Some things just belong together. Peanut butter and jelly. Ross and Rachel. Wine and cheese (or wine and chocolate…or anything, really). But what about content marketing and thought leadership? On their own, each is an integral part of your overall marketing strategy. But like all good pairings, together, they create something even better. You can put this power couple to work for your brand by aligning your content and thought leadership strategies. Nearly 37 percent of marketers say that building their executive thought leadership program is one of their highest priorities in the wake of the pandemic. Let’s find out why thought leadership is so important and why it’s a match made in heaven for your content strategy.
What Is Thought Leadership?
Thought leadership has become a corporate buzzword in recent years, but don’t let that diminish its importance to your overall content strategy. When used effectively, thought leadership content builds brand awareness, positions you as an expert, and helps you reach customers in a whole new way. Fundamentally, thought leadership is exactly what it sounds like: your brand’s (or executives’) thoughts on the topics that impact your industry, products, or organization. But to be seen as a true thought leader, there a few key elements your content needs to employ:
Relevance: Thought leader content should focus on what’s happening now, and what matters to your customers, your industry, and your staff at this moment in time.
Trust: Strong thought leadership content builds trust and creates a relationship built on mutual respect.
Expertise: Why should customers listen to your opinion? Because you are the expert, simple as that. Thought leader pieces should have a sense of authority and confidence, but never arrogance.
Perspective: There’s been a big push in the realm of thought leadership for totally unique insights, but remember that providing the right answer to your customers’ questions always trumps providing the most interesting answer.
Authenticity: You aren’t just speaking into the void. Your customers want real, genuine insight and actionable tips, so make sure your thought leadership content always provides something of measurable value to the reader.
Passion: True thought leaders aren’t just the most knowledgeable or the most experienced, but they are frequently the most passionate. If you genuinely care about a topic, chances are your readers will, too.
At the Intersection of Thought Leadership and Content Strategy
Thought leadership isn’t one-size-fits-all. To maximize its impact, you’ll need to consider your audience, your message, and your goals. And that, friends, is the meet-cute for thought leadership and content marketing. How their love affair evolves from there is up to you. Here are the different types of thought leadership and how we at First Page pair them up with our content strategy.
Industry Thought Leadership
This is the broadest form of thought leadership content, leveraging your brand’s position in your industry to predict and analyze trends, advocate for change, and shape the future for every organization in your field.
How First Page Does It: We want to be seen as more than a collective of digital experts; we want to be the voice of inbound marketing for our clients, particularly within the SaaS and fintech fields. Our #InboundMarketing blog is a resource we’ve carefully created and curated based on the needs of our clients, covering everything from lead generation to data-driven analytics.
Organizational Thought Leadership
What makes your work culture stand out? How do you recruit and retain talent in a different way from your competitors? What’s unique about the way you do business? The answers to those questions fall under organizational thought leadership, and the content you create here should differentiate your business operations from others in the same space.
How First Page Does It: We are devoted to the remote work life, and it’s a part of our culture that’s valued and promoted by every team member. We want to ensure we’re seen as experts among digital nomads, freelancers, and independent contractors around the world, so we developed the #RemoteWork blog to speak specifically to them, on the topics they most want to hear about.
Product Thought Leadership
Who knows more about your organization’s products than you do? No one. Thought leadership centered around products answers your customers’ most pressing questions, offers them expert advice on how to maximize usage, and gives them insider knowledge on future product releases and updates.
How First Page Does It: In a service-based industry, our product is our knowledge and expertise. We create content that helps our clients get the most out of our services and put our strategies to work for their brand. We also promote our partners, like HubSpot, and create thought leader content on how to get maximum value from the tools and products they provide.
How to Implement Thought Leadership in Your Content Strategy
Find Your Experts. While executives are an easy target for thought leaders, think outside the box when identifying your brand’s experts. Engineers, designers, and IT pros may be good candidates for product-based thought leadership, while HR leaders and employees themselves can provide authentic insights into organizational thought leadership. Look for candidates with a strong social network you can leverage, and be sure they’re fully on board with taking a thought leader role. Remember the key elements of thought leadership above, and make sure they can convey them in all content.
Nail Down Personas. The better you understand your audience, the more impactful your thought leader content will be. Take a fresh look at your buyer personas, but also look at personas within your industry and your organization. What do employees want to know about? What are the burning questions other leaders in your industry want answered? Having fleshed-out personas for each type of thought leader content will help drive your messaging and align the content with the rest of your marketing strategy.
Identify Channels. LinkedIn has long been at the forefront of thought leader content, and it remains key to getting your message out to your audience, especially at the industry and organizational levels. But product-focused thought leadership may live on different channels, such as your website or blog, or the social platform your personas frequent.
Align With Your Brand. At every stage, your thought leadership content needs to measure up to your brand values, mission, and vision. You’ve invested a lot of time in ensuring your content marketing strategy is in alignment with your brand, and it’s important you do the same when creating thought leader content.
Audit Existing Content. You may find that you can repurpose existing content with a thought leader angle, or you may identify gaps you need to fill. Understanding the content you already have will help you accomplish this and will get you started on building a strong thought leadership strategy.