Many brands recognize the critical need for strategic thought leadership content to sit alongside product- and purpose-oriented messaging – content that establishes the brand as an authority in a specialized field or a line of business and deeply engages decision-makers.

However, a gap exists between what brands are doing and what they need to do to achieve authority status, cut through the clutter, and better define their space or special sauce.

Reviewing more than two dozen brands’ thought leadership content, mostly in B2B, three issues reveal themselves that need to be resolved:

  • Brands latch onto a hot topic without something distinctive to say. While influencers and buyers are hungry for credible opinion, content clutter can dilute its impact. An example is the preponderance of thought leadership articles from U.K.-based firms on Brexit and its implications. While it is a concerning topic to many, most brands are simply parroting the same challenges of Brexit and the same implications, without adding a new or unique perspective.
  • Brands say something distinctive on topics covered well elsewhere. Consider who is the best authority for the content and what your brand leaders can bring to the table. Take, for example, the capability of a global bank to advise on a small business expansion overseas. Its content would compete with established and digitally savvy trade and academic publications, which are perceived to be independent. Of course, a global bank with relevant expertise can create the content, the burden is to ensure that its authority can go beyond the existing expert resources.
  • Brands outsource thinking before establishing authority. Partnering with a publisher or media agency to develop and distribute content can be effective, but a brand must earn a badge of authority in the subject matter before doing so. An example of doing this right is Microsoft and Gimlet Creative’s co-production of the “.future” podcast series, with content from Microsoft and partners that’s packaged and distributed by Gimlet Creative.

What’s lacking today is not the thought, it’s the leadership. As you identify a space your brand can own, here are five ways to assume a leadership position:

Find leaders wherever they are

Brands that show true leadership in their content often employ experts from all levels of their organization rather than using a few talking heads again and again. Use expertise wherever it may be in your company, but always put a face to a thought. IBM elevates employee passion projects into a thought leadership context. AXA, a global insurer, puts this into practice by publishing thought leadership pieces authored cross-functionally by both junior and senior employees.

That said, a thought leadership effort that draws beyond a tight group should be centrally managed with training, a playbook, and governance to avoid employees…