement and product design, making him a sought-after consultant.

Nir contributes to various publications, and frequently speaks at industry events.

What you can learn

Books are a surefire way to demonstrate thought leadership.

While it can take some effort to produce one, you can also employ ghost writers, or use AI writing tools to expedite the process.

You can also consider writing ebooks which might be an easier process. However, publishing a book isn't enough - you'll also have to promote it and gather positive reviews.

RGE hosting events

Really Good Emails (RGE) curates high-quality email designs and best practices from various industries.  

RGE's curated collection serves as a benchmark for quality, offering real-world examples of what works in email design and content.

RGE is different because they don't just show off good email designs. They also provide educational content that helps marketers understand how to use email marketing effectively.

Industry conferences are a powerful means of communication thought leadership.

Known for their "UNSPAM" conference, RGE brings together email marketers, designers, and strategists to discuss the latest trends, challenges, and opportunities in email marketing.

The event helps amplify their own credibility by offering deep dives into topics like email design, deliverability, and analytics.

What you can learn

Hosting an event can act as a catalyst for your leadership marketing strategy. It's okay to start small as long as you can grow every year.

A common mistake event organizers make is to chase the audience first.

Instead, forge partnerships with other relevant companies to help you widen your audience and offset costs first.

Conferences like these are challenging to put up, but can have tremendous pay off within your target market. Large companies like Shopify and Hubspot already execute this thought leadership marketing strategy successfully within their communities.  

Exit Five hosting a podcast

Dave Gerhardt is a thought leader in the world of marketing and founder of Exit Five, a B2B marketing community.

Dave has used his own network and experience to leverage Exit Five where he manages a paid marketing forum. He talks about his own journey as a marketer and organically mentions the online community on the Exit Five podcast.

He uses his other platforms to cross promote the podcast too.

Dave's position as a market leader helps attract other successful marketers to appear on his podcasts. These are industry experts who can show their past experience and will bring their own audiences to Dave's channels, and thus to Exit Five.

And since Dave is an industry leader himself, he asks relevant questions about marketing strategy and thought leadership without sounding like a pretender.

His profile helps keep the conversations organic and authentic.

It is a good example of using your own experience and network to cater to your audience.

What you can learn

Leverage highlights from your career to build an audience. You can tap into your network to get the ball rolling.

And focus on something you're good at. Even better, if like Dave you have social proof.

If you can't build a podcast and an audience of your own, consider being a guest at someone else's.

Both are good thought leadership methods, but one of them gives you more ownership of the content.

Buffer using X

Buffer employs a multifaceted approach on Twitter (X) combining educational content, industry news, and community engagement to establish their authority in social media marketing.

Their posts attract a community of professionals and enthusiasts, providing a platform for shared learning and discussion.

Buffer also openly shares details about their business operations, including revenue and diversity statistics, thereby positioning themselves as thought leaders in transparent work cultures.

They leverage user-generated content by sharing case studies, testimonials, and tips from users who have found success using their platform.

What you can learn

Becoming a go-to resource for your community can help earn trust and build brand awareness. Most companies fail on Twitter because they only post to announce an update or product news.

The key is to engage with your audience using relevant content, so the few times you post about your product seems organic and is forgiven.

You can leverage the principles of thought leadership content marketing by following in Buffer's path with case studies and industry news.

But be sure to post frequently, and engage with the audience.

Wistia sharing company culture

Becoming a thought leader in B2B SaaS can be a challenge.

It entails having the talent for creating amazing content while being open and transparent. One example of such a company is Wistia, a video hosting company.

Wistia has a culture category on their blog where they talk about their company and share insights from their own team.

In each blog post, they share how the company overcame challenges that they faced. And as a company with an annual recurring revenue of over $60 million, many people want to hear what they have to say.

You'll find various types of thought leadership content:

  • a blog post on how all parents get a 16-week leave and how they focus on diversity and equity.
  • You'll also hear personal stories on which podcasts the team listens to and how team members progress through their careers in Wistia.
  • Or when they attended industry conferences and what they learned.

These types of content have virality baked into them because they're instantly shareable, thus driving organic traffic to Wistia's blog.

What you can learn

Every business has a story to tell.

Sometimes, to create thought leadership marketing content, all it takes is transparency.

Open up and tell your own story using your own words and a channel that is the most suitable for you and your audience.

We often hold back from publishing thought leadership content because it is often about studies, graphs and data. And your company may not have access to these readily.

Instead, Wistia's example of a thought leadership strategy that is based on sharing insights into the company's culture can help you stand apart from typical pieces.

Unlike studies and reports, culture demands transparency and emotion.

This way you can attract potential customers and build an employer brand that new applicants will prefer.

Conclusion

If you take a look at the thought leadership content examples we mentioned, they have one thing in common. Every example offers value first.

The sale appears secondary, even if it is not.

Present your expertise and engage with your audience by adopting a people-first approach. You may start slowly but will eventually be considered a thought leader in your industry.

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Screenshot of Surfer SEO Content Editor interface, displaying the 'Essential Content Marketing Metrics' article with a content score of 82/100. The editor highlights sections like 'Key Takeaways' and offers SEO suggestions for terms such as 'content marketing metrics