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7 tips for great thought leadership and content creation for academia

Thought leadership is a phrase that is often thrown around in the business sphere. To be a thought leader essentially means being an expert in a specific area and positioning yourself as someone people look to for advice on that topic.

There are plenty of advantages of being a thought leader as an academic. It establishes credibility in your field, enhancing your reputation as an expert in a particular field; you’ll become a sought-after individual in the media, asked to comment and provide opinions and commentary on relevant topics.

A strong thought leadership presence can also lead to more opportunities for promotions, contributing to your career advancement. At the very least, it’ll expand your networking opportunities and enable you to connect with like-minded individuals.

A great thought leader can connect people through inspiring, informative content – content that asks the right questions at the right time. Here are seven tips on how academics can create great thought-leadership content:


Acknowledge your specialism

As simple as it may sound, identifying your niche is an essential first step to becoming a thought leader. Developing a niche within your academic field will cut through a lot of the competition in that area, giving you a specialism where your voice will stand out.

To do this, you must clearly define your specialised area within your academic discipline. Publish regular articles and research papers related to this specialism to establish yourself as a key expert in this area.

On social media, follow people who fit into your academic niche: influencers, other academics, and relevant organisations. LinkedIn is an excellent platform to do this, as it’s easy to find and follow experts in your field and see what content they are interacting with. Grow your online presence by liking, commenting on and resharing these posts.

Understand why you’re making this content

Whether you’re writing a post, comment or article, you must keep in mind three things:

  1. Who you’re writing to,
  2. What you want the content to say
  3. Why you’re writing this content

When answering ‘why’, consider what you want your readers to take away from this piece of content. What are the actions you want your audience to take?

If your aim, for example, is to stimulate discussions and engage your audience, pose thought-provoking questions in your content. For example, when discussing an idea or a piece of research in a LinkedIn post, ask a question to your audience about a particular aspect of the topic. Get a conversation going in the comment section.


Use accessible language in your content

When you are posting content outside of your academic circle – perhaps if you’re contributing to a publication, or writing a post on LinkedIn – ensure your content is rid of academic jargon.

As a thought leader, you want your content to be accessible to a wide audience. While your content is likely to be accessed by other academics, it may also be accessed by students, professionals from other disciplines and the general public.

You want your audience to come across your content and want to read more. The best thought-leadership content is informative, insightful and, most importantly, clear.

Identify the content’s real-world applications

When sharing content, ensure you link it back to a real-world application. For example, you could offer your perspective on a trending topic or news story, linking it back to your research.

Use personal narratives to weave your content together. Remember: people respond to people. They don’t want generic content. When individuals look at content online, for example, a post on LinkedIn, they are looking to have an emotional reaction to a post, something they can relate to or that sparks their interest. Don’t be afraid to share your personal experiences, as long as you can relate them back to your niche. Your audience will appreciate it.

academic trends

Stay informed with the latest research and trends

Of course, linking a piece of research or an interesting insight back to the real world is only possible if you’re up to date with what’s happening in your circle of expertise.

Keep up to date on the latest research, trends and developments in your field. Regularly read academic journals, attend conferences and engage with other thought leaders. This will allow you to become established as a person of authority within your field.

Share your research with a wider audience

As an academic, you may not often have the opportunity to share your research with a wide audience. However, creating content that shares the most interesting insights from your research is a great way to engage your audience with fresh, relevant content.

Be picky. Select the most interesting outcomes of your research and explain why this is important in context.

Use multiple social media platforms to reach a diverse audience

As an academic thought leader, utilising various social media platforms will help you reach a diverse audience and build your following. You don’t need to pick just one. Different platforms can be good for different types of content.

LinkedIn is a useful social media platform to connect with like-minded individuals, share your research and establish your profile. However, Twitter can also be an excellent tool to engage in live debates and conversations and connect with a larger audience.

Less traditionally ‘professional’, but increasingly effective in reaching a younger audience, is TikTok. Some academic thought leaders make TikToks about their research, featuring interesting snippets that would be relevant to a younger audience. These short videos can give viewers a glimpse into a topic – a statistic or an opinion – presented in a visually appealing way. The point is to capture the viewer’s attention enough for them to want to find out more and do further research.

Good thought leadership content should inspire, inform and influence its audience. It should be original, relevant and challenge peoples’ perspectives, but it’s really up to you how you do it.

Have fun with it, and use your position as a thought leader to share your expertise and bring your community together.


Author: Chloë Lane

Chloë was previously Content Editor for QS Top Universities and QS Top MBA, Chloë produced over 400 articles during her four years at the world’s largest international higher education network. With additional experience writing for trade media, she is also formally qualified with a Level 5 Diploma in Journalism from the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ).

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