Thought leadership and content marketing are both marketing niches. Thought leadership refers to the contribution of new and innovative ideas to a public and/or industry dialogue. Content marketing is the strategic framework for creating and distributing content. The former is conceptual; the latter is extremely tactical.
Because of this distinction, the two niches should not be viewed independently of each other. Thought leadership is an important subset of content marketing that relies on a deep understanding of audience needs and distribution channels in order to make the leap from “great ideas” to “conversation starters.”
Thought leadership is often characterized as something CEOs do to elevate their public profile. However, it is one of the most significant things content marketers can embrace to increase clarity, credibility, and reach. From this vantage point, nothing is more important than ensuring your company’s thought leadership and content marketing are woven together using the threads of their shared DNA.
Does the distance between your company’s corner office and its content marketing hub feel especially far these days? Here are some things to consider when making thought leadership an organic part of your content strategy.
Content marketing ties big ideas to business goals
The mark of a sound content marketing strategy is how well content performs. Clearly defined metrics, or key performance indicators, give content marketers the tools they need to measure the success of a campaign or an individual content element.
Armed with data, content marketers can communicate the impact of their work to their company leadership, enabling them to see how content contributes to their bottom line.
Thought leadership has the same effect, but often on a different scale. It’s concerned less with volume and number-crunching and more with global impact and systemic change.
However, thought leaders aren’t born – they’re made. How? Sometimes, it’s good fortune: They were in the right place at the right time. More likely, they benefited from the expertise of content marketers, directly or indirectly. And the principles of effective thought leadership content? They’re no different that the principles that guide all other content creation and distribution.
Our advice? Whether you’re a content marketer or a thought leader, use all the tools available to you to practice your craft and find the ideal platform for your ideas.
Thought leadership ties big ideas to company culture
That Friday afternoon standup meeting your CEO holds every week? It’s a thought leadership forum – no joke. It offers him or her a chance to connect face to face with people, communicate changes and test new ideas, and share concerns and vulnerabilities.
We talk a lot about storytelling as a business tool and how it turns ordinary facts into compelling narratives that stick with us. Thought leadership, whether it’s internal or external, relies on stories – with their ups and downs, moments of crisis and triumph – to generate excitement and enthusiasm.
Your company meetings are a microcosm for what awaits in the public sphere. Internal buy-in is a signal that something in your company culture is working – that there’s something here that more people may respond to. If culture eats strategy for breakfast, then thought leadership invites people to sit down at the table hungry.
This isn’t to say that CEOs are mining their own companies’ challenges for clickbait. The truth is that the stories that matter most draw upon shared experiences, and company leaders all have stories about their struggles. Sharing these struggles is a learning experience for the storyteller and the audience.
Thought leadership is a team sport
“I came up with this brilliant idea all by myself and don’t need any help to make it work,” said no leader ever.
The definition of thought leadership is being recognized as a leader, influencer, and/or authority known for sharing and helping others.
Before we get into trees-falling-in-forests metaphors, let’s stop and think about support systems: the people who nudged us down a particular path and provided encouragement and wise counsel when things got tough. Family members, teachers, mentors, classmates, colleagues – and later on, mid-level managers, investors, rank-and-file employees, and even mentees.
Now, let’s look at how content marketing is a built-in support system for thought leadership. It has the infrastructure to shape great ideas into conversation starters, and the human capital to do so far faster than any single person can.
Smart leaders know this. The best leaders are already engaging a team to refine and accelerate the thought leadership life cycle.
Inspiration is a two-way street
It goes without saying that savvy content marketers can slice, dice, repurpose, and republish their company’s thought leadership content in perpetuity. It’s a treasure trove of authoritative material: simple, plug-and-play content that can inspire additional content that’s on brand and on message.
However, thought leaders have a ton to gain by collaborating creatively with the content marketing team – at every stage in the process. As they see the team in action and learn more about how content is produced, they can visualize how to share their own ideas more effectively with diverse global audiences.
What would happen if thought leaders and content marketers put their heads together in a brainstorm to end all brainstorms? The sky’s the limit.
The skill sets more than overlap
Writing and speaking are essential skills for both content marketers and thought leaders.
In fact, they are brands’ salvation.
Knowing this, growing brands must consider how they can get the most out of every development opportunity. Training isn’t just for junior copywriters: It’s for everyone.
People at every level in an organization use effective writing to educate and inspire, to inform and persuade, and to organize ideas into their optimal form.
As novelist Flannery O’Connor once said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
Writing well isn’t optional. It’s how we transform a fragment of an idea into a global movement.
At Consummate Prose Consulting, we approach thought leadership and content marketing holistically. We love sharing great ideas in compelling ways. If you’re ready to build your brand’s inspiration machine, get in touch with us today. We’re ready when you are.