There’s a big difference between creating content marketing pieces and crafting thought-leadership.
In marketing, you are creating content that attempts to move people to action. You may want them to buy your product or service, download a whitepaper, fill out a form, or pick up the phone and call.
Thought leadership avoids selling and marketing strategies. Your content is created to position you and/or your company as leaders in the field. You are trying to engage business leaders on an intellectual level with original thought and provocative concepts.
Clear, Concise, And Simple
Your target audience is not going to spend a lot of time with your content if it doesn’t capture their attention quickly and lay out the case you are making. Keep copy short. Summarize with bullet points. Make it easy for your audience to find key points.
Avoid technical details and jargon. Despite what you may think, not every business in an industry ascribed the same meaning to words. Any jargon you use that isn’t instantly understood by everyone can be a turnoff. The harder you make them work, the less likely they are to engage.
Focus On Strategy, Not Tactics
Especially if you are aiming your content at C-level executives, you want to stay focused on big-picture thinking and strategy rather than tactics.
Highlight Problems, Solutions, And Value
An effective technique is to start with a problem, tap into the challenges it causes, and then lay out a solution. The solution should be original or a new twist on a strategic concept whenever possible.
Another way to approach thought leadership content is to take a common belief and challenge its wisdom. An intelligent approach that runs counter to current thinking – backed up by facts – can be effective. Industry leaders are typically knowledge seekers. They look for contradictory viewpoints to challenge their own thought process.
Whatever you do, however, it must contain real value that furthers the conversation or provides a new way to look at situations. If it isn’t actionable, then it probably won’t be remembered.
Do Your Research
If you want your audience to take your ideas seriously, you are going to need to back up your thoughts with facts. Original research, such as case studies and surveys, makes your content marketing strategy unique. It can support your arguments and create new facts that have been previously undiscovered.
Quantitative research compiles numerical data. It is narrow, focused, and conclusive in nature. Qualitative research focuses on verbal responses and explores opinions or motivations. It is broadly based and exploratory. Think of quantitative as establishing the What, while qualitative explores the Why. Both types of research can be effective, especially when you can draw original insights from them.
Be careful not to rely too heavily on research or data. Your content marketing efforts will be most effective when the research highlights a problem or thought and is used in a supporting role or a jumping off point. Often, an anecdotal story that signifies the results, coupled with research backing it up, is the most effective way to express ideas. In other words, craft a story around the research and data.
Build On Current Topics
Showing that you are knowledgeable about new or emerging topics demonstrates leadership. If there is a new technology or operational approach that others are talking about, business leaders want to know about it. If they are seeking out information on a topic, creating content that addresses the topic can help get you seen. It also positions you as at the forefront of new thinking.
You can look at your competitors for ideas. If they are addressing current topics that are of value, you want to make sure your voice is in the mix when people search for information. Make sure, however, that you are not just offering up the same thing as your competitors. Originality wins. If you are replicating their content, you need to build on it in a new way or demonstrate how your content adds more value.
Titles And Headers Matter
People often decide whether to engage with content based solely on the title. Make sure the title catches their attention and explains what’s different about your content than anything else that is floating around. When at all possible, use the keywords that leaders are likely to search for to help give your content a boost in search results.
Using keywords in headers or titles within the content helps in two ways. First, it may help with SEO, optimizing your content for ranking high in searches. Secondly, for people that skim through content, it provides a road map to find the topics that are of most interest. Along those same lines, you may want to provide a quick summary or bullet list of what you’ll cover in the content towards the beginning to keep people engaged or to allow them to skip ahead to specific sections.
Images, videos, charts, and infographics help provide additional information and garner attention on their own. Look for opportunities to add charts or graphs showing key points, case studies, or research data. This can add to your credibility.
Make sure your visuals are clear and easy-to-understand.
Establishing Authority And Credibility
Thought leadership in content marketing has to be able to persuade the target audience that your premise is valid. It must provide original thinking. It must address real industry problems with unique solutions. It must provide real value and not just be a veiled marketing attempt.
Content marketing that demonstrates thought leadership demonstrates authority and credibility. Following these basic steps can get you started.
The process to create truly original thinking can be complex and difficult. Consider hiring content marketing experts to take your thoughts and shape them into effective thought leadership pieces that will connect with your target audience.
Reach out to us if you need help planning your content strategy better to become a thought leader in your industry. Also feel free to share your thoughts and feedback in the comments section below.