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5 major misconceptions about thought leadership

Hannah Grafton

Hannah Grafton

Putting its lofty name aside, thought leadership is something that’s existed for as long as marketing has. An essential part of any content marketing strategy, thought leadership is, quite simply, talking about something you’re an expert in or passionate about. And with the increase of AI-generated content in marketing, it’s never been more important to craft a unique opinion in order to stand out.

Despite there being a great deal of discussion around thought leadership, so many brands still get it wrong. Who is best placed to be a thought leader? What kind of content is most effective? To simplify and demystify the process, we’ve listed the top five biggest mistakes and incorrect assumptions about thought leadership and its uses. An entire blog about thought leadership – meta, right?

1. Everyone should be a thought leader

While there are no barriers for entry in terms of who can produce and post thought leadership content, not everyone should be expected to. As the name suggests, thought leaders should be those who are experts about the topic in question.

Similarly, many assume that the CEO, MD, or most senior team member should be the one spearheading thought leadership content. But knowledge and reputation are far more important than seniority in this case. Consider splitting topics between people that have the relevant expertise, assigning each to be their own subject matter expert, or even bringing in external experts in the space you want to occupy to benefit from their credibility.

2. You have to say something revolutionary

While thought leadership content should always aim to highlight a unique way of thinking, the idea that each output needs to be entirely revolutionary can scare brands away from creating content. Thought leadership is, at its core, a play for relevance. Taking the time to form a well-rounded opinion on an issue, a trend, or illuminating a new route to success helps your brand remain relevant.

Thought leadership can be made up of an amalgamation of existing ideas combined to create something new, or it can focus on a single person’s opinion, based on their unique knowledge and experiences. For those in the B2B space in particular, keeping your product or service front and centre constantly can feel repetitive and tactless. Making a commitment to sharing a perspective instead creates a more effective way to remain relevant and spark conversations.

3. Thought leadership is always a blog or a social post

When you think of thought leadership, you probably picture a blog or long-form piece of content sitting on a brand’s website, or a post from a company leader on LinkedIn. But it’s not always about written copy – given the oversaturation of the digital space with articles, news, and opinions (the irony isn’t lost on us here), it’s well worth exploring more creative forms of thought leadership.

Establishing a person or a brand as a thought leader can involve chatting with other experts in a video, featuring in a podcast, taking part in a roundtable, or hosting a livestream. Even creating more digestible content like memes can, where appropriate, build a greater impact over time.

4. The aim is to get people to buy your product or service

Thought leadership is not “buy my product.” Given its purpose, to build up relevance and credibility, content should not be overly sales-driven or self-promotional. Its key purpose is creating new opinions and journeys, nurturing richer relationships with existing customers and potential new ones.

Crafting the right narrative tone takes time and delicacy, but with a thought leader that’s willing to fuse their sectoral passion and openness with industry news, you can build a greater trust with readers and customers.

5. One great piece of content can establish you as a thought leader

Though it’s made up of various small efforts, thought leadership is undoubtedly a long-term effort. As the industry keeps on moving, so should your content, meaning that thought leadership should develop and flex alongside trends, opinions, and your business.

This means creating a long-term content calendar that can be creatively revised based on the latest news in your industry, and committing to regular, high-quality content that stays fresh. Consistency is the key to having a real impact here, so while the content may not reap immediate financial reward, it’s a slow burn that will pay off further down the road.

Want to learn more about shaping a winning thought leadership strategy? Get in touch.