January 25, 2021

The value of integrating thought leadership into your content toolkit

BY CLAIRE HIELSCHER

climbers hiking through mountain peak

In 2020, we were all tested in varying ways. In the face of these largely unprecedented times, effective leadership has rarely been more important. Regardless of your industry, being able to actively demonstrate your expertise and intrinsic value to your audience is more crucial than ever before.

Audiences are on the look-out for innovative solutions to unfamiliar problems, particularly in a world that has fundamentally shifted. One way you can help to provide valuable answers for your audience is by putting yourself out there as a thought leader in your industry. While thought leadership content may be all the rage, we think there’s a big difference between saying you’re a thought leader and demonstrating that on paper and in practice.

Read on to learn more about thought leadership content and why it should be a part of your larger marketing strategy.

What is thought leadership content?

The term ‘thought leadership’ has a bit of a reputation as a buzzword in some content circles. However, once we break it down, we can see it’s really all about establishing authority and speaking authentically.

Thought leadership content is a type of content marketing that taps into the passion, experience and expertise in your organisation to elevate your voice in your industry. When done well, it can further enhance brand recognition, increase audience identification with your offering, and separate you out as a genuine voice in your industry among your competitors.

Thought leadership content can also play a big role in the decision-making process for customers, clients and potential partners alike. Research from Edelman-Linkedin found that almost half of C-suite executives shared their contact information after reading thought leadership content. Similarly, almost 60 per cent of decision-makers said thought leadership convinced them to buy a product or service they weren’t considering. Additionally, Linkedin reports that 83 per cent of consumers say thought leadership creates confidence in brands. Pretty powerful stuff, right? So, how are content marketers tapping into this golden piece of marketing collateral?

How content marketers approach thought leadership content

Different brands and marketers approach the thought leadership content challenge in a number of ways. Some content marketers may tap into top talent or subject matter experts to generate authority. Others may rely on the passion and depth of experience within their community to inspire others to action. In essence, thought leadership can come from any source that’s authentic, valuable, and connected to your brand or organisational purpose. Thought leadership content can also come in many forms, from classic content marketing pieces such as blogs and eDMs to longer, more strategic pieces such as white papers, webinars and educational videos.

In short, strategic thought leadership is a way of approaching your content, with the main goals being to build your credibility and establish yourself as the industry go-to, with a captive audience hanging on your every word.

Sounds like it can do it all, doesn’t it? However, as with most things worth doing well, it’s not something that can be accomplished overnight. Similarly, there isn’t a single ‘right’ approach to integrating thought leadership content into your marketing strategy. While the task may seem like a particularly tricky one, we’ve created a brief roadmap to help guide you through your own thought leadership content journey.

Creating effective thought leadership content

Good thought leadership content can be some of the most hard-working pieces in your marketing arsenal. But as with any piece of content with any real value, it’s rarely enough to simply put a thought into the ether and hope it lands with your audience. Taking a thought leadership approach to your content requires strategic thinking, an in-depth understanding of your audience and a well-devised plan to inspire them to take action.

Here are some things to consider when it comes to planning, structuring and producing your thought leadership content.

Activate a research-based strategy

Thought leadership content isn’t something that can be produced on a whim. It needs to be topical, thought-provoking, distinctive and be backed by data where necessary. These requirements all depend on the first important action steps with any thought leadership piece: research, strategy and planning.

No matter the piece of content you’re producing, you’ll need to have a firm understanding of why you’re producing it, what you want the content to say and who you want to say it. Some questions to ask at this stage might be:

  • What do we want this piece of content to achieve?
  • How is it connected to our overall marketing strategy?
  • Is this topic and our angle connected to our brand’s purpose?
  • Who do we want to be the voice of this piece of content? Could an aligned expert from outside the organisation speak with greater authority on this topic?
  • What are our competitors doing in this area? How is what we’re saying helping us stand out and get noticed?

Know your audience’s needs and concerns

Having a clear blueprint of what you want to put out into the market, and how you want to say it, is one thing. You also need to consider how it might be received by your audience. To do this, you have to know who your audience is and what value they might get from your thought leadership activity.

Start by checking in on your key customer personas. Do you know what they care about, what problems they’re encountering and what inspires them? Do you know why they engage with you and what solutions they are actually looking for from you? If not – or if you think these need updating – it’s worth reevaluating if your intended thought leadership piece will meet them at these critical junctures.

Remember, just as the wider world has changed recently, so too may have your audience. If you’re unsure of what these changes may be, you can always explore them amongst your team (along with the help of a content expert who knows what to look for).

Keep it genuine

This might be the most important checkpoint with any thought leadership piece. Regardless of whether you’re positioning yourself as a sustainability, healthcare or chief executive thought leader, authenticity matters. It’s important to recognise that thought leadership content isn’t the same as your regular sales or marketing material. It needs to connect with your brand’s underlying purpose and exemplify your guiding mission and vision.

Great thought leadership content hits the authenticity sweet spot when it is valuable, shareable, targeted and educational. To ensure you’re keeping all these important elements in balance, check in on these points throughout the content creation process:

  • The demonstrative value the piece is providing. Ultimately, thought leadership content needs to offer a unique perspective and put something new, exciting and insightful out into the world. This can come in the form of the data you analyse, the opinions you gather or the expertise you share.
  • How shareable is the information you’re providing in the piece? Can it easily be passed throughout a network of potential clients, customers and decision-makers?
  • What expert insight have you provided through the piece? Will someone walk away from your thought leadership content feeling more informed and empowered than before they engaged with it? If the answer is ‘yes’ it’s a good sign your content is thought leadership worthy, and that the interaction has been genuine and well-received.

Have a clear action plan in place

While thought leadership content isn’t the same as your regular content marketing, that doesn’t mean it can’t be actionable. Whether you want your audience to share your piece, give their own opinion or contact you for more advice, having a desired action plan in mind for your content is crucial.

Ultimately, your thought leadership content should have an actionable takeaway or signpost to guide your audience to the next stage of the journey with your brand or organisation.

Take your thought leadership content to the next level

Many content marketers recognise the importance of integrating thought leadership into their larger marketing strategies. If you’re looking to create valuable thought leadership content that makes your competitors wish they wrote it, we can help. We’re a team of committed content writers who know how to turn your experts and leaders into invaluable content creators. Get in touch with us today to start turning your thought leadership content strategy into reality.

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