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Can You Outsource Thought Leadership?

A fellow business owner said to me recently, “I need somebody to drag the IP (intellectual property) out of me.”

We were talking about thought leadership, intellectual property, and the problem so many of us have making the time and space to do the deep work to actually tease our good ideas out and bring them to life in the real world.

My friend had some important insight into this problem, because she’s been feeling it acutely. She felt, like most of us, that client work had to come first — and she’s been so busy growing and scaling her business over the last year or more that it’s all she thinks about.

“The more I’m in my business, the harder it is to connect with my audience. How do I find my passion for communicating with our potential customers again?”

She went on to say that she’s tried outsourcing some of her marketing content — specifically her social media — but finding it disappointing. The people she was working with never asked for her thoughts on anything, and the content they turned out reflected it. Her new team wants to know her opinions, but as she put it, “I’m so busy I don’t even know what my opinions are!”

Can you outsource thought leadership?

The question becomes: Is what my friend is looking for even possible?

We all know you can outsource different types of content creation, but can you really outsource thought leadership content?

Quick note: I’m defining thought leadership content as any content you produce with the goal of influencing the conversation in your industry.

The short answer is no. True thought leadership content has to come from your brain.

The longer answer is: it depends.

I do believe you can outsource the production and creation of thought leadership content — in fact, it’s something we do for some of our clients just about every week.

It may absolutely make sense for you to outsource the production of some or all of your thought leadership content…

But it’s not as simple as just hiring a writer and saying, “Go!”

3 Steps to outsourcing your marketing

There are three main steps you have to go through to outsource any of your marketing — from the most boring tweet to your highest level thought leadership content.

1. Define the outcome

Before anything else can happen, you have to define the outcome you’re looking for.

And let me promise you: If you don’t know what outcome you want, there’s no way your copywriter or social media team will know.

With thought leadership content, this is even more important. You must get clear on your brand direction, messaging, and the outcomes you’re shooting for to create a foundation before you ever outsource.

2. Create the strategy

Once you know what the finish line looks like, you can start to strategize how to get there — but not before.

This is why we put so much emphasis on strategy when people want to work with us, and we build that strategy backwards from the goal they want to achieve.

Because a marketing plan to get to 10,000 Instagram followers looks very different from a marketing plan to sell high-ticket coaching.

3. Execute

And finally, execution — the actual creation and publishing of the content.

What you’ll find is that you’ll rarely have the same person doing the work at every level.

The person who you hire to help you set your goals may be different from the strategist who helps you see the big picture of how to make it happen, and is almost definitely different from the person actually making it happen.

To outsource thought leadership, you must start the engines

As I mentioned above, you can’t very well outsource the actual thought part of thought leadership.

You still have to be the one to create the time and space and quality of thought to come up with the big picture ideas.

But you can get help. For example:

  • Someone can compile research, statistics, and sources on your behalf for you to review.
  • Someone can interview you about your ideas, and “drag the IP out of your head” as my friend put it.
  • Someone can help refine your ideas, making them into models or frameworks.
  • And someone can certainly take those ideas and translate them into consumable content.

If you are a busy CEO who finds that, like my friend, you’re so busy you don’t even know your own opinions on things any more, a few suggestions for you.

Start with the goal. Think about why you want to create thought leadership content and what you hope to achieve with it.

Then, identify your bottleneck:

  • Lack of ideas? Carve out time and space to have higher quality thoughts. Make it a priority.
  • Can’t get the ideas out of your head? Collaborate to make creation easier. Hire someone to interview you, get an accountability buddy or group, find a friend you can send Voxxer messages to if you are a verbal processor, or find a coach or mentor who can help.
  • Struggle to publish? Hire a writer, producer, designer, editor, or social media manager to help you get your ideas out into the real world.

Once you start to think more strategically, you may find that there are parts of the process of creating thought leadership content that you can outsource in order to break through your own personal bottlenecks and start creating and publishing valuable content that will truly influence the conversation in your industry.

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