Thought Leadership Versus Content Marketing—One and the Same?

Everywhere you turn today in our industry, people are talking about content marketing. Content initiatives have taken on a life of their own—with good reason—as brands are working to improve their content system in order to deliver the right content at the right place and time for consumers and business audiences alike.

What is interesting to me is that I often hear people talk about thought leadership and content marketing as though they were the same thing. But, they are not.

Forrester Research defines content marketing as the tactical process of creating communications for prospects, customers and other key target audiences. Thought leadership is defined as the strategic process of creating and sharing big ideas, insights and new perspectives on the critical issues that buyers face.

So they are different, but inextricably linked. Having managed a number of very successful thought leadership campaigns, I consider thought leadership to be all about leveraging the point-of-view expressed within a company’s content. As such, content is really the driver for a strong thought leadership program.

Once you have a point of view, it is imperative that you slice and dice the information and deliver it in a variety of formats across multiple channels. The tactics and channels will depend upon your objectives, audiences and delivery preferences.

For example, a client of ComBlu’s recently shared information on a new loan vehicle they had developed to help serve the financing needs of small business owners in the insurance, medical and franchise industries. They had compiled some research on the market needs and developed a POV in the form of a product brief. Our mission was to leverage this content to let the decision makers in these three industries know about this new finance option and how it could help them today.

ComBlu worked with our client to come up with specific reasons and examples to clearly articulate how this loan product would help companies in each distinct industry, and applied that information in several ways. We then developed the materials to secure thought leadership pieces, including:

· Authored articles on the topic that ran in trade publications and online newsletters that reach medical professionals, insurance brokers and franchise owners

· Guest blogs on related industry association websites

· Expert commentary (quotes by our thought leader) that ran in finance trend pieces written by reporters that cover the three industries

· Company blogs that were then linked to in an email campaign that went out to current and existing customers, as well as lists purchased from the related industry trade associations

It is important to point out that thought leadership is not a “once in a row” activity. Once the content is in place and a point of view is developed, a company has to continually leverage its body of work to bubble up new ideas to sustain dialogue and foster ongoing conversation. The process begins with a clear definition of the thought leadership objectives and ends with a framework to deliver thought leadership positioning that will stimulate discussion, differentiate the organization and generate action.

Thought leadership will always be linked to a company’s content, and true thought leadership will never go out of style. People in all industries will always embrace fresh thinking, new ideas and leadership. But to be effective, it must be on-target, build credibility, attract followers and lead on the issues that matter most to the target audiences.

Do you have a thought leadership example you’d like to share? I’d love to hear.

Pam Flores

Pam Flores

Pam is adept at fostering relationships with respected thought leaders and influencers. She has 20-plus years of experience in social engagement, media and blogger relations, thought leadership, community building and copywriting.