Too often in the content marketing world, leadership teams invest in a single person -- usually the CEO or another C-level executive -- to serve as the main thought leader for the entire brand. I can see how this kind of mentality would make sense on the surface; this approach seems like it would offer a simpler approach that streamlines content creation and delivers a consistent, cohesive message.

But the reality is that executives in the C-suite don't get there by sitting on their heels. They're busy growing their companies, and tapping one of your most senior leaders to be the person to generate all the material you need for consistent content creation is likely to overwhelm him or her -- and stall the execution of your content marketing strategy.

On the other hand, crowdsourcing content and recruiting multiple contributors at all levels of your company means your brand can surround itself with more content. Plus, these different voices and areas of expertise give your brand a better chance of engaging your audience members and creating meaningful, authentic connections with them.

Effective thought leadership content is about more than just expertise; it's also about turning an otherwise impersonal, stale corporate entity into actual faces and personalities that your audience can relate to. And it often takes more than one person to fully accomplish that.

How to Recruit Key Employees to Become Content Creators

Content creation is obviously a little more complicated than giving employees extra work assignments. You can't just ask them to write something, publish whatever they come up with, and watch the results flood in.

Instead, you need to create a strategy and process for content creation and distribution that makes it easy for other members of your company to contribute. Over the years, my team and I at Influence & Co. have experimented with different ways to effectively grow our content and recruit more thought leaders. Here are three best practices we've learned that can help you bring more of the right key players into the mix and improve your content:

1. Select your contributors.

A diverse group is the key here because you're trying to create content that will appeal to a larger audience. Of course, a CEO will be able to talk about industry trends, her company's competitiveness within its industry, and her personal experience leading her business. That's natural, considering the kind of experience and investment she has in these areas.

But she won't always be the best at talking about everything your audience is interested in. By pulling in other employees to talk about their areas of expertise, their passions, and their advice for others, you're able to deliver more value to your audience. Plus, you're opening up a new channel for connection to your brand. Select contributors carefully to make sure they're aligned with your strategy.

2. Explain the value of the contribution.

You've selected your pool of thought leaders because they've built a certain level of expertise in their roles and because their unique ideas routinely contribute to the company's success. And while most people think of content as being valuable only to external audiences, don't overlook the value it offers internally.

These employees-turned-content creators can make a big difference in your content, but if they aren't content pros themselves, they may not realize the value of what they have to offer -- so connect the dots for them. Demonstrating that you and the company (and your audiences) value the various personalities and perspectives that humanize your brand helps motivate people to contribute to something larger than themselves.

3. Give them a boost.

Writer's block doesn't only afflict writers. Staring at a blank page is hard for most of us, plaguing us with no real idea of where to start, so make sure your thought leaders know that what they're creating will be far from a final product.

Personally, I've found that using a stream-of-consciousness style -- just writing whatever comes to mind relevant to the topic -- is helpful for getting started. All I worry about is getting my ideas and that source material on the page. Later, my team and I will work together to turn those thoughts into an engaging article and polish it during edits to make it as strong as possible.

Remind your thought leaders that it takes a whole content marketing team to produce valuable, effective content; they're not in it alone, and no one expects them to DIY their own thought leadership on top of their other jobs.

Thought leadership is more than a simple marketing tactic. It's the understanding that everyone has something to contribute, from your entry-level employees fresh out of college to your well-established C-suite executives.

Putting your team's original ideas, faces, and personalities in the spotlight humanizes your brand and makes it more relatable, ultimately generating opportunity and driving results. And with the right approach to content, your company will be poised to capitalize on contributions from all areas of the business and enjoy an endless stream of content from your internal thought leaders.

Published on: Jun 4, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.