How to Create Effective Thought Leadership Content
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Thought leadership content is an approach to content marketing designed to set your brand apart from others. It facilitates an opportunity for a brand to express a unique point of view, thereby gaining relevance and notoriety. They are demanding pieces that require considerable time and analysis, but their benefits far outweigh the effort.
Since many companies create lead content for their B2B communications, it is often believed that thought leadership content is not suitable for B2C business. Nothing could be further from the truth! Providing quality, timely and reliable information is always a winning content marketing strategy.
What is thought leadership content?
Thought leadership content aims to create authentic content to explain and support a brand. Because it is based on the experience of a company, it reflects the knowledge and vision of the company or product at all times. This means stepping out of your comfort zone and voicing viewpoints on a variety of issues. Innovative and effective thought leadership content requires additional effort to create content that accurately showcases your brand and your expertise. This will allow you to stand out as a strategic player, with a differential perspective. Above all, the thought leadership content produced should provide the audience with quality pieces.
A brand with innovative thought leadership expresses its individuality in all its published materials, both virtual and physical. Even if the content is not specifically about the brand, it can still be recognized as belonging to the brand while also providing valuable information to its audience. In this, the perspective must be closely linked to the essence of the brand as well as its unique characteristics. Moreover, it should integrate the brand’s history.
When you create thought leadership content, you seek to demonstrate to your audience how your brand can provide value. This adds a critical dynamic. The more value you bring to the table, the more credibility and market exposure you gain. In this way, brands become active participants in the conversation between their audiences and their reference authorities.
But reality clashes with theory. In a recent study, 71% of decision makers stated that most of the leadership content they receive lacks utility. In other words, these are either fake pieces of content or failed attempts.
Why include innovative leadership content in your content marketing strategy
The well-known saying “He who strikes first, strikes twice” is not unique to wrestling. It is a widely used principle in marketing, and it has proven its effectiveness. To obtain customers, the first step a company should take is to make itself known. If it also manages to do so in a relevant way, the benefit will be considerably greater.
Throughout the buying journey, brands that are able to effectively respond to consumer needs first take the top slots. It’s very simple. If you offer a solution to the customer’s problem, the potential customer won’t have to look elsewhere. Furthermore, the more value you provide, the stronger your relationship to your audience will be and the more likely you are to obtain conversions.
Innovative thought leadership content allows your audience to gain a deep understanding of your brand and your business vision. You will be recognized as an expert in your industry. It is, therefore, an excellent tool for brand building and gaining a good reputation.
Moreover, innovative thought leadership content can help you establish strategic partnerships with other players in your field. This can result in increased exposure for your brand. Your commitment and knowledge will allow you to strengthen your position in the industry and make you a benchmark brand.
How does thought leadership differ from other forms of content?
Innovative thought leadership content expresses a unique point of view that reflects your brand. It is a seal of identity as well as authenticity. It differs significantly from the usual content formulas as it aims to provide something you can’t find elsewhere.
Regardless of the field, leaders are not only known for their significant and relevant actions, but they are also known for how they do these things differently. For example, Steve Jobs didn’t create the first computer; he revolutionized the user’s relationship with technology. That was his great contribution to his field. He understood that the market was much broader than the enterprise sector and designed a device that was intuitive, powerful and easy to use. Much of his success was due to his ability to communicate why his idea was valuable. The personal computer unveiled a latent consumer need.
Thought leadership content is meant to highlight the process of owning ideas and original approaches. The value of the leader lies in his ability to interpret the facts and discover new possibilities. Thought leadership content is a platform to demonstrate a brand’s original approach to processing information and its unique perspectives.
Characteristics of thought leadership content
Generally, thought leadership content is an educational, useful and innovative approach. But how do we know that the content actually incorporates these characteristics? To assess this, you must be able to answer these questions in the affirmative:
- Is it relevant to the audience and does it align with the brand?
- Does it express the company’s philosophy and personality?
- Does it provide a differential and valuable perspective?
- Is it memorable? Does it appeal to the target audience?
- Is it supported by reliable facts and data?
The value of the content is derived from its potential to provide the audience with useful resources or information. Often, it answers customers’ questions from a new perspective or, at the very least, invites its audience to rethink untested beliefs. If it achieves its objective, the content is then shared because the audience perceives it as interesting, novel or challenging. A common idea, repeated ad nauseam, has minimal potential for amplification.
The didactic element of the content responds to the purpose of affirming leadership. If you want to become a beacon for your industry, you need to make sure you share information and knowledge that demonstrates your expertise. Thought leadership content pieces frequently include practical instructions, which help the audience. This refers both to clues to facilitate understanding of the ideas and to practical guidelines for application.
Rigor and precision
Truthfulness and reliability of information are essential in thought leadership content. Failing to check sources or using generalizations and inaccurate data undermines a brand’s reputation. If your content pieces can be refuted or evidenced as contrived or inauthentic, you will lose the trust of your audience. And this is a very difficult asset to recover.
