How the Best Thought Leaders Stay Relevant and Avoid Being Typecast

Thought Leadership

"Like a typecast actor, after years of speaking on the same topics, you can be left feeling out of touch with your tribe's timely needs." Most thought leaders share a similar path to success: they build their followings around topics that are close to home. They’re intrigued by a subject or they experience a particular need, and they scratch their own itch. Then they become popular by productizing their world-views. But what happens when you’ve said all you can say about your life's manifesto? You’ve garnered a massive audience, and now everyone demands to know what’s next. Even though you’ve earned credibility with your community, you still need to deliver content around what matters to them. Like a typecast actor, after years of speaking on the same topics, you can be left feeling out of touch with your tribe's timely needs. Some speakers opt to remix their life’s work to make it more digestible or valuable based on their followers’ locations, occupations, genders, or educational backgrounds. You’re not going to rewrite your entire best-selling book, but maybe you can repackage your blog posts in a way that resonates strongly with the men or women in your audience. Looking for ways to make old content new is a great way to brainstorm new ideas. But even if you’re working with the same concepts, you need a systematic way to validate your next product. Whether you plan to release an e-learning course, write a book, or schedule a live presentation, you must first gather community feedback.

What Does Your Audience Want to Hear?

The first thing to do is talk with your followers. Invite people to share what they’re interested in hearing from you, and read between the lines of their open-ended comments. Look for trends in your audience’s communications. Then devise strategies for obtaining quantitative information on where your followers are in terms of their goals and interests. There are a few ways to do this. To find out what your community knows, wants to know, or struggles with, send out a targeted challenge question. For instance, if you specialize in professional development, ask your HR manager audience a question such as, “What is your #1 challenge when onboarding new talent?”. Did one answer stand out above the rest? Double down on that issue! Keep asking for feedback until you get a palette of reasons these people struggle with onboarding. You've now made your job of teaching how to alleviate this pain so much easier!

Use Polls to Tailor New Products

ConveYour Poll

Polls are useful for homing in on different segments of the community. If you wanted to develop new materials around people in certain occupations, you could look at your customer data and identify the top five industries in which your audience members work. Then poll them to see how many people are in each sector so you can tailor new products to those groups. Challenge questions and polls help you see what’s really going on in your community and what types of content are in demand. Feedback ensures that it’s not just the squeaky wheel getting attention, but all of your dedicated fans.

Learn More About Your Audience

These strategies are also a great way to learn about who your audience members really are. Data on people’s interests, stresses, and jobs helps you better define the personas that support your business. And that information allows you to provide sharper, more valuable content going forward. Ultimately, you’re trying to find out what your followers are going through and how you can best serve them. If you ask what they need, they’ll be more than willing to tell you. Pivoting off your first wave of success requires strategy, daring, and faith in your fan base.

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