Some thoughts from a content marketing pro about Thought Leadership

Photo Credit: Steve Jurvetson

Photo Credit: Steve Jurvetson

“I’ve been turned off lately by a lot of so-called ‘thought leadership articles’ out there that pretty much boil down to a two-sentence idea,” complained one new client in my downtown Vancouver office the other day. “I really wish they would have written it that way, instead of trying to stretch it out to a long blog post. Let’s not do what they’re doing.”

I had to concur. Of course, ‘thought leadership’ articles are a big thing in content marketing today. Publishing them on your blog or in major media outlets can separate your brand from the pack. They make you (or someone else in your company) an authority, giving customers the confidence that you know exactly what you’re doing. But if you publish half-baked ideas, you’re not doing yourself or your brand any favors.

It’s not a new problem, actually. The vast majority of the business books I’ve read, including some popular bestsellers, tend to be pretty light on genuinely big ideas. But if you’re going to try, here are some guidelines we use to make sure that the thought leadership articles we craft on behalf of thoughtful CEOs are instantly shareable:

Have some real thought behind it. This should go without saying. If C-level executives are expecting to whip off a one-sentence idea and have their creative copywriter “dig up some stuff online”, the company isn’t showing much thought or leadership.

Do your research. Gather metrics that tell a story. No one’s interested in a 750 word article that, to quote the Dude from The Big Lebowski, is “just like, your opinion, man.”

Follow through on your promise. Is your big idea disruptive? Then why are all the companies that haven’t implemented your advice still around and doing better than ever?

Be timely. Steve Jobs is worm-food and has been for some time. Get over it. We need to get some new examples. Why is your big idea relevant now?

Give credit where credit is due. We’re all standing on the shoulders of giants. Many thought leadership articles are simply updates or tweaks to common business ideas that have been circulating for decades. That doesn’t take away from your big idea. Just remember: good artists copy. Great artists steal — and have the chutzpah to name their victims (er, sources).