Content marketing and becoming a thought leader

Mon, 07/03/2016 - 08:27

Content marketing needs to make an impact for the businesses. Any marketing effort, ideally, needs to demonstrate an impact to the bottom line. It has to make money, show results, it has to prove value.

Smart, relevant, engaging content definitely can impact a path to purchase but it can also help a brand achieve a whole heap of softer, less monetary targets. (And let’s face it, if you get the warm and fuzzies really right, the money follows!)

Good content can help a brand become a thought leader. Truly being considered a thought leader is not an easy feat. Businesses have to be willing to produce and share content, from a unique point of view and it can’t specifically be about their products or services; it can’t try and sell the reader anything.

Thought leadership content is, at its heart, generous. It’s free, it offers something relevant, credible and meaningful to its audience. It shares expertise and knowledge, with no strings attached. And that helps a brand be seen as a thought leader.

And that’s a powerful thing. Brands that are considered to be thought leaders are also considered to be expert, superior, ahead of the rest, leaders of their pack. That’s a strong brand space to live in.

So, how do you use content to become a thought leader?

Content that hits the sweet spot shares information that is useful. It’s of value to a consumer – not just to the brand. You have to find a voice and a topic/theme that you can own. Back to marketing 101: what’s your USP? What can you do better than anyone else?

The topic/theme has to be legitimate, honest and you have to back it up. This is not the space to “fake it until you make it”. Good content will be rewarded but bad content? The backlash can be brutal. Bic learnt this only too well with last year’s Women’s Day Campaign.

It’s important to look for the gap, the space. Is there something that your audience are talking about, a hot topic that is at the heart of your industry? Can you come into that conversation in a way that your competitors can't?

Find other brands and influencers you can play well with. Finding a space that is completely vacant is unlikely. You need to be willing to collaborate. Good leaders surround themselves with other good, quality individuals and a brand should do the same.

Finding influencers and connecting with them is a sure fire way of gaining a valued connection to your audience. Power is in the hand of the consumer so use the consumer as your own expert. But don’t ask them to do it for free.

Today’s bloggers are your media houses. You’d pay a media house to secure ad space for you in a magazine or on a website. So why would you ask a blogger to do their work for free?

Partnerships with the right people can help a brand establish itself in a warmer, softer light with their audience.

Finding a topic is only the start. The real work is in owning that topic. You need to dominate the topic space to a point where you are the natural leader. Thought leadership requires consistency, a clear communication plan and a willingness to be flexible and follow and in many cases, lead into new areas.

You have to be multi-channel and channel neutral. Find each and every connection opportunity and be in that space, use it to connect with others, work the channel and the content.

Content needs to be smashable. Content is perhaps, one of the most versatile pieces of creative.

Think of a piece of content like a lump of clay. You can pull chunks off the big lump and mould them into smaller pieces, individual bits that can stand on their own and be repurposed. Content can be a mix of written, visual, interactive and it can be pulled through into all sorts of channels - be it digital, direct, offline or above the line. It’s shareable, so use those influencers to extend the reach even further.

Great content isn’t a one shot deal. It requires repetition, momentum. You can’t accelerate up to 100 and then take your foot off the accelerator completely. You take your foot off the pedal and eventually, you’ll roll to a stop. You need to find your speed, your rhythm.

Cementing your position as a thought leader requires a continuous flow of content. Daily, weekly, monthly and evergreen. And you can have all types. You can section your overall content plan according to content types and speeds. You may have a section dedicated to planning daily news snippets, another section dedicated to longer lasting pieces of content.

That ensures that the content momentum is sustainable: constantly fresh, engaging and it helps you create that thought leader noise that is required.

Bottom line?

Content marketing can help a brand own a very powerful piece of consumer retail space – that of the thought leader. And that, translates directly to the bottom line.

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