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Written by Alys Marshall

The art of thought leadership content: extracting the expertise

In B2B marketing, thought leadership content is one of the most crucial tools we’ve got. Done right, it should cement the author’s status as an industry expert, generate PR coverage and help to nurture leads. It’s a central tenet of the strategy for promoting your company’s senior leaders. 

Yet today’s prolific content landscape poses a real challenge to marketers. LinkedIn has made sharing professional insights more accessible, while AI is now considered a shortcut for long-form content generation. 

How do you carve out a space for your subject’s voice when everyone has something (useful or otherwise) to say? 

Think about what makes actual thought leadership content.

To seasoned content strategists, this is second nature. However, if you’re making the jump from PPC, SEO or more creative marketing into thought leadership content, you’ve probably got some learning — and unlearning — to do. 

The first priority is ensuring that the finished product contains a significant amount of original material. You might still be incorporating a few search terms, but this type of content isn’t designed to cover off specific keyword variants by repurposing a handful of results from the SERPs. That means interviewing your author as thoroughly as time allows (record it!), and trying to capture unique insights that come directly from their experience in the industry. 

Once you’ve got the insights, the easy route is sharing them in a neutral, factual way. But in a thought leadership context, this is a big mistake. That’s where your expertise comes in — shaping your subject’s thoughts into a narrative that offers a coherent angle is far more powerful and engaging. 

Content that does this successfully also ticks our third box for thought leadership: producing work that legitimately adds value. It might answer a question that’s being asked within the industry, address a widely-discussed problem, or provide actionable steps. Like we will in a minute. 

Remember the difference between writing and authoring.

All marketers are used to writing for brands and businesses, yet ghost-writing on behalf of a specific individual is another thing entirely. Whether the output is a single opinion piece or a LinkedIn series, you need to think carefully on how best to showcase your author’s deep industry understanding

Our top tip? Abandon any and all territorial feelings — it may be your work, but it’s their asset, and it’s vital that the individual you’re writing for feels accurately represented by what you produce. Be mindful of putting words in their mouth or making them sound like someone they’re not. Ultimately, you’re trying to distil and communicate their message, not completely overhaul it.

If you can listen closely to your subject and translate their professional persona into an authentic voice, you’ll earn their trust and see better results. 

Get the best from your subject (and yourself).

We’ve established the bar we’re aiming for. But how do you get what you need from your subject, to help your nugget of an idea bloom into a fully grown piece of thought-leading content?

While the process looks different for every marketer, some universal truths prevail. Here come those actionable steps… 

Don’t try to make something from nothing. However tight the deadline, you can’t create thought leadership content without the input of a thought leader. It comes out as muddled and unconvincing as post-Elon Twitter.

Do your research first. It’s not your subject’s job to give you a basic understanding of the subject matter. They can provide the wider context, but if there’s no clear argument, you may need to extrapolate their take from your conversation.

Time your interview carefully. If you’re arranging a meeting with the author, don’t book it for 5pm on a Friday. Be sure to factor in any time differences, and try not to cram it in between other meetings. That way, you’ll both be on more energised, focused form.

Understand your author’s way of working. They might be too busy to fit in a call, or feel more equipped to answer your questions over email. As long as you get access to the information you need, you can flex your method to suit the situation. 

Be receptive to feedback. Build out a crib sheet containing any preferences on tone, style or phrasing; this gives you a stronger starting point moving forward, and helps to establish the author’s individual voice. 

Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of good rapport with your subject. After all, who isn’t more forthcoming and enthusiastic with someone they enjoy speaking to?  

Building personal brand through thought leadership is our bread and butter. So if you’re feeling peckish, get in touch to discuss our services, and find out what they could do for you and your business.