In the current economic climate, businesses are struggling to earn audience trust and are competing with multiple brands for attention and meaningful engagement, writes Tunji Akintokun, Head of Enterprise Solutions Group, UK & Ireland, LinkedIn.

According to the 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer, the UK ranks the second lowest out of 28 countries when it comes to trust in business. In the age of AI and innovation, and ever-changing buyer behaviour, B2B companies are recognising the need to build authentic and lasting connections with their consumers, stakeholders, and employees. They recognise the importance of differentiation in a crowded market, how creativity can help them stand out, and the importance of demonstrating the true value and purpose of their company’s products and services in a trustworthy way.

Marketing leaders are finding the answer to this in a robust thought leadership strategy that drives tangible impact both on organic and paid content across channels. In fact, according to the latest Edelman and LinkedIn B2B Thought Leadership Impact Report, 90% of decision-makers and C-suite executives are more open to sales or marketing outreach from companies with high-quality thought leadership.

But how can executives build a robust thought leadership strategy?

Amplify executive voices at the heart of thought leadership to spark dialogue

People trust people, and this is a key driving insight to anchor any thought leadership strategy.

There is a step-change in how companies are approaching thought leadership, and marketers are focused on humanising their thought leadership by putting people – executives, employees, and members – at the heart of it to build trust and brand equity. For example, according to our recent report, 73% of C-suite leaders trust thought-leadership content more than marketing materials and product sheets.

As brands look to leverage their executives as thought leaders, it’s important to support leaders with guidance and training to cultivate a distinctive voice and bring fresh perspectives. Encouraging executives to share personal anecdotes and speak authentically around topics like leadership, company culture, company values, and work-related content can help organisations humanise their brands, reach a wider audience, and build an engaged following.

A big tip for brands looking to build a social-first thought leadership strategy is to encourage executives to make sure they’re comfortable with posting regularly – consistent posting helps build trust, fuels deeper levels of engagement, and keeps your audience coming back for more insights. It’s also important to vary your content – great content can come from anywhere such as an industry event or a customer conversation, and leaders can experiment with long or short-form posts, video, and visuals such as infographics to bring these insights to life.

Championing your people’s stories through employee advocacy

When it comes to driving influence through thought leadership, B2B marketing leaders are turning their employees into brand advocates. When engaged employees promote company insights or talk about company culture – authentically – it can significantly help influence a brand’s reputation and trust. Companies are recognising that their brand’s different audiences have always overlapped – a company’s customers today may well be your job candidates tomorrow – and so it’s imperative to have a strong corporate brand and an equally strong talent brand.

By nurturing employee voices through engaging employee advocacy programmes, companies can also take advantage of their growing social networks and tap into new audiences. Leading B2B companies including LSEG, GE, and Mastercard regularly amplify employee voices to share company announcements and workplace policies on social platforms, which boosts brand reputation.

In order to drive impact, companies must have a clear roadmap for their employee advocacy and thought leadership programmes, the business goals that the strategy will support, the tactics to achieve them, and ways to measure success.

Companies, CEOs, and employees are posting on social media platforms more than ever before, but to drive impact it’s important for marketing and communications leaders to think about building a holistic strategy across all levers to foster lasting connections and memorability among audiences.

As we gear up for another year of rapid innovation and change, strong and insightful thought leadership and open channels of communication will mitigate challenges and humanise a brand’s purpose. Reinforcing confidence among audiences by leveraging a strong and diverse bench of executive voices, employee advocates, and influential expert voices should be top priority for companies right now.