The Eucalypt Media Blog

Why Thought Leadership Content Marketing Is Crucial for Modern Executives

By Kathryn Hawkins. Business Tips Content Strategy and Marketing
Virgin CEO Richard Branson.
Virgin CEO Richard Branson. Image Credit: drserg/Depositphotos.com

Thought leadership content marketing is a crucial tool for building your reputation, reaching new audiences, and spotlighting your company in a positive light.

Today’s consumers are smarter than you give them credit for. They don’t want to listen to sales pitches; they want to make their own decisions about what companies to support. They pay close attention to top executives, what their values are, and how well they can explain and predict transformation within their industries. In the age of social media, authenticity is more important than ever before, and you can’t hide behind glossy presentations and ads. Prospects, customers, and partners want to see what you’re really about.

In the age of social media, authenticity is more important than ever before, and you can’t hide behind glossy presentations and ads. Prospects, customers, and partners want to see what you’re really about.

So that means building your brand not through glib taglines and catchphrases, but through genuine self-reflection on your core values as a business leader, and why they are relevant in your industry.

Most thought leadership content fits into one of these three buckets, as LinkedIn (disclaimer: Eucalypt Media client) spotlights in this infographic:

  1. Industry thought leadership, focused on what’s new and exciting in your industry. For example, we’ve worked with an app development team to help them develop content about the future of virtual reality technology—as industry leaders, they’re the ones with the insights to make predictions about what’s coming. By publishing their industry prediction content on publications aimed at tech company executives, they can showcase their in-depth knowledge and position themselves as ideal partners for companies who are ready to launch their own VR efforts.

  2. Organizational thought leadership, which spotlights your management style and what you do to build your company and make sure your employees feel valued. Sabrina Parsons, CEO of Palo Alto Software (a really sharp entrepreneur I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing), both writes and speaks frequently on the subject of workplace flexibility, and addresses her thoughts on bringing kids to the workplace for Harvard Business Review. This both serves as a great recruiting tool for Palo Alto software, which comes across as a family-friendly employer, and contributes to the national conversation around work-life balance and working parenthood.

  3. Product thought leadership, focused on why your product is the best solution in the industry. This one’s a little tricky to get right, and some companies turn to a sales pitch here—but by writing about the journey you’ve taken to get your product to its current iteration, you can develop a convincing argument for why prospects should consider you. This Medium essay from the CEO of Slack, Stewart Butterfield, written just before the launch of their preview release, showcases the difficulties in encouraging people to change their default mode of communication from private to public. “We need to make them understand what’s at the end of the rainbow if they go with Slack, and then we have to work our asses off in order to ensure they get there,” writes Butterfield. With more than 2 million daily active users, it seems they’ve done it.

Thought leadership content—compelling, insightful content by executives about their industry, organization, and product analyses and predictions—is becoming a crucial tool for differentiating your company, building new connections, and deepening your relationship with existing customers and followers.

Thought leadership content—compelling, insightful content by executives about their industry, organization, and product analyses and predictions—is becoming a crucial tool for differentiating your company, building new connections, and deepening your relationship with existing customers and followers.

By publishing truly engaging, useful, and innovative content related to your business and your industry, you can elevate both your personal brand and that of your business. Here’s why you should invest in thought leadership content marketing this year.

Let your business stand out from the competition

A 2015 study showed that 87 percent of content marketers have trouble producing highly engaging content, so it’s time to excel where your competition is lacking. By developing high-quality thought leadership content, you position your company a step ahead of the rest. With 88 percent of consumers accessing content while multitasking across multiple screens, it’s vital to capture your audience’s attention with highly engaging content that sets you apart from the competition.

Become the go-to expert in your industry

When your content is recognized on a national scale, you’ll be the one people go to for press interviews, speaking opportunities, and guest blog appearances. This helps your business, but also your personal brand—even if you leave your current role, you’ll have your pick of job opportunities within your industry. Job-hunters or -switchers who don’t put effort into personal branding are at a distinct disadvantage: A CareerBuilder survey found that over a third of hiring managers are less likely to offer someone a job if they can’t find external information about the individual online.

Build powerful connections with your peers and prospects

In addition to building your own name recognition, you can use your content to discuss the work of industry peers, and generate comments from others in your field - including both competitors and potential customers. Take every opportunity to build new and meaningful relationships with your fellow thought leaders, and pay attention to what they’re doing to maintain their position as industry experts.

As Daniel Rasmus wrote in Fast Company, “Thought leadership should intrigue, challenge, and inspire even people already familiar with a company. It should help start a relationship where none exists, and it should enhance existing relationships.”

Humanize your brand

Prospects don’t care about facts and figures, they care about stories. Draw prospects in by revealing more about who you are and why they should trust you (and your company). Think about the story that you want your company to tell, and create a mix of content that tells your story eloquently.

Prospects don’t care about facts and figures, they care about stories. Draw prospects in by revealing more about who you are and why they should trust you (and your company).

Take Virgin CEO Richard Branson as an example: He’s developed an audience of more than 8 million on LinkedIn, where he shares thoughts on his values (which are, by extension, Virgin’s company values)—for instance, he’s written about the importance of offering a healthy work-life balance, while also playing up the fact that Virgin has begun offering policies to facilitate that, such as unlimited time off. Branson says that consumers gravitate toward brands who have similar values to theirs, so craft content that reflects what’s important to your brand, and the right prospects will follow.

Enjoy better business ROI than advertising

A strategic thought leadership campaign can achieve visibility to huge audiences via platforms such as LinkedIn, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, and Forbes. To get the same exposure through advertising, you’d need a budget of tens of thousands of dollars, and chances are that your ROI wouldn’t come close to the costs involved. Maximize your ROI by gearing your content toward already-existing communities, positioning yourself in front of thousands of readers who are interested in your expertise.

In order to make an impact, do it well. Focus on fleshing out genuine insights from your years of experience in your industry, and bring a team together to help you refine your messaging and polish your prose. If you want to be a thought leader, don’t call yourself one—publish high quality, thoughtful content and the accolades will start rolling in.

How do you get there? Stay tuned for an upcoming post about what makes great thought leadership content.

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Kathryn Hawkins

Kathryn Hawkins is principal and chief content strategist of Eucalypt Media. She has worked as a freelance journalist for media publications and managed inbound marketing and content strategy for corporate and nonprofit clients for more than a decade.

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