Thought leadership should be a fundamental part of any content marketing strategy. 

A thought leader is someone who commands authority, and therefore trust, on a particular subject due to their knowledge and expertise. By extension, thought leadership as an activity is a way of generating, or contributing to, conversation about a pertinent industry topic or issue. Done well, it will be a valuable contribution to your firm's branding, perceived identity, reputation and status, positioning you as a leader in that space. 

Thought leadership is a way to demonstrate expertise and credibility on a topic - think of it as a self-fulfilling cycle. While you may think that only people or firms already recognised as thought leaders on a topic can create thought leadership, actually the process of creating and publishing regular thought leadership is the way to become a thought leader. 

Thought leadership can take many forms. The traditional approach is to publish original research in a white paper long-form report. However, the advent of digital marketing means there are now more options to consider, such as a series of short blogs, videos, and other digital assets such as infographics. Each medium offers different benefits; there is no right or wrong approach. The key is to be guided by the content and your target audience. 

As with many things, the clarity of your message is the key to whether your thought leadership will fly or fall as an idea. Make sure you have a clear picture of what you want to say, and equally crucially, who do you want to say this to?  

Choosing a pertinent client issue, or wider industry problem to discuss is one approach, but equally, you may prefer to focus on telling a story which peaks to your brand identity and says something about you as a firm. Whatever story you decide you want to tell, it is important to be focused on the key message you wish to communicate and the audience you are hoping to communicate it too. Distilling and pinpointing these is an exercise which provides the foundation on which thought leadership should be built. It will dictate not only the content itself, but also the choice of medium, platform and promotional strategies. 

Creating thought leadership is about communicating your firm's brand identity. The writing style, tone of voice, design, imagery and presentation all play a role in supporting and communicating this. 

Thought leadership can be a tool to achieve multiple overlapping marketing objectives. It is a potent business development tool. It can help attract talent for recruitment, and boost your SEO through gaining higher rankings for the key words you are discussing. Original research and compelling insights into an issue can be used to generate media coverage and exposure for the firm and its spokespeople. 

Thought leadership can have a longer life expectancy than other pieces of content. In turn, its benefits can also take longer to become apparent, or arrive gradually. Firms can receive an instruction or enquiry a year from now inspired by a recent report. A well-constructed piece of thought leadership can be an asset to a firm for many years.