Thought Leadership vs. Content Marketing

By Kevin Anthony

The two terms, content marketing and thought leadership have become buzzwords in the business world. These terms can be hard to both grasp and define, so let’s try to deconstruct these two terms and their ramifications.  

Content marketing and thought leadership have overlapping boundaries as terms. If the subtle difference is not considered, we often end up using them synonymously. This is often inaccurate. So let’s begin by trying to define them.

Thought Leadership: The Larger Perspective

Who is a thought leader and what is the ensuing leadership they claim to display?

Well, it can be an individual or a firm, which have over time organically developed new and unique insights. These insights can address an array of business issues and allow the author to act as an authoritative voice. This entrenches the reputation of a leader in their business sector.

Thought Leaders are looked upon by prospects, fellow leaders and competitors as a filter for the voice of sanity and can change how people or target audiences perceive things.

Content Marketing: The Whole Spectrum

With growing business needs, conventional or traditional marketing has been nudged out, making way for content marketing. Content marketing can be viewed as a strategic marketing approach, focused on creating and disseminating valuable, relevant and consistently evolving content targeted towards a specific audience. This has the aim of spurring profitable customer action. Good content for your products enhances their visibility and is therefore used by big and small firms alike. Marketing is impossible if you don’t have a great content. Content consists of several mediums: papers, articles, videos, webinars, and blogs amongst others. These can all help prospective buyers understand what solutions you can bring to the table – ultimately driving your sales.

Now that we have these definitions, let’s look at the differences between thought leadership and content marketing.

Content marketing is the cornerstone of modern day businesses. Content can be one of many types of material about a company, brand or product. However, it can be bland at times. In these instances, it serves little purpose. It is when we talk of quality content, the element of thought leadership kicks in. Content that captures the imagination, poses answers to questions and creates ideas is more accepted and shows signs of thought leadership.

Therefore, injecting thought leadership – new insights and authority – into content marketing is more likely to generate cut-through and engagement.

But it isn’t that easy.

Thought leadership entails a long-term focus on being a catalyst for change. The only caveat being, it is unlikely to bring quick ROI. However, it can be a definite game changer when pursued as a long-term strategy. Unlike thought leadership, content marketing strives to address more immediate needs and customer issues. Therefore, it would be appropriate to call thought leadership the goal, and content marketing a means to attain it.

Laura Ramos of Forrester articulated the co-dependence of thought leadership and content marketing coherently by way of a layered pyramid. Thought leadership here sits at the pinnacle of content marketing. This is because it is hard to attain – unlike content itself ,which can be generated with ease.

By Kevin Anthony, iResearch Services