What is thought leadership?

…and what makes it different from ‘content’

Published on 31st May, 2021

Edelman says 59% of decision makers think thought leadership is more trustworthy than marketing materials for assessing an organisation.

FT Marketing Services found 70% of CXOs request calls with companies who produce good quality thought leadership.

But what exactly is thought leadership?

We’ve all heard the term used to describe everything from asinine opinion to detailed 100 page reports.

We’re a thought leadership agency, so we think about this a lot. And whilst there is no formal definition, we thought we should define what it means to us and our clients.

So, what distinguishes ‘thought leadership’ from any other piece of content?

For us, a piece of content must do the following to qualify as thought leadership:

  • Tackle a genuinely difficult issue with no obvious solution, helping the reader navigate an unknowable future
  • Contain depth, providing a window into something the reader didn’t know, and leaving them feeling smarter for having read it
  • Gather expert insight in order to say something new they cannot easily be found elsewhere on the internet
  • Back claims with evidence – data, case studies, hard won experience – so readers feel confident trusting it
  • Offer actionable insights that helps inform an important decision
Thought leadership insights surprise even the wisest audiences 

What does thought leadership look like?

Thought leadership can be presented via blogs, webinars, whitepapers, media bylines, videos, podcasts, etc. It can be a single instance of insight or a six month campaign.

Choosing the right medium is important to ensure your thought leadership reaches the right people.

But these things are not automatically thought leadership.

What matters is the substance: What does it say?

When is thought leadership most valuable?

Thought leadership is not right for every situation. But it has a unique and effective role to play when you need to:

It’s particularly valuable when your audience are smart and discerning, and want to work with people who are also smart and discerning.

Thought leadership shows your audience you understand their challenges, and can be their trusted guide in a complex world, in ways other marketing and PR approaches do not (though it is often complementary to those other approaches).

If you want to be a thought leader, get in touch by clicking on "Contact" in the navigation.

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