What is Thought leadership?

Thought leadership is content that provides solutions to your audience’s problems, without mentioning your company or products.

David Meerman Scott, explains:

Instead of just directly selling something, a great site, blog, or video series tells the world that you are smart, that you understand the market very well, and that you might be a person or organization that would be valuable to do business with.

Thought leadership can be presented in a variety of forms, but the point is to present solutions (whether it’s useful guidance, cutting edge research, educational materials) in the most engaging and informative format.

5 Examples of Thought Leadership for You to Consider

1. eBooks: eBooks are usually PDF-formatted documents that solves a problem for one of your buyer personas.

Example—The New B2B Marketing Manifesto by Velocity or Build with WordPress: A Total Cost of Ownership Analysis by WP Engine.

2. Email Newsletters: These are often newsletters that focus on solving buyers’ pain points.

Example—The Australian Writers’ Centre Newsletter. While it is not a pure thought leadership newsletter, The Australian Writers’ Centre always includes timely news, thoughtful writing advice, grammar tips, and other useful solutions for aspiring writers.

3. White Papers: White papers argue a specific position, or provide a solution to a problem. “A good white paper is written for a business audience, defines a problem, and offers a solution, but it does not pitch a particular product or company.” (The New Rules of Marketing & PR).

Example—Multi-factor Authentication: Current Usage and Trends by Safenet. Note, you will have to register to read it, which is a feature typical of white papers.

Nonethteless, there are white papers that bridge the gap from providing agnostic solutions, to offering a a deeper informational dive and a branded solution, like this: 

Getting Started with the Genesis Framework and WP Engine

4. Webinars: Webinars take their name from traditional seminars. They can include audio, video, and/or graphics, and will often feature knowledgeable guests from outside the company.

Example—LinkedIn 101 Webinar

5. Photos, Images, Graphs, Charts and Infographics: Visual representations of information can be extremely compelling forms of thought leadership.

Example—Information is Beautiful has many examples of beautiful and revealing data visualizations, including the figure included here—What Makes Good Information Design?

Visualization of good information design, an example of thought leadership
The above list is not exhaustive—other types of thought leadership include Wikis, research and survey reports, blogs, audio content (think podcasts), and video. Stay tuned—we’ll bring you more illustrative examples, as well as some deeper analysis of thought leadership over the next couple of months.

What are your favorite examples of thought leadership? Leave some of them in the comments section below!