When business people think about thought leadership, many picture the classic whitepaper, dense with insights and commentary, culled from the leading experts within the organization. They believe the goal of a thought leadership program is to demonstrate or develop the organization’s credibility and leadership in a specific subject matter area. What’s often missing, though, is the recognition that for a thought leadership program to be effective, it must not only demonstrate the organization’s brilliance, but it also must offer content that its market deems valuable. Content that makes the organization look brilliant but doesn’t fix any client/prospect problems or fill key knowledge gaps for them is a poor program. And in this misunderstanding lies an opportunity.
You see, these same business people also often reject the idea of content curation as an important part of an effective thought leadership program. They believe that, by definition, thought leadership must originate within the organization in order to demonstrate its thought leadership/credibility/expertise. But as mentioned above, this narrow view neglects the need to also offer value to the market, and that is where content curation can come into play.
Content curation is, at its simplest, the choiceful selection and/or aggregation of theme or topic-focused third-party content. It doesn’t include original content from the curating organization, which is why it’s often passed over as part of a thought leadership program. And while this is true – curation doesn’t demonstