Using Content to Fuel Thought Leadership (and Sales!)

student-849825_640Elevating your brand above your competition requires an approach that will give your brand a clear voice of authority, influence and knowledge in the marketplace. A solid thought leadership strategy will help build this brand reputation, while presenting your organization with opportunities for sales growth.

The goal of a thought leadership strategy is to position an executive or company, as an expert and a leader in a certain area, industry or subject matter. Tactically speaking, this could translate into speaking opportunities in front of industry colleagues or being quoted by a reporter in a publication read by your target audience.

While there are many spokes in the thought leadership wheel, content strategy must be one of them. Authoring content and securing its placement in target media outlets has become one of the most influential and important parts of a company’s thought leadership strategy and a critical factor in building a brand.

Why content?

One of the leading trends we’re seeing in our space – the convergence of PR and marketing – has content at the center of it all. Content is essential because it builds credibility and when done right, will even contribute to lead generation.

In our current environment, there’s also an increased demand for it. As news organizations grapple with fewer editors and reporters, and demanding, up-to-the-second readers consume online content as quickly as it’s posted, media outlets are hungry for original stories.


Content in action

Apart from the quality of the content developed, the crux of any content strategy is getting it published in media outlets that reach your customers and target buyers. The goal is to identify editors who accept contributed content (some only publish articles written by their editorial staff) and are responsible for reviewing and approving content submissions. This process often requires diligent follow-up and bouncing around between editors until you find the right one. There are a couple of ways contributed content is published:

Bylined articles – as the name suggests, a bylined article typically features a company executive as the author of the piece, instead of a reporter writing the article.


In both cases, the company is weighing in on a topic of interest, without self-promotion. The articles are written to share insight, opine on trends and give the readers a takeaway they can implement at their own organizations. This begs the question: How did these companies get their articles placed? A PR agency is typically engaged to manage the process on behalf of companies, or experts reach out to reporters directly to determine their interest in featuring such content.

Guest blogs – Guest blogs are a popular form of thought leadership. There is a fine line between a bylined article and guest blog, as they have similar qualities. One difference is that a blog will only appear online, while a bylined article can appear in print or online, depending on the publication.


  • Harvey Nash, a global recruitment and IT outsourcing organization, utilizes blogging as part of its strategy to position its executives as top thought leaders in their industry. Harvey Nash Chief Digital Technology Officer Anna Frazzetto is a regular contributor for industry-leading publication on the significant impact digital is having on the C-suite, “Look Who’s Coming for the CEO Role.”

Self-published content

Contributing content to media outlets is the goal. It is increasingly valuable, though, for you to self-publish content on your own website, your blog, through partner sites, via social media channels such as LinkedIn Pulse, in email communications and as a tool for your salesforce.

Self-published articles – an article written by an executive on a certain subject matter, sharing unique insights; therefore “leading the thought or thinking” on that topic. More often the thought leadership article is housed on a company’s website with a gateway to download the content (read it) by simply filling out a form (turns the content into a lead generation opportunity).


  • IT Staffing company PSCI published a thought leadership article that would live on its website, but be downloadable to capture leads. Titled, “PSCI Perspective: Big Data in Pharma,” the article draws attention to their expertise in one of its target industries, pharmaceuticals, while also offering commentary on big data.

Company blogs – written by experts at an organization and posted quickly on the company website, blog and/or LinkedIn Pulse, offering a unique point of view to visitors.


  • IT recruitment firm McCann Partners has taken thought leadership blogging to the next level, creating a unique series of posts with the hashtag, #4TechDiversity. Through this series, McCann has secured interviews with top industry experts, driven a candid conversation about the lack of diversity in tech on social media, and positioned its business as an active leader in the space.

Content’s endless potential

The digital world – with its ever-expanding list of media news sites and self-published online destinations – is an environment with a hearty appetite for fresh, original content.

This need opens endless opportunities to amplify your company’s content strategy by sharing insightful stories that build your brand’s reputation as a thought leader in your space. In a complex and competitive market, mastering your position as a thought leader can tip the scales in your organization’s favor, resulting in more meetings, more clients, and hopefully a healthier bottom line.

Leslie Vickrey

Leslie Vickrey
Leslie Vickery is founder and CEO of ClearEdge Marketing. She can be reached lvickrey (at) clearedgemarketing (dot) com.

Leslie Vickrey

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