Thought leadership & the digital content hub

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Photo by Namphuong Van via unsplash.com

Companies are increasingly taking command of content – not only their own, but also that of the areas in which they wish to be known, or with which they wish to be associated. The many benefits of doing this include strengthening their claim to thought leadership.

Thinking about thought leadership

Thought leadership is one of those many business terms that simultaneously inspire and confuse. It sounds great! But it can also seem a bit abstract, particularly when it becomes your task to make it concrete.

Never fear. Thought leadership can be simply boiled down to these two points:

  1. Does your company know what it is doing?
  2. How are you showing, revealing or communicating that it does?

The good news is that, if you’ve been covering the costs of producing and delivering a product or service for a while now, you probably do know what you’re doing. A lot of companies can say the same, though, so the second question is really what’s important. And if your answer to that is restricted to such things as your fine website, brochures, sell sheets, white papers and advertising, then you are missing the boat. You need to occupy that space on the web – and in people’s minds.

Do you know your space?

The simplest and most efficient way to claim your place in the sun, so to speak, is to be the sun around which things revolve. You can do that by creating a digital content hub at the center of the universe in which your product or service is desirable. For instance, if you are an elevator company helping build tomorrow’s mega-cities, you might commandeer the subject of ‘the urban future’. Or, if you are an environmentally responsible apparel company, you might stake a claim on ‘sustainable clothing’.

Stake a claim on the content

By owning and developing your own conceptual piece of the digital real estate, you can quickly become a leading voice in the more general area in which your products operate. It’s easy.

Think of small kitchen appliances. They are used in the preparation of food. Food feeds you, your family and your guests (and everyone else). As a maker of such appliances, you might offer a fully-indexed content hub with tips on food storage, recipes, entertaining guests, different food allergies, veganism vs. vegetarianism, particular foods (‘Consider the asparagus’), making healthy food your child will actually eat, nutrition, dieting, etc. Soon, you are the go-to site for any information related to the thematic environment of food – sponsored by your brand.

In many ways, this is similar to an old idea, refreshed and updated for the online age. Companies have sponsored content for years. How is it different now?

Finding things online

Here’s a story. In the beginning, there was the grandly named World Wide Web. There wasn’t actually much on it (back in the day), but there it was, all ready to be used. Well, they built it and people came. So gradually, the population of the wide-open digital spaces began to increase. Soon, there were so many sites that the search engine was born, so that people could actually find some of these places. Eventually, however, there got to be so many things to find, that search engines became less and less helpful. Algorithms are lovely things, but the simple fact of the matter is that there is a whole lot of related content out there, no matter what you’re searching for.

In the midst of all this, bloggers – guides, in a way – appeared, offering to complement, curate, condense and/or evaluate some of that digital content. But bloggers are like columnists, writing one entry at a time. So digital digests or e-magazines appeared, to offer more than just a series of blogs by the same writer. A well-managed corporate digital digest offers a regular supply of articles and links on a certain theme, more or less loosely related to a product, brand or service.

Mind the gap – and fill it

Unfortunately, corporate e-magazines have a tendency to simply be fancier, flashier versions of the good old brochure. They are useful, of course (as brochures still are), but they are obviously – intentionally – sales tools.

Now contrast that with a digital content hub aimed at thought leadership. It does less – and more. It strips away the background noise of selling you and your company, and creates a pleasant, inviting space for your customers to invest their curiosity and interest in the cultural or subject areas where – incidentally – your products and services are useful.

You might mention what you do in a digital content hub, but only occasionally. Be subtle. The main purpose is to attract the attention of potential customers by delivering useful, somewhat impartial, possibly even objective information about something they care about, whether that is cities, kitchens or organic clothes. By providing such a service, you build trust in your expertise, and your present and future customers will thank you for leaving out the hard sell.

Be the source

A thought leadership hub should be at the heart of every marketing strategy. By ‘owning’ an online subject-matter space, your company can quickly become the trusted librarian and go-to destination for consumers interested in a particular subject. That subject area – again, not coincidentally – is the area in which your expertise and your products and services exist. Think of it as a public service that also serves your interests.

Besides the considerable boost to your online discoverability and sharability, you may consider increasing your hub’s stickiness by integrating UGC (user-generated content). Think Wikipedia or even Facebook. This can go as far as letting people comment directly on your hub (please budget in a moderator then) or simply including posts written by guest writers, which you can hand-pick. Is your company a member of any associations? Are you active in an online forum? Do you have business partners who produce content of their own? It’s easy to involve others in your hub and the amplification will be remarkable.

A thought leadership hub also has an employer branding effect. Your current and next generation of employees will better identify with your company and, compared to a typical marketing campaign, more likely talk about the hub with friends and colleagues. Employees are also your first source of valuable and relevant content. Share this article within your company and ask them what they think. Then channel their passion and inspiration, it will make your hub a real magnet.

steelecht is an copywriting agency specialized in international communication. Let us help you reveal your hidden thought leadership and build a new content marketing hub around it. Contact us for more information: info@steelecht.com

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