How to Create Effective Thought Leadership Content

To establish your place as a thought leader and trustworthy authority in your industry, you need to publish original, high-level content. But writing effective thought leadership content is no easy task.

Taking the time and effort to learn how to create high-authority content is worth the effort. A 2019 survey of 1,000 senior executives found that, despite their busy schedules, they still dedicate up to five hours a week to reading thought leadership articles and white papers.

Just imagine what you could achieve with a dedicated audience of high-value potential clients taking several hours to listen to what you have to say each week.

Great thought leaders are not necessarily great writers. Luckily, writing effective thought leadership content is a skill that can be learned and perfected, with practice.

There’s no better time to get started than the present.

Quick Takeaways:

  • Thought leadership content differs from standard blog content because it includes unique ideas and viewpoints that your audience can’t find anywhere else – it’s more than just information.
  • Becoming a thought leader takes time, effort, and practice.
  • You don’t necessarily have to be a skilled writer or videographer to find success with thought leadership content. However, you need to be good at creating content in at least one format on at least one platform.

Brainstorm Topics

The first stage of creating great thought leadership content is choosing the right topics to write about.

When choosing these topics it’s important to keep in mind the factors that will result in success:

  • They should be relevant to your audience or the audience of the publication you’re submitting it to.
  • They should help your clients, customers, or peers to overcome challenges they may be facing, or make their life better in some way.
  • They should provoke thoughts, ideas, or discussions among your audience
  • You should be able to back up your talking points with relevant research from reputable sources.

Nobody is an authority on everything, so the narrower you can make your subject focus, the more credible you’ll seem – at least until you build up trust and reputation. It’s also much better to go deeper into subjects and cover them thoroughly than just to skim the surface of lots of unrelated topics.

Choose a few topic categories to specialize in when you’re creating content. These categories should obviously be related to the industry you’re in but they don’t have to be directly related.

For example, if you frequently use mindfulness in work to be a better leader and more successful in business, this could work as an interesting niche in which to create thought leadership content.

At Marketing Insider Group, my areas of passion are content marketing, marketing strategy, event marketing, and employee activation.

Almost all the content I create fits under the umbrella of one of these categories. This has not only helped me make a name for myself as a thought leader in these areas but has also given me a starting point when it comes to brainstorming topic ideas.

Ideas can come from many places. Make sure you’re never short of inspiration by reading plenty of content yourself. Industry news sites, social media (particularly LinkedIn), forums, and relevant blogs will keep you up to date with the latest trends and may well spark some new content ideas. You can also set a Google alert with industry keywords to be notified when new content is published.

You’ll also probably find that content ideas come to you randomly, or that a conversation you have with someone gives you content inspiration. Make sure to take note of these ideas so you can use them at a later date.

Learn the Art of Crafting a Good Headline

The headline of your article is as important as the body of the content, if not more so.

Many readers won’t even read past your headline if it’s not enticing, so it’s vital to make sure the headline is attention-grabbing. However, click-bait headlines are definitely not something you should ever use as a thought leader – make sure your article delivers on the promise of the headline.

Your headlines can also make or break your social media presence. As this article demonstrates, over half of all content on social media is shared by users who haven’t even read it.

It takes time to learn the “recipe” for a successful headline but in time you’ll soon get a feel for what makes the difference between a headline that invites you to read on and one that you skip over.

Take note of the headlines on articles you choose to read and see if you can identify what it is about them that caught your interest.

It’s a good idea to write a handful of potential headlines for every article you write. This not only hones your headline writing skill but also makes it easier to choose the best possible option.


Do Your Research

One of the things that makes thought leadership content stand out from generic blog content is that it is thoroughly researched and fact-checked.

Whatever information you include in your articles, it’s important that you have the data to back it up from reputable sources.

Your research should provide evidence that demonstrates the validity of what you’re saying. But a blog post simply compiling data from several different sources is not thought leadership. You need to weave a narrative around the data and explain what it means, rather than simply presenting it.

Ideally, thought leadership content is based on original research conducted by the person or organization publishing it, however, this isn’t always possible.

If you don’t have the resources to do your own research, make sure you have something interesting to say about the information and data you’ve sourced from a third party.

It’s vital that the information presented in thought leadership content is accurate. Inaccurate facts or using unreliable sources could damage your reputation permanently. So make sure to double-check your facts and leave out any references that you’re unsure of.


Be Different

One of the defining characteristics of thought leadership content is that it offers a unique take on a subject, idea, or problem.

This doesn’t mean that all your thought leadership content ideas have to be completely unique. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with covering a trending topic or revisiting an idea that has proved popular.

However, you should make sure you approach the topic from your own unique viewpoint and angle.

Think about thought leaders Tony Robbins and Dave Ramsey. The topics they talk about in their respective areas of expertise (personal development and personal finance) are the same topics that have been covered countless times before. But millions follow them as thought leaders because their approach and style are so unique.

Simplify Your Language

Individuals who are new to writing for an online audience tend to use formal and over-complicated language. This may be because they’re used to writing technical or academic documents or in an attempt to sound more knowledgeable and intelligent.

Either way, using long words and sentences full of corporate jargon results in content that is off-putting and difficult to read.

Keeping your sentences short and sweet and using simple, conversational language will allow your knowledge and confidence to shine through.

Build Relationships with Your Audience and Peers

Being a successful thought leader online is more than just publishing articles.

It’s also important to take the time to communicate with your readers and demonstrate you value them. This means reading and responding to comments and maintaining an active presence on social media.

Communicating with your audience in this way is also an effective way to improve your content. By listening to your readers’ thoughts, opinions, suggestions, and challenges, you can create content that better fits their needs.

It’s equally important to build relationships with other thought leaders in your industry. Don’t see your peers as competitors, but rather allies. By leaving comments on other blogs and sharing other great content you can make valuable connections and grow your audience.

Consider Outsourcing

Most business leaders think that they have to create their own content from start to finish for it to be a true reflection of their ideas and opinions. This is not necessarily true. Outsourcing content to a multi-skilled content marketing agency like ours does not have to mean compromising on quality or losing your unique voice; we can take an article outline and notes you provide and use these “bones” to create a fully fleshed out high-quality piece of content.

Outsourcing content can certainly save you time, but it can also ensure the quality of your thought leadership content. Writers, after all, are experts in content creation and by working in partnership you can combine your skills and insights to come up with something really special. Good writers will also be able to emulate your writing style and voice so that your brand voice and messaging comes across seamlessly to readers, without them feeling that non-involved people were involved in the creation of your content.

And of course, what readers love, search engines love more.

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If you are eager to achieve thought leadership for your brand, check out our Content Builder Service. Set up a quick consultation, and I’ll send you a free PDF version of my books. Get started today–and generate more traffic and leads for your business.

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.