In a previous post, I outlined my ‘Content Groups’ model (above) and explained how it has assisted me in helping marketers, PR people and business owners to clarify their thinking around the content they (want to) produce.
The goal of the model is to help us become more intentional with the content we create and distribute. Recapping the four content groups:
- ‘Utility’ (useful, helpful, audience-first);
- ‘Leadership’ (flag-in-the-ground, lead the conversation);
- ‘Human’ (behind the public face of your business/show the personal side); and
- ‘Branded’ (company news, promotional etc).
In this article, I want to dig deeper into LEADERSHIP CONTENT.
Unpacking leadership content: rocket fuel for your brand reputation
First-class leadership content has the power to not only differentiate your business in the marketplace, but also significantly build visibility, reputation and trust.
Think of it as rocket fuel for your brand reputation!
Utility content is a great place to start for most businesses because, let’s face it, no one ever went wrong being useful and helpful! This is usually the type of content that content marketing advocates recommend.
Leadership content, on the other hand, is more substantive, thought provoking and insightful. This is the type of content that people share and talk about, and tends to be bigger picture in nature compared to utility content. Personally, I think it’s best developed and created through a PR lens versus a marketing one.
The critical element: Leadership content is designed to spark conversation and potentially ignite debate. It doesn’t necessarily address a customer need or pain point. Indeed, it might even challenge people, metaphorically poke them in the eye by changing the way they think about a particular topic or issue.
This content could inspire people to take action. It could tap into their dreams and their aspirations, maybe help them reframe their thoughts around a subject dear to their heart.
Think commentary on social or industry issues and trends, insights based on research, informed perspectives on big-picture topics.
Often this content is interesting and worth bookmarking and coming back to. It’s also the content most likely to attract the attention of industry movers and shakers, journalists or influencers such as bloggers and podcasters.
If your goal is to increase the level of earned media coverage, building a solid base of compelling leadership content might prove useful in this regard.
The Edelman Trust Barometer is a classic leadership content play (at a very high level). Ditto Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report. They both generate tons of editorial exposure across all levels of media, from the tier 1 publications right down to individual bloggers and podcasters.
While leadership content is generally more associated with business-to-business brands, professional services firms and social enterprises, lifestyle brands can also tap into broader- picture ideas and trends by providing content that inspires people and takes the reader, viewer or listener deeper into a topic that’s bigger than their brand.
A good example of this is English paint and wallpaper company, Farrow & Ball, and its online publication – The Chromologist. This publication has as its mission: “Inspiring our readers to create beautiful, considered homes to be proud of, one post at a time.”
And one more example for good measure: Bellroy is an Australian company that manufactures wallets and accessories for creative professionals. The brand publishes an online publication called Carryology that shares insights, ideas and inspiration about bags, luggage and wallets. In its own words:
Essentially, we’re here to discover, discuss and disseminate new and better ways to carry. We figure if we can act as something of a campfire for the carry community to gather around, then we should all win from the insights we gain.”
Interestingly, Carryology covers a host of brands that compete directly with Bellroy. Now that’s leadership!
Outdoor clothing and gear company, Patagonia, is anchored to the issue of sustainability. Its mission — to “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis” — is evident in a lot of content the company produces, including its blog, The Cleanest Line.
Other examples of leadership content include:
- Seth Godin. One of the world’s most successful bloggers, Godin is the poster child for leadership content. His concise articles are consistently challenging and thought provoking. There is no way you’ll see him posting an article along the lines of “Five Ways to Hack Your Marketing Plan.” (I googled it to make sure!).
- Fujitsu. This IT products and services company publishes “I – Global Intelligence for the CIO,” a content-rich digital platform aimed at the leaders of information technology management — the CIOs, CTOs, chief digital officers and others whose remit is “to create competitive advantage and profitable growth through the application of IT in business.”
- Dr Michelle Mazur. A leading brand messaging coach and ethical marketing advocate. Her podcast Duped explores the dark side of online business, or what she calls ‘Bro’ Marketing’.
- Professor Scott Galloway. His videos “cut through the biggest stories in tech and business. Expect unfiltered insights, bold predictions, and thoughtful advice to help you thrive in the workplace.”
Leadership content, done well, with passion and purpose, can often help differentiate business and nonprofit brands in the marketplace.
For this reason, I believe it has a place in the content armoury of many businesses. It might take more work (original thought and a sharpened point of view often does) but it will be worth it over the long haul.