Your content is not thought leadership. Got it?

Your content is not thought leadership Got It

The current content tsunami is the cancer of thought leadership; the death knell of a once well-intentioned but now much maligned term.

The amount of self-proclaimed thought leadership I see is embarrassing, after all, only the market decides whether you are a thought leader or not. The abuse of the term is endless — perpetuated by marketers, PR practitioners, content producers and the like:

  • Company X produces an opinion piece and calls it their thought leadership piece. No it’s not, it’s called an opinion piece because that’s what it is — merely opinion
  • Company Y spends a few thousand dollars on a four question Omnibus survey, produces a two page report and labels it their thought leadership research. Not. This is more likely a piece of pop research aimed at generating a few column centimetres. In most cases it doesn’t add anything new to the audience
  • Company Z hosts a conference. It is advertised as their ‘Thought Leading’ conference packed with thought leaders. But at no stage during the conference is anything new or a different point of view proffered, it’s just the same old same old or re-treaded views, opinions or old research
  • Finally, company A labels a tab on their website “Thought leadership” but when you explore it all that is offered is content or hints and tips — most often there is nothing thought leading about it.

Content is King, Queen and Subject…but is it?

Every indicator about how much content is being uploaded via the plethora of social media channels combined with how much marketers intend to spend on content marketing indicates we are due for an avalanche of even more content.

We run the risk of believing our own content myth that if we produce enough content our brand will be perceived as a thought leader. The reality is we are simply another brand pumping out self-serving, product or brand-centric stuff. Yet some brands remain intent on flooding the market with content in the hope of SEO and Google rankings.

The fact is too much choice is confusing and it’s drowning out the good stuff.

The question should be asked whether your brand is in the content business or the relationship business? In many instances, content marketers, marketing managers, advertising and PR agencies have lost sight of the goal of content — establishing trust in your brand by providing something of value and in so doing nurturing and engaging with your market.

Too much of the content today is ‘me content’ i.e. content all about the brand/product with little focus on the consumer and their challenges.

It’s ironic that two of the key objectives for delivering content — standing out from the crowd and driving loyalty and trust are being undermined by brands clamouring for Google SEO rankings in many instances driven by volume.

It’s the brave communicator who calls for less but higher quality content

Where is the content that truly stands out from the crowd; content that differentiates your brand because someone has taken time to research or think through the insights and deliver something the market values?

One brand has turned its back on volume with a belief in the less is more principle. For the past few years Merryn Stewart, EY Oceania’s brand marketing and communications (BMC) director and her team have focused their thought leadership effort on three areas:

  1. Cutting back on the volume of content
  2. Personalising content as far as possible
  3. Using their thought leadership as a change management driver internally i.e. to get all internal parties, but mainly the partners, to think about it differently and use it across practice areas.

Says Merryn:

We have been producing a lot less content but we are doing a lot more with it.

Critically for EY their thought leadership is seen primarily as a business tool. It is driven by their core purpose, launched a few years ago, on building a better working world. Everything Merryn and her team does hangs off this.

It makes sense and in my experience the thought leadership propositions that are true to the purpose of an organisation are the ones that survive and prosper over the long-term.

Says Merryn:

We needed something from which we could run a year-long content and engagement program.

We knew we had to focus in each of the areas in which we do business and explore and deliver to clients and prospects in that sector the one thing that would really make a difference and that mattered to them.

It’s time to re-look your content strategy

Not everyone has the resources of an EY but it shouldn’t matter. Every content strategy can and should be re-evaluated along the following lines:

  • Alignment with your business objectives
  • Focusing, always, on the things that matter most to your client / customer
  • Delivering a point of view that is new and different
  • Leveraging content across multiple channels and stakeholders.

Do this and who knows your market might even start calling you a thought leader. Remember: “Thought leaders are brave; explore areas others don’t; ask questions others won’t; and provide insights others can’t.”

Thoughtleadership tweet

Thought Leadership Tweet: 140 Prompts for Designing and Executing an Effective Thought Leadership Campaign by Dr Liz Alexander and Craig Badings.


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