Famous thought leaders in the world owe much of their success to incorporating effective content marketing into their long-term strategy. After all, this is the era where content is king and has the power to make or break any business’ reputation and success. Yet, successful thought leaders also understand the nuances that separate thought leadership from content marketing. By combining both effectively, one can ensure sustainable growth of a business’s branding, audience, and reputation.
Content marketing and thought leadership are strategies to engage and influence an audience. Content marketing is a top-down communication method that seeks to initiate a relationship with the reader to drive profitable customer action. On the other hand, thought leadership is akin to peer-to-peer marketing that seeks to build strong connections and credibility. Content marketing remains a critical component in every thought leader‘s arsenal, as it helps create the right communication to influence an audience.
So, how do the two differ, and how can leaders use thought leadership and content marketing strategies to excel? Let us take a closer look.
Content Marketing Vs. Thought Leadership: Key Differences
The LinkedIn-Edelman study in 2021 has already proven how important thought leadership is in today’s business context. According to it, approximately 90% of C-suite decision-makers form their opinion of a business based on the thought leadership that the business displays. Of course, content plays a major role in building such an effective thought leader reputation.
Let us understand the differences between content marketing and thought leadership to figure out how they might work together.
- Creating content vs creating a reputation: Content marketing primarily focuses on creating and distributing valuable content to attract new customers and drive sales. This can include blog posts, videos, infographics, and other types of content that provide value to your target audience. Thought leadership, on the other hand, is focused on positioning yourself or your business as a trusted expert in your industry. This can be achieved through various methods, such as writing articles, speeches, or even social media.
A good example is how Anand Mahindra, the Chairman of Mahindra Group and one of the best corporate leaders around, uses social media channels to talk about innovations, ideas and inspiring stories in India, thus creating a perception of the Mahindra Group as an India-centric conglomerate aiming to contribute to the nation’s growth.
- Tactical vs Strategic: Content marketing is often more tactical, focused on achieving specific business objectives like driving website traffic or increasing sales. Thought leadership is more strategic, with the ultimate goal of establishing your brand as an authority and thought leader in your industry.
The example of Sanjiv Bajaj – one of India’s most famous business personalities – perfectly elucidates this. As the Chairman and Managing Director of Bajaj Finserv and the President of CII (2022-23), he has become an authority in the financial and economic domain through his progressive policy suggestions, innovative ideas to transform the industry, and nuggets of wisdom for budding fintech entrepreneurs. This strategic approach to thought leadership is also visible in his organisation Bajaj Finserv’s use of social media to connect with audiences with impact-driven, informative content, thus empowering them to become informed consumers and make wise, informed choices. By providing awareness about various scams and spreading financial literacy, Bajaj Finserv puts the consumer first and has thus established itself as a credible voice in the industry.
- Informative vs Engaging: Content marketing’s commodity is ‘value’, meaning that the content should be informative, engaging and useful to draw the reader in and establish a connection. Thought leadership, on the other hand, operates on a different plane and requires the author to have something ground-breaking to say to capture the reader’s attention.
Uday Kotak – one of the most famous thought leaders – is known to deliver authentic and highly engaging content to his followers across social media channels – both his own and his company’s. As the CEO of Kotak Mahindra Bank, he has carved a niche for himself as a thought leader who shares interesting facets of the future of fintech, consumer-centricity, and industry innovation with his audiences. This has enabled him to propel Kotak Mahindra Bank into the top tier of the most trusted financial entities in the country.
- Different resources, requirements and skillsets: Content marketing is generally more accessible to small and medium-sized businesses, as it requires a smaller investment in time and money than thought leadership. Thought leadership requires a significant investment of time and resources to build a personal brand and establish oneself as a thought leader in the industry.
Effective content marketing requires leaders to be hands-on with various marketing tools, technicalities, and strategies. On the other hand, to be a famous thought leader, one must have a leadership vision, clear communication skills, and the ability to inspire others. Having a deep understanding of the industry and trends and providing insights that others can act on, to be an effective thought leader.
Making Content Marketing and Thought Leadership Work
Ultimately, the decision to pursue a content marketing or thought leadership strategy will depend on your business’s specific goals and resources. Both strategies can be effective in their own right and can even be used in conjunction with one another. For example, a company might use content marketing to attract new customers while also using thought leadership to establish itself as an authority in its industry.
Some of the best practices for thought leadership marketing include knowing your audience and continuing to learn about them, being active on social media, publishing various content in various places, and analysing what your competitors are doing. Additionally, thought leadership content should be valuable and genuine and include examples, facts, and quotes.
Thought leaders such as Sanjiv Bajaj, Anand Mahindra, and Uday Kotak have become highly successful in their respective fields by regularly producing content related to their expertise. By becoming a thought leader, you can also demonstrate and establish your brand’s value and become an expert in your field.
In conclusion, content marketing and thought leadership can both be highly effective strategies for engaging and influencing an audience. By following best practices and understanding the differences between the two strategies, marketers can create content that resonates with their audience and establishes the brand as an expert in the industry.