How To Write Thought Leadership Content
The more we’ve written on thought leadership over the last several years, the more we’ve discovered how poorly defined the concept actually is. Ask five different marketers to define thought leadership, and you will likely receive five unique answers. To address this confusion, we decided to explain what thought leadership is and how to write thought leadership content effectively.
In the past, we have discussed thought leadership in the context of SEO, arguing that thought leadership is “SEO-driven content that addresses the search intent of the target audience.” At its core, though, thought leadership is fundamentally distinct from, and foundational to, all marketing channels. A more encompassing definition should read:
“Thought leadership content presents a new perspective, leads a conversation, or defines a previously obtuse concept.”
With this definition as our guide, we will outline how to write thought leadership content by following these five essential steps:
- Evaluate your brand, approach, and industry position.
- Assess your current influence and market reputation.
- Identify target audience questions and concerns where you have a unique perspective.
- Provide a clear and succinct answer to the question—and provide it right away.
- Present thorough information, and keep it simple.
Evaluate your brand and industry position
The first thing a company should consider before taking a thought leadership approach is whether they are a good fit for this style. A thought leader is a true industry expert with unique insights and fresh perspectives. There are several examples of companies where a thought leadership approach may not be as effective. In this case, traditional digital marketing techniques may provide a better fit for branding.
For instance, a consumer goods company focused on providing a traditional product that people love may not be interested in developing new perspectives or explaining complicated processes. Likewise, even startups with unique perspectives may need to gain more online visibility before than can effectively apply thought leadership content.
Companies in these positions are likely to see better results if they focus on traditional, high-quality SEO services.
|Note: While you may be tempted to consider anything less than thought leadership as sub-par, content can still be high-quality without displaying thought leadership characteristics. Rather than thinking of thought leadership as the only way to produce premium content, consider it a particularly effective content type that speaks to the specific needs of a target audience.|
By evaluating your company’s industry position, you can determine how to leverage content to effectively address your audience. Your evaluation should include a comprehensive competitive analysis that outlines how you differ from your competitors. The results of this analysis will help you determine if thought leadership is a good fit for your organization.
Next, you’ll need to determine if your company can produce this type of content.
Assess your current influence and market reputation
So, how does a company know when they are ready to produce thought leadership content? We define this standard based on two primary indicators. To execute a successful thought leadership campaign, a company needs:
- A clearly defined brand/voice.
- The resources to distribute content so that people will read it.
Businesses that meet these bedrock criteria are well-positioned to start publishing thought leadership content and leveraging their unique brand perspective and digital presence.
However, there are certain instances where smaller companies that do not meet these standards may want to consider thought leadership. Startups introducing new technology, for example, often face a “keyword desert” in which they have few available keywords with both high traffic and high relevance. Companies in this position may consider applying thought leadership to a marketing channel like branding or social media instead of SEO.
Identify target audience questions and concerns where you have a unique perspective
Marketers familiar with traditional SEO and digital marketing are experienced at targeting the largest possible audience. Thought leadership, though, should appeal to a more specific audience. Thought leadership content often targets other industry leaders looking for new directions to take their own companies.
Thought leadership is especially beneficial for companies writing about highly-technical content. While a reader outside of the field may be confused or overwhelmed, your target audience will be engaged and responsive when your content explores the intricacies of a niche topic.
With your target audience in mind, consider the following:
- What problems do they face?
- What are common practices in their industry? Do these practices work?
- What are common solutions that they use for industry problems? Are those solutions efficient?
- Most importantly, do you have a unique perspective on these practices or solutions?
Note the order of the questions outlined above. The first three questions help define your market and their unique concerns. However, the last question is arguably the most important, as it will help determine your thought leadership strategy.
By answering these questions, your team can begin to develop a general approach to thought leadership content. New articles and publications can address specific concepts and concerns important to your target audience.
Provide a clear and succinct answer to the question—and provide it right away
Despite the inherent differences between thought leadership and digital marketing, they are both designed to meet the target audience’s specific needs. Many internet searches involve identifying and solving a specific problem. Thought leadership content provides answers to these problems head-on.
Thought leadership helps readers approach their problems in a new way, whether it’s a recurrent issue or one they are only just discovering. Each piece of thought leadership content provides readers with a succinct answer to their specific question while contributing to a corpus of related content that exposes readers to much larger industry discussions—and related content.
Present thorough information, and keep it simple
Establishing the right tone is essential when developing thought leadership content. Because thought leadership often targets industry leaders or audiences with a high level of industry-specific knowledge, your position as an expert should be apparent.
Keep the following points in mind when learning how to write thought leadership content.
- Keep it simple: The true sign of an expert is someone who can explain complex information clearly and succinctly so their audience can understand it quickly. Unlike pseudo-experts who try to talk over or around their audience, thought leadership content speaks as plainly as possible to make complicated ideas comprehensible.
- Content should be information-driven: Audiences are most receptive to thought leadership content when it’s clearly written by an expert. A thought leader is someone whose depth of industry knowledge enables them to recognize and quickly provide the information their audience seeks.
- Write to the point: Content should be direct and on topic. When information is presented clearly, readers can more easily understand and respond to your ideas. Avoid anecdotes, figures of speech, and embellished language.
Thought leadership content is specific and focuses on niche details rather than abstract considerations. As a strategic approach, thought leadership enables companies to produce and publish highly-valuable content regularly without relying on traditional digital marketing methodologies.
Key Takeaways for Creating Thought Leadership Content
When learning how to write thought leadership content, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Here are the key takeaways to help you on your thought leadership journey:
Achieving this level of content can be challenging, especially for companies just getting started with thought leadership. Often, the best course of action a company can take is to work with an experienced partner that can help them create high-value thought leadership content. Our agency is the industry leader in producing thought leadership content. Contact us for a preliminary discussion about where you are going and how we can help you get there.
Mikayla is COO of First Page Sage.