Thought leadership: how to create it with content marketing

man and giant lightbulb

Expert knowledge and experience are in essence the definition of thought leadership – as is the ability to communicate well. Sadly these three ingredients rarely come in one package, which is why using professional writers to unlock that knowledge makes perfect sense.

Whenever we’re asked by a company how to become a thought leader, the reply is always the same: “Let us at your top people.”

OK we don’t put it quite like that.

But:

As journalists we know that everyone has an interesting story — and as journalists we know that not everyone knows how to tell it. The problems are twofold: detail and time.

There are interesting details that make a good story — and then there is the rest… stuff a company or person thinks is important. But actually gets in the way of a good tale.

All good ingredients for good content. Indeed, you could also say it is the definition of thought leadership.

How journalists go about producing thought leaders

Few people are as practised and polished at writing as daily newspaper journalists. So when they are asked to produce copy it often comes at a high price in sweat and additional workload… and not necessarily with the best results.

But these individuals are the ones who have the knowledge.

Your top researchers are perfectly placed to know before anyone the latest developments in their field; your executives pick up great nuggets on business trips; and your sales people know exactly what’s going on in the market.

Making an industry leader is about making the most of these people. Opening up the knowledge that exists inside your company and using authentic findings that only you and your employees have to give you an edge.

This is the power of a content-driven approach and it’s helping companies become thought leaders.

Thought leadership research and topics

Take our work with Pirelli. Thanks to the patience and dedication of its corporate communications team we’ve been able to interview a range of people.

These include a test engineer describing the perils of driving on ice. The company’s first head of data science and analytics, who’s unlocking the stats behind its production processes.

And Pirelli’s head of material development, who’s harnessing nanotechnology to improve tyre performance.

Access of this kind — to true leaders in their fields – lets the company showcase the great work it’s doing in genuinely interesting ways.

Then there’s BP, which gave us access to its top economists, strategists and scientists.

They are able to share their view of the world, their knowledge of their industry and a passion for their work to really help their company lead the way.

These stories help form a company’s external face, and through intelligent, well-written journalistic pieces, they can help it become a thought leader, unleashing the talent of its best people.

But such stories can also help companies internally by communicating the work they are doing across what can be tens of thousands of employees, energising new thinking and ways of working. (See “How content can help your company culture”.)

We know that it’s the stories behind the brand – its development, the trends it has been designed to surf, the outcomes it will deliver – that will get the message across, because they’re the stories that people will read.

Reader perception of an industry authority

Readers also love tangential information, lists, quizzes, factoids, human interest and having the abstract brought to life. Widget appetite, on the other hand, is limited.

Having us write the articles has ensured a steady flow of content that Temenos publishes online on its website but also places in key media.

This has helped drive up traffic by some 30 per cent year on year and has been so successful that the banking IT specialist is regularly asked by third parties if they too can post articles on the site.

Temenos has become a publisher as well as an industry thought leader. It owns its content space.

So if you want to own your thought leadership space, let us speak to your top people. It won’t take long and it won’t cause them any sweat. It should actually relieve the pressure – until the investment pays off and the orders start piling up.

speed dating thought leadership

Speed dating is sometimes key to thought leadership content

Build thought leadership through topics and speed dating

We call the process of unlocking top ideas ‘speed dating’. Give us your people for half an hour and we’ll show you the way. We can interview them quickly and efficiently, face to face or over the phone.

But building a longer-term relationship with the content ghoster gives your best people a voice and turns you into an ongoing thought leader.

This is what has happened to Temenos, the banking IT specialist with whom we’ve been working since January 2015.

Since the start of the relationship we have helped Temenos treble its audience and seize the number one online share of voice for its search terms by writing more than 200 pieces of original content.

We’ve ghosted articles for its top team — including the chief executive, chief strategy officer and chief enterprise architect – and for its clients.

Subtlety is key

But here’s the bit that no one expects. Not once have we written about its products.

We know that many more people will read a story about market trends, new technology, customer experience, industry goals, views about R&D or outcomes than a story about a shiny new widget.

Sometimes we have to be strict with clients about this – the shiny new widget is dear to them; they’ve spent millions developing it and it will create millions in profits for them.

Ultimately the aim is to keep the reader engaged. This is not always easy and there is a lot of competition for their attention. To do this, you need ideas that they are interested in, not necessarily what the company wants them to read.

How to use content to create thought leaders is part of Content24, the blog for London content marketing agency FirstWord.

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