How to Build Trust and Authority: The Role of Thought Leadership in Content Marketing

Trusted resource. Subject matter expert. Knowledge source.

These are just a few ways to describe a thought leader. And while building trust and authority through frequent, high-quality thought leadership content has been a longstanding goal of many content marketing teams, it’s even more important in the age of AI where content can be created with just a few clicks.

Thought-leadership content is now both a necessity and an opportunity to stand out from your competition and build brand awareness. In fact, nine out of 10 decision-makers and C-suite executives surveyed said they’re moderately or very likely to be more receptive to sales or marketing outreach from a company that consistently produces high-quality thought leadership. Yet nearly one-third (30%) of producers of thought-leadership content say their organization doesn’t really understand how to use this type of content for sales and marketing purposes.

Back to Basics: What Is Thought Leadership Anyway?

The primary goal of content marketing is to retain existing customers and win new ones. All types of content – blogs, infographics, white papers, and even emails – will help you achieve this.

Marketers produce thought leadership with the same goal in mind, but it’s a longer game. A well-executed thought-leadership strategy establishes your brand (and key executives) as respected and trusted sources of knowledge and expertise. Rather than pushing your products or services, thought leadership educates readers on trends or challenges they’re facing. Of course, your POV should be backed up by credible research and/or data. (Remember, the goal is to build trust and authority.)

What sets thought leadership apart is that it does more than just touch on trends and challenges. It provides deeper insight into them and – perhaps most importantly – offers potential solutions. This is your chance to offer best practices and expert guidance based on years of experience in the industry. Knowledge should be shared in a way that educates and informs the reader in a non-promotional way.

This approach may feel counterintuitive compared to more traditional sales and marketing, but as you continue to produce this type of content, readers (potential customers) will come to trust your organization. They’ll seek you out when they have questions and (you guessed it) when they need to research products or services their business needs to buy.

So how do you do it?

Strategy Session: How to Develop Quality Thought Leadership

It can be hard enough to fill your team’s content calendar every quarter, and now you need to work in thought leadership too? We know it seems like a tough ask, but it’s worth it – and we have some tips to get the ideas flowing.

  • Talk to sales: The sales team talks to current and potential customers every day. Ask them to share the top pain points in the industry and what customers say are the main roadblocks to success.
  • Go straight to the top: The C-suite and upper management may not have time to sit down and write out all of the expert advice they have, but if you can lock in 30 minutes with them, you can record their insight. It’s best to do this once you have a specific topic for a thought-leadership piece in mind. You’ll find it’s an efficient way to get their perspective and wisdom – and you’ll probably walk away inspired and with a few new content ideas.
  • Ask generative AI: No, generative AI can’t write a high-quality thought-leadership piece. And that’s a good thing because it’s a chance to differentiate your brand with truly engaging content. That said, you can certainly ask ChatGPT or Google Gemini to tell you about the biggest challenges in the markets you serve. It’s a good way to spark ideas for new thought-leadership topics.
  • Collaborate: Teaming up with outside subject matter experts expands the depth and breadth of knowledge and advice you can share through thought leadership. We suggest establishing relationships with experts in the industries and/or markets you serve, as they’re often more in tune with current obstacles, as well as what works (and doesn’t work) when addressing them. They can provide best practices and tips based on real-world experiences.

Once you have an idea, it doesn’t always have to be one and done. Think about how you can slice and dice it. Maybe a topic is deep enough to warrant a blog series or a two-part webinar. Or perhaps an ebook with an accompanying infographic can help you extend your reach as a trusted advisor.

And don’t forget about emails and social media. They’re both extremely important vehicles to share thought-leadership content. Social media in particular can help your organization’s thought leaders establish a voice and identity.

As you continue to work on this type of content, remember it takes consistency and time. But with a little patience and the right approach, the ROI will come in brand awareness, customer retention, and, yes, even sales.

Need Some More Thoughts on Thought Leadership?

At Version A, we’ve been helping our clients produce top-quality thought leadership for years. From bylined articles in top-tier industry publications to in-depth guides and resources packed with subject matter expertise, we’re proud to say our clients trust us to help build brand awareness and authenticity.

If you’d like to talk more about how to transform your brand into a thought leader, we’re here to help.

How to Build Trust and Authority: The Role of Thought Leadership in Content Marketing
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Heather Scott

As the COO and co-founder of Version A, I’m responsible for making sure our processes run smoothly, our clients are informed, and everyone has what they need to do their jobs efficiently. My love of reading and writing started at a young age, and I’ve been fortunate enough to turn that passion into a career that’s involved research, writing, and editing for a variety of industries, from communications to automation and more. As a self-professed gym rat and organizational nut, I love applying those traits to my work – making sure we deliver well-structured, targeted content that keeps our clients’ marketing efforts healthy and fit.
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