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This is not thought leadership

Recently, I overheard some communications professionals remark that they needed some thought leadership to put on their client’s blog. They then began to brainstorm article ideas to drive SEO. (That’s ‘search engine optimisation’, if you’re wondering.)

This process struck me as backwards. What they were really looking for was content marketing, not thought leadership. It’s a distinction with a big difference. Content marketing is important. It represents one public face (usually online) of a company’s smarts. As such, it’s an end game that can help shape brands and find new customers.

Thought leadership is a means to that end. It comes from deep within the organisation, drawing on the best ideas from all over the organisation and grounding them with rigorous research. Think of it as R&D for ideas. Thought leadership can then be used for many different purposes – including online content marketing – but also including product and service development, supporting leaders in public appearances, making a difference on global issues, and providing (publicly invisible) tools used by your team to strengthen relationships with clients, suppliers and distributors, policy-makers and even competitors.

That’s not to say that content marketing without thought leadership isn’t important. It is. In fact, I would call this blog post content marketing, not thought leadership. Let’s make sure we don’t confuse one for the other.

One thought on “This is not thought leadership

  1. Thank you for writing this, Larry. You are right in pointing out that so many marketers are getting the wrong idea about thought leadership to the point that it has almost lost any kind of differentiated meaning.

    As Craig Badings and I point out in our book #Thought Leadership Tweet: 140 Prompts for Designing and Executing an Effective Thought Leadership Campaign, thought leadership needs to be part of an organization’s cultural DNA. It is not a communications or marketing bolt-on, as so many misunderstand it to be, but a change management approach that, done correctly, has huge implications for how organizations attract and retain clients through a differentiated brand identity, deep trust, and loyal followership. Plus, it can become a powerful means of attracting and retaining top talent — people who are excited by a company courageous enough to establish a unique point of view that is intriguing, innovative, inspiring and wholly relevant to their market.

    If you would like a complimentary review copy of our book, please be in touch and I’ll be happy to forward one on 🙂

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