Thought leadership vs. content marketing – what’s the difference?

Both thought leadership and content marketing have become buzzwords in the business worlds. They are often used synonymously, as each of them can be invaluable in gaining traction and developing brand recognition, but contrary to popular belief, they do have distinct differences and applications.

Content marketing can be seen as a strategic approach to marketing whose main purpose is to attract and retain a target audience, while driving sales. Thought leadership, on the other hand, is focused on positioning you and your brand as a true industry leader.

The value of content

In an age where content is king, content marketing’s strength is being able to directly communicate a message about your brand to your audience, by providing them with useful, valuable and entertaining content. The communication channels include blog posts, social media, articles and video content.

Good content marketing keeps your brand relevant and discoverable in the search engines, by tapping into what your customers are actually searching for, and providing them with reliable content.

Content marketing is above all action-oriented – it prompts action in the reader, by positioning your product or service as the natural choice to their query, and it also keeps you visible and findable to potential customers.

Thought leadership and authority

Though it could be considered just another form of content, thought leadership occupies a unique space in your content strategy. It aims to provide an original and authoritative insight into a specific area or issue within your field, and in doing so, cements your brand’s expertise.

While good content marketing allows your company to position itself as the go-to retailer for a particular product or service by providing reliable information, thought leadership relies on having real insight into the sector your brand operates within. While these kinds of pieces may not have the immediate and direct ROI that other forms of content do, they are invaluable in any long-term content strategy.

The selling point of a good thought leadership piece is the quality of ideas and thinking on display. Naturally, these pieces take longer to create, as they rely on genuine, original insight, but they also play the long game by positioning you as a leader of ideas and insight in your field.

This is especially important in the B2B sector, where sales are often slow and complex compared to consumer-oriented marketing, but they also allow you to lay the groundwork for future sales and business relationships, by building stakeholder trust and confidence.

Integrated content

Though they have distinct aims and roles, both thought leadership and content marketing should integrate as part of your content strategy.

Thought leadership is essentially a very specialised form of content, and one that takes a lot of time and effort to produce well, so it makes sense to place it at the centre of your content marketing strategy.

These pieces often use vast amounts of data, either from surveys or other research, which can be broken down and repurposed for other forms of content that feed back into the original piece. Breaking down an in-depth thought leadership piece for use in social media, blogs, and other content channels allows you to provide valuable content to your audience, while underpinning this with insights and research.

Both thought leadership and content marketing work best when they are integrated together in your marketing strategy, allowing you to keep your brand relevant to your audience, while also establishing a presence as an authority within your field.

If you’d like an informal chat about how you can begin to develop a content strategy that amplifies the voice of your brand, contact or call 0121 594 0712.