Types of thought leadership content
Thought leadership content can be expressed in different ways. There is no single format that is most effective or accepted. Keep in mind that you must adapt to the audience, the type of information and the channels available. For example, thought leadership comes across well in audiovisual or graphic resources. However, text pieces are usually successful in their own way because they allow for a more extensive and deeper approach to a topic.
In this sense, the thought leadership content most often appears in:
- Blog posts (own or guest)
- Opinion articles
- Case studies
- Industry reports or research
- Technical or training reports
The company blog is the most practical and readily used channel for sharing leadership content. On the other hand, collaborating with the sites of other players in related industries will provide greater visibility for the brand. In any case, by definition, blogs are characterized by:
- Frequent updates
- Opportunities for audience interaction
- Links to other resources or sources
This allows for great versatility and favors the creation of thought leadership content. Even short pieces can become references through the links with other pages. Several publications may be linked, encouraging navigation through the blog or referring to external sites of authority.
This format is ideal if you want to express a particular view on a topic, especially when it comes to ideas that present alternatives to dominant views or ideas. The opinion article allows you to propose challenging and innovative points of view.
A company may use this as an opportunity to state its position on issues not explicitly related to it. However, all statements need to be in tune with the brand’s personality and values. Opportunistic content is not very credible and is often rejected by the audience. It is necessary to fit opinion articles into one’s own narrative in a natural way.
Interviews will allow you to disseminate expert knowledge, covering different aspects of a topic. Tap the potential of your team and give them an important role in creating your thought leadership content. You can even invite third parties from outside the company to provide data or evidence on a topic. It is also a valid alternative when outsourcing content writing services. You will obtain quality pieces that reflect the knowledge of your brand in an understandable and persuasive language.
Case studies are the best testimony of a brand’s knowledge and experience. Sharing your story and detailing what you have gained from it highlights your accomplishments and skills. It is also a first-rate didactic resource, which is summed up by the conviction: “You are not what you say, you are what you do.”
Be sure to provide data to support or explain the empirical results as well as the strategy or methodology. The purpose of this content is not to boast about your success but to help your audience by offering valuable resources.
Presenting analyses of your industry or diagnosing a current issue will position you as a subject matter expert. Of course, your contribution must be well founded, backed by solid data and free of bias. To identify issues that could be addressed in a report, think about the successes and failures in your sector. What has contributed to them? What resolutions can be made and implemented? Where are the trends heading?
As with any other expert content, you should explicitly link this information to your own brand. Explain to the audience how you fit into this picture and what actions you have taken or plan to take in the future.
Technical or training reports
Both technical and training reports are a didactic resource par excellence. These documents describe a process or explain step-by-step how to achieve a result. They can be user guides, manuals or progress reports. Consequently, they are very precise, factual pieces, which respond to the “how” or “why” of an issue. If you think about it, these are exactly the questions we would ask an expert. When a brand is able to answer them, the audience usually grants it authority on the subject.
Ebooks serve to fill content gaps and compile relevant information on a particular topic. You can draw on existing materials, but you must respect copyright laws and cite sources. It should also express the company’s point of view on the matter or how it is connected to the topic.
How to create effective thought leadership content?
There is no doubt that creating innovative leadership content is a complex task. We are talking about a long-term project that needs to be well thought out and planned in detail. To get off to a good start, it is advisable to precisely define the subject to be addressed. You also need to know your audience well and identify content that may be useful or relevant. Use the following questions to create a work plan tailored to your needs:
Once you have chosen your topic, you should state your position on it. The guidelines should incorporate the mission and values of the company and the personality of the brand. Beyond this, you need to look for a differential angle that can express an original perspective. You can address an issue by opposition, that is, by challenging the commonly held beliefs of your industry. To do so, you must provide solid data to support your approach. If you want to go further, you could even make predictions or outline future trends.
Another possibility is to describe your strengths, based on the particular strategy or procedure used by the company to solve a problem. In this case, it will be your own results that will endorse your proposal.
In other words, thought leadership content can be both predictive and diagnostic. The important thing is that it provides value to your audience and is consistent with your brand personality at all times.
Generally, innovative leadership content requires a fair amount of research. This can be company-specific knowledge or information from the industry or the environment. You should anticipate the time required for this in your timeline, as the quality of the content depends, to a large extent, on the data that supports it.
On the other hand, you should be aware that leadership content has an expiration date. In order not to lose the authority you’ve gained, you must stay on top of changes and trends and update your pieces. Anything considered outdated will damage your reputation and undermine your leadership.
Also, pay attention to the format. Choose one that best suits the characteristics of your audience and the type of information you aim to provide.
Authoritative content can yield greater benefits for publication if it is well-planned. The concept of opportunity has a decisive influence on its impact. Sometimes it coincides with a news moment for the brand. It can also be adapted to be incorporated into an industry or environmental event.
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