• Natalie Sharp

What is thought leadership?

Thought leadership is regularly talked about in the business world but is it just another annoying industry buzzword and more content that is produced?

Is content and thought leadership the same thing?

Thought leadership is when businesses build unique perspectives on hot topics and have answers to the biggest questions on the minds of their buyers.

It becomes effective when the passion and expertise of the thought leader coincide with the interests of the audience you are trying to reach.

Content marketing is commonly about producing content quickly and in high volumes. True thought leadership takes considerable time to develop and contains much longer in-depth pieces.

Why is it important?

Thought leadership is particularly powerful in business to business. This is because of the complexity of the decision-making process. According to research by Edelman and Linked In, nearly half of business decision makers said thought leadership has directly led them to award business to an organisation. Thought leadership content can aid anyone involved in the business decision making process to gain alignment across their company regarding the problems they are facing.

Where does thought leadership come from?

Thought leadership can come from any source both within and outside an organisation including customers, staff and stakeholders involved in the supply chain. We all have knowledge, experience and a point of view that can be relevant and it is particularly effective when these insights can be pooled together.

Thought leadership can be presented in a number of ways including writing research papers and books, speaking at events and conferences and podcasts, and engaging on social media and blogs.

What are the benefits?

The benefits of thought leadership start with brand affinity. By communicating thought leadership you become part of the conversation, early in the buying journey. Plus content that demonstrates thought leadership tends to be compelling as it has built-in authority, and inherent trustworthiness.

Thought leadership has a tremendous PR value and helps not just with sales and marketing, but recruitment and corporate affairs as it boosts your corporate reputation.

Tips for success

Here are some simple tips if you're starting out:-

  • Never sell – however tempting to slip in your latest product recommendations, stay clear of doing this. You will immediately lose the trust of your audience and they may stop reading or unsubscribe from your content. Over 30% of business decision makers have removed organisations from consideration in the buying process after engaging with poor thought leadership content.

  • Blend of experts – get the right mix of experts. You can create more of a balanced argument by bringing on board different types of industry experts both within but also outside of your business. Have a think who you know in the industry that can provide an expert view. Get more than one opinion.

  • Output – consider how the thought leadership will be used and the best output. Different types of people like different types of content. Will it be a webinar, an infographic, an interview or a white paper? It will be more cost effective for you to agree and develop this upfront.

Examples of infographics developed by Sharp Thinking for clients

  • Promote, promote and promote – a piece of thought leadership should not just be used once. A lot of thought leadership will contain evergreen content, which means it won't have a limited shelf life. Think about how it can repurposed and used across all your different channels to maximum the value of your investment.

  • Long term – always include a long term view on a topic. It makes a nice and natural way to end a piece.


Thought leadership is not a quick or cheap exercise. It requires significant investment, not just financially, but with buy in from the top and across a business. Normally, it takes years for a brand to be seen as a though leader in their field, but the benefits are significant.

See how to generate great content or download our free infographics marketing trends for small businesses or how to create a sales strategy.

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