You don’t have to be a thought leader to reap the benefits of content marketing.
That’s good news because the plain truth is most of us who publish content aren’t thought leaders. That designation, by definition, applies to only a handful of companies and individuals. They’re the go-to experts in their industries. The rest of us are followers. But that doesn’t mean we should stop creating content.
Content is one of the most useful tools we have to share our perspectives and ideas … to engage buyers, the media and other key audiences … and to build brand recognition. However, we need to be more pragmatic about our content marketing efforts, and we can start by embracing these four realities:
Reality #1: We’re creating thought followship content. I’m not sure if those who coined the term “thought followship” meant it as an insult but it doesn’t offend me in the least. It’s accurate. Generally speaking, thought leaders have already addressed the topics that most of us lowly mortals write about. That’s okay because content marketing doesn’t require us to be first out of the gate on a topic. It requires us to share insights that have value for our audiences. It’s perfectly acceptable for us to join the “conversations” started by thought leaders—but we can’t simply regurgitate their ideas. That’s not content marketing. That’s plagiarism. Our thought followship content has to reflect our own experiences, perspectives and beliefs.
Reality #2: Content marketing is most effective for thought leaders … but it works for thought followers too. Thought leaders publish cutting-edge insights and they do it first. As a result, they rightfully reap the biggest dividends from content marketing. But those of us who publish content in their wake also earn important benefits. We raise our brand’s visibility in the marketplace; we establish credibility among media professionals, analysts and influencers who can bring greater attention to our brands; and we attract talent to our organization that is closely aligned with our mission. But again, we only reap these benefits when our content actually reflects our own perspectives and experience. Simply parroting the ideas of thought leaders won’t get us anywhere in the long run.
Reality #3: Content marketing isn’t a revenue machine. It may help to drive up sales over the long term but content marketing is essentially a long-tail marketing and brand-building tactic. Most of us will need to create a body of strong content before we see significant results in terms of revenues. But there’s no shortcut to building a brand or establishing credibility with buyers. With each piece of content we issue, our markets will have more and more reason to pay attention to us.
Reality #4: Developing strong content isn’t enough. We also have to make sure our content actually reaches the audiences we’re targeting. That means we have to know where these audiences congregate—i.e., the publications they read, the social sites they frequent, the conferences and events they attend, etc.—and how to get our content into their hands. In addition, we have to know what content formats our audiences prefer. Those killer articles you wrote, for example, won’t matter much if the people you’re trying to reach are video hungry. Surprisingly, many companies don’t really know how to distribute content effectively or what their audiences’ content preferences are.
For those of us who create thought followship content, the sooner we come to terms with these four realities, the better—and the better our content will be. Incidentally, I’m not the first person to say so.
About the Author: Michael Civiello is a communications strategist and senior writer at fisher VISTA. He collaborates with clients every day to develop messaging, content and PR campaigns that build brand awareness and marketplace credibility.