Thought leadership content

So, What Is Thought Leadership Content, & How To Get Started? [2023]

In today's fast-paced and competitive business world, it's more important than ever to position your leadership team and company as an expert in your field.

As we go into 2023, more businesses and leadership teams are starting to leverage thought leadership content – as well as and hire thought-leadership content agencies – to help drive the growth of their companies.

The cornerstone of an effective thought-leadership campaign and thought-leadership strategy is high-quality thought leadership content. But where can you get started, and how can you set yourself apart? We dive into the details in this article.

In this article, we discuss: the meaning of thought leadership content, its importance, how to write thought leadership content, how to create it, and how it is different from thought leadership content marketing.

What is thought-leadership content?

Firstly, let’s start with the basics. Thought leadership content is a type of content that is created with the goal of establishing the creator as an authority in their industry, niche, or on topic area.

This thought-leadership material is often educational and informative, and it is designed to showcase the expertise and insights of the person or organisation creating it.

Thought leadership content can take many forms, including:

  • blog posts

  • articles

  • videos

  • podcasts

  • presentations

  • newsletters

  • media coverage

  • social media posts

  • …and much else besides

Taken together, the objective of thought leadership content is to demonstrate to the audience that the creator is a thought leader and a trusted (and reliable) source of information on a particular subject, and to establish the creator as a go-to resource for industry-specific insights and knowledge.

Thought-leadership material is designed to showcase the expertise and insights of the person or organisation creating it.

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Thought leadership content vs. content marketing

There is often a lack of clarity around the difference between thought-leadership strategies and content marketing strategies.

Although thought leadership and content marketing are similar in that they both involve producing and sharing content with the goal of establishing the creator as a trusted source of information and insights, there are a few key differences between the two:

  • Purpose. The primary goal of thought leadership content is to establish the creator as an authority in their industry or on a specific topic. Whereas, often, the primary goal of content marketing is to promote a product or service.

  • Audience. Thought leadership content is typically, although not always, aimed at a professional audience, such as industry experts, decision-makers, or even potential hires. Content marketing is typically aimed at a wider audience, including potential customers.

  • Tone. Thought leadership content is often instructive. It is designed to showcase the expertise of the person, company, or business creating it. Content marketing is often more promotional in nature.

  • Evaluation. The success of thought leadership content is often measured by its ability to establish the creator as a go-to authority. On the other hand, content marketing content is often measured by headline sales numbers.

Neon sign in a window
Thought leadership content should establish you as an author. Credit: Unsplash

What are the different types of thought-leadership content?

Now we have a much better understanding of the role and definition of thought leadership content, it’s time to look at the wide variety of potential content that you and your organisation might be able to produce:

  • Blog posts. Blog posts are a common, but often underleveraged, form of thought leadership material. They allow the creator to share their insights and expertise on a particular topic in a more informal, conversational tone.

  • Articles. Articles are more formal than blog posts and are often published on industry-specific websites or in trade publications. This will often require you to pitch your commentary into journalists and publications directly.

  • Videos. Video is a powerful way to establish thought leadership, as it allows the creator to share their insights and personality in a more visual and engaging way. Audiences increasingly choose to watch videos over reading articles.

  • Podcasts. Podcasts are and increasingly popular form of thought leadership content, as they allow the creator to share their insights and expertise in an audio format. They are also very flexible in terms of format, whether it’s a short-form discussion of a topic or a longer-form interview with industry peers.

  • Social media posts. Social media posts, such as tweets or LinkedIn updates, can be a quick and easy way to share thought leadership content and engage with followers.

  • Newsletters. Over the last 12 months, newsletters have been gaining in terms of popularity with the rise of newsletter platforms such as Substack. They provide your audience with an easy and simple way to keep up with your latest thoughts and articles.

What makes a good piece of thought-leadership content?

The thought-leadership marketplace is becoming more competitive. In the past, it might have been possible to just churn out a lot of content to dominate the industry and establish yourself quickly as a go-to voice in your niche or sector.

It’s much more important to focus on quality over quantity – it is much better to invest three, four, or even five times the amount of time

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Today, it’s much more important to focus on quality over quantity – it is much better to invest three, four, or even five times the amount of time to produce a really good piece of content than it is to just produce a huge amount of average content.

There are several key factors that can make a piece of thought leadership content effective:

  • Relevance. A high-quality piece of thought leadership content should be relevant to the audience and address topics or issues that are of interest to them. You might want to take the time to understand the existing topics and subjects that are dominating your industry.

  • Originality. A great piece of thought leadership content should offer original insights and ideas, rather than simply rehashing existing information or perspectives. It needs to be unique, distinctive, and fresh.

  • Clarity. A good piece of thought leadership content should be well-written and easy to understand, with a clear structure and logical flow. Too often, too many people hide their ideas under dense, academic, and difficult-to-understand prose.

  • Credibility. Thought leadership content should be based on solid research and evidence, and should be written by an expert who is credible and knowledgeable on the topic. You might want to support your content with well-researched facts, figures, and data. You might even want to consider commissioning a survey or poll, so that your thought leadership can set itself apart.

  • Engagement. It should be engaging and interactive, encouraging the audience to think critically about the ideas being presented and to share their own insights and perspectives. The very best thought leadership content starts a two-way discussion with your audience, and encourages them to share their own views too. You want to start a discussion in your sector – or even provide a platform for that debate.

  • Visual appeal. The old adage goes: “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. The problem is that people, in fact, do judge the quality of things by how they look. A good piece of thought leadership content should be visually appealing, with clear and concise graphics and layout.

