If your idea of thought leadership is slapping your name on a company blog post, your business goals are likely slipping out of reach.
The truth is, publishing content is only one side of the story. Without the right mix of blog posts, external thought leadership articles, and whitepapers to spread a strategic message, your business objectives will come to a screeching halt.
To get these efforts back on track, you need to unite your thought leadership and content strategies to make your content work harder.
A content strategy is a comprehensive document that ties together the goals, audience, and purpose for each of your content products. For most companies, your content marketing efforts consist of thought leadership content, a company blog, and gated content (i.e., valuable content in exchange for information from the reader). A content strategy draws distinct lines between these moving parts, but they all work together to guide prospects through the sales cycle with purpose.
Every piece of content you create should work to boost brand awareness and loyalty by attracting customers with educational information that they want to read. It opens up the conversation to drive engagement with existing and potential customers. Plus, pushing out reputable content helps you recruit top talent that identifies with your company vision and culture.
Thought leadership is an aspect of your content strategy that focuses on building the author’s reputation through guest-contributed articles. Your thought leadership strategy needs to align with your content strategy so you can:
An effective thought leadership strategy goes deeper than the overarching content strategy. But without these six key elements, it may fall short in accomplishing your real business goals:
The first step to developing a strong strategy is to ask yourself, “Why am I creating thought leadership content?” Looking for immediate monetary ROI is a shallow and unrealistic pursuit. Thought leadership is a long-term strategy, and the sales funnel takes time, too. To determine ROI, you need every content outlet working together and the manpower or software in place to analyze and qualify leads over time.
Once you establish specific goals, every topic and piece of content should tie back to your overall strategy.
This is the most valuable part of your thought leadership strategy, which is why we spend so much time on it with our clients. During a kickoff call, we learn about our clients’ business initiatives, then determine the right audience, article topics, and strategic placements to help achieve those goals.
Blasting out your content to a “general” audience doesn’t mean you’ll reach more people. You need to define your target audience as narrowly as possible to identify their specific pain points and develop articles around those. Otherwise, the right audience won’t identify with your content, and engagement will suffer. Of course, you can have more than one persona — just make sure each piece of content is specifically targeted to one group.
Providing your audience with thoughtful, educational content is central to building trust. If your content is redundant, error-ridden, or spammy, your audience will quickly check out. Instead, deliver fresh ideas that will enrich your readers’ lives and advance industry conversations with research or unique insights.
The call to action for each piece of content should stem specifically from your goals. For example, if your goal is to start conversations and spur engagement with your audience, end your article with a question. If you’re trying to establish your personal brand, put a link in your bio inviting people to contact you on LinkedIn. Or, if the publication will allow it, include a link to the landing page for a free whitepaper to start driving leads. Your content should never be the end of the story.
Before you’ve written or created anything, plan how you’re going to expand your content’s reach. If you have a social strategy, think about how you’ll promote your articles through social channels such as paid ads, or identify other thought leaders you can start conversations with once your article is published.
You can’t fake effective thought leadership. Simply throwing together ideas on a website won’t attract customers, and it certainly won’t solidify your reputation as a leading expert. To get the most out of thought leadership, use your strategy to inspire unique content that accelerates real business objectives.
Each piece of content should establish and strengthen your relationships with partners, clients, and prospective customers so, when the time comes, they bring their business straight to you.
How have you used content to accomplish your thought leadership goals?
I'm the director of brand and content for Intero Digital. I'm a wife and mom to two beautiful girls, and I'm a big Missouri sports fan and lover of sushi. I have a passion for using marketing to educate, tell stories, and drive business results.