Thought Leadership 101: How to Make Content that Actually Matters

thought leadership marketing

marketing plan template4 steps your business can take to create memorable content as a thought leader

For half a decade now, the importance of creating content has been drilled into the minds of business owners by marketing experts and executives. That is why recent studies have shown that the average organization now allocates nearly 30% of their budget towards such programs. But the truth is that most of what is produced offers very little ROI as a long-term strategy simply because there is no audience for it.

If “content is king,” then thought leadership is Parliament. Sure, the former looks nice to have but the latter gets things done. Whereas the majority of content is quickly consumed and then forgotten, a well-written thought leadership piece will live on by leveraging a publication’s established readership to drive sharing while enhancing credibility.

If your company is looking to become thought leaders, and ensure that these original materials provide enduring value, then here are the steps you should take to create memorable work:

Step 1: Think About Placement

While it is not necessary to know exactly where a piece will be published before you write it, you should have an idea of where it will be submitted so that you can tailor your approach to who will read it.

For broader topics, consider more general publications such as the platform Medium, which has a strong community of readers that can easily make a great article go viral.

For niche subjects, spend some time understanding exactly who is targeted by sites that relate to your industry. Knowing whether they are B2B- or B2C-focused, for example, will determine just how much jargon you can get away with using.

Step 2: Make it Unique

The concept of content overload can easily apply to thought leadership because there is just so much of it out there. To combat this downside of the digital age, you must select an amazing topic that has not already been covered ad nauseam. It should be novel. It should never be promotional.

Instead of focusing on your products or services, leverage your industry experience to position yourself as an expert in general. You may even consider taking a contrarian stance to what is typically said about your subject matter to be sure your opinions stand out.

By establishing your know-how while taking a compelling take on a familiar issue, you can actually inspire readers to look into what you sell.

Step 3: Do Your Homework

Ultimately, the purpose of a thought leadership piece is to educate your readers. The best way to do that is to back up the points you make with data.

It’s easy to offer statements about industry trends, but using numbers to illustrate your thoughts can really make them resonate with an audience. After all, executives and operators now commonly use statistics to understand the marketplace and their consumers. So providing facts and figures can also help them make sense of any claims in your writing while determining if they need to make changes to their business based on these assertions.

Step 4: Spread it Around

Before your thought leadership piece even goes live, have a plan in place to disseminate it to the masses as it can be used both to impress prospects and to remind your existing customers that you’re the expert they want to work with.

Include it your company’s newsletter, talk about it in your blog, reference it in sales collateral and be sure to post about it on all of your social media properties. If it’s a good piece, it will get shared further, which is the best-case scenario for your brand because this will only add to your perceived authority on the subject matter.

A study by the Association of Management Consulting Firms found that 93% of those surveyed felt that high-quality thought leadership improves their opinion of the organization behind it. Meanwhile, 94% said that poor content can lower that opinion. This means that content can be a crucial part of your marketing strategy but only if you’re offering thought leadership that means something and provides value to those reading it.

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Zachary Weiner is the CEO of Emerging Insider Communications, a boutique content marketing and public relations organization. He acts as a frequent lecturer and writer across the marketing and technology space.