Steps for creating high-quality thought-leadership content

When you start to pull together a plan for creating your thought-leadership content, it makes sense to have a series of steps in mind to ensure that you are maximising the chances of your final piece of content having the maximum impact with your audience and industry.

1. Identify your target audience

Before you start creating your content, it's important to identify who your target audience is and what they are interested in. You should also think about the reason why you are targeting them. This will help you to create content that is relevant and resonates with your audience.

You might even want to sketch out a persona of what your average audience members looks like – what challenges they might be facing today, tomorrow, and in the future. What type of content would they be interested in, and what would be most useful to them?

2. Choose a topic that makes sense

Once you have identified your target audience, you can start brainstorming ideas for topics to cover in your content. Choose a topic that is timely, relevant, and of interest to your audience, and that aligns with your area of expertise.

Don’t always go for the most obvious and most-discussed topic. Take the time to brainstorm with colleagues, and throw out a few crazy ideas. This is often one of the best ways to find a thought-leadership angle that is fresh, distinctive, and difference.

Take the time to brainstorm with colleagues, and throw out a few crazy ideas.

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3. Research your topic thoroughly

Do your due diligence and conduct thorough research on your chosen topic. This will help you to create a well-informed and credible piece of content.

This is also your opportunity to understand what other thought-leadership are saying about the topic in your sector to ensure that you have a truly distinct and worthwhile perspective.

While you are going through this process, it is also helpful to create a scratchpad of helpful facts and figures that you might want to use in the future.

4. Create a skeleton for your content

Once you have gathered your research, create a skeleton for your content. This will help you to organize your thoughts and ideas and ensure that your content has a clear structure and logical flow.

Usually, the best way to outline your content is to think of the 3 or 4 sub-headings that might run through the article. What were the three or four different points that you might want to make through the body of the content?

5. Write your content

Using your outline as a guide, start writing your content. Make sure to focus on quality rather than quantity, and aim to provide original insights and perspectives on your chosen topic.

The form that this written content takes will very much depend on the type of content that you are writing. For example, if you’re producing a video or podcast, this written content might take the form of a script or a list of questions to guide your discussion.

Two thought leaders creating marketing content
Podcasts are also a great form of thought-leadership content. Credit: Unsplash
7. Edit and proofread

Once you have written your content, it's important to take the time to edit and proofread it carefully. This will help to ensure that your content is well-written and free of errors.

Also, share your first draft with trusted contacts or colleagues – and get their feedback on the content. They will often spot things that you have missed, or highlight where points you are making might be a little unclear.

8. Add attractive and well-designed visual elements

This goes without saying for videos – but even for written blog posts and articles as the saying goes, a picture says a thousand words.

Consider adding visual elements to your content, such as images or graphics, to make it more engaging and visually appealing. It is important that this visual content looks well-designed and sets the right tone for your audiences.

9. Publish and promote your content

Finally, it’s time to hit the big red button! Share your content on social media and relevant industry platforms, and consider reaching out to influencers or industry thought leaders to help get the word out.

What are the top audiences for thought-leadership content?

Thought leadership content is typically aimed at a professional audience, such as industry experts or decision-makers. This could include people who work in the same industry as you, or those who are interested in the topic being covered.

Thought leadership content is often aimed at people who are looking to stay up-to-date on industry-specific trends and developments, or who are seeking insights and expertise on a particular topic. For example:

  • Industry professionals and trade organizations

  • Businesses and organizations in related fields

  • Journalists and media outlets

  • Educational institutions and students

  • Government agencies and policymakers

  • Potential clients or customers

  • Investors and financial analysts

  • Professional associations and networking groups

  • The general public

In addition to industry professionals, thought leadership content may also be of interest to students or academics who are studying the topic being covered. It may also be of interest to the general public, depending on the topic and the approach taken in the content.

In what industries does thought-leadership content work best?

Thought leadership content is important a wide range of industries, as long as the content is relevant and of interest to the target audience. In fact, companies in legacy industries might benefit the most – because thought-leadership content gives you an opportunity to steal a march on the rest of the companies in your sector.

Companies in legacy industries might benefit the most, enabling you to steal a march on the rest of the companies in your sector.

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However, thought-leadership content is an absolute ‘must’ in the following industries, where thought-leadership has become a mainstay:

  • Technology. The fast-paced nature of the tech industry makes it an ideal environment for thought leadership content, as there is always a demand for insights and expertise on the latest trends and developments.

  • Healthcare. With constantly evolving technologies and regulations, the healthcare industry is another sector where thought leadership content can be valuable.

  • Finance. The finance industry is complex and constantly changing, making it an ideal environment for thought leadership content.

Profile is a leading thought-leadership agency. It is our mission to create visible leaders. If you would like to discuss thought-leadership for your organisation, book in a no-obligation strategy call.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the meaning of thought-leadership content?

Thought-leadership content is a type of content that is designed to showcase a person or organization as a thought leader in their industry.

What is the objective of thought-leadership content?

The goal of thought-leadership content is to establish the person or organization as a trusted and respected authority in their field, and to demonstrate their expertise and thought leadership to their audience.

What are the different types of thought-leadership content?

There are many different types of thought-leadership content, including blog posts, articles, white papers, videos, social media posts, podcasts, webinars, infographics, and ebooks.

What is required to convey thought leadership with content?

You should seek to convey the following traits when preparing thought leadership content: expertise, originality, distinctiveness, relevance, clarity, credibility, and consistency.

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