Why Brain-Dead Thought Leadership Is Worse Than No Thought Leadership at All

How do you elevate your company's thought leadership from brain-dead to brainy?

person writing an article
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There's a question that newspaper editorial writers often ask each other during the ideation process: "What's the second sentence?"

This typically is asked when a writer is tasked with opining about something where the takeaway is rather obvious. Something horrible or tragic happened? We are sad. Something wonderful happened? We are happy!

Well, of course you are. But what's the second sentence? People expect more than the obvious from those editorial writers. They expect a real perspective.

The same question needs to be asked before your company embarks on a thought leadership strategy. Your brand's audience expects more than the obvious, too. They expect more than a sales piece. They expect a point of view.

Must-Haves for Creating Thought Leadership Content

Much of what we do at my agency is centered on thought leadership. We build email campaigns around it. We use it to drive traffic to websites. We help clients generate market awareness and brand trust.

But if your thought leadership doesn't have substance, it undermines all your content marketing efforts. In fact, it's worse than not doing thought leadership at all. This is borne out by a recent study that showed that while most B2B decision makers read thought leadership content regularly, fewer than one in five of those decision makers thinks the content they consume is of high quality.

So, how do you elevate your company's thought leadership from brain-dead to brainy?

Give It the Time It Deserves

While companies often like the idea of thought leadership marketing, many simply aren't willing to follow through with the time and effort necessary to be successful. Company thought leaders are typically company leaders — CEOs, CMOs, CIOs. Their time is valuable and usually already accounted for. For this reason, in-house marketers often look to find ways to produce thought leadership content without taking up their top executives' time.

On more than a few occasions, we have gotten the following ask from a client:

"Can't you take these pieces of collateral, those blog posts and this internal document and create something — and then put our CEO's byline on it?"

Can we? Yes. But should we? No.

Because that's aggregation and regurgitation — not thought leadership. We may be able to come up with a very compelling first sentence, but we still won't have a second. We won't have the perspective that we need. That only comes from time with a thought leader.

Give It the Thought It Deserves

We had an editor at Idea Grove who used to complain about content he called "Google specials." This was something that could be written in a couple of hours with a handful of Google queries. It's content that's good for little more than search engine fodder, and it's not what we are talking about when we say thought leadership.

Thought leadership needs to have insight behind it. It needs something that the reader won't find anywhere else. It needs unique perspective.

This can sometimes seem scary to our clients. Expressing those original thoughts means being responsible for those original thoughts. Putting them in writing makes them official, and you then have to stand behind them. But it's that perspective — and in some cases, that courage — that will differentiate you from your competitors.

That's the kind of thought leadership that can feed a content marketing engine while driving awareness of your company, trust in your brand and, ultimately, industry leadership and business growth.

Break Away from the Chorus

Thought leadership begins at the second sentence. It begins when you break away from the chorus of voices in your industry saying the same things. It begins when you move past the obvious and start offering real perspective. That second sentence is what you need to achieve thought leadership success.

So, what's yours?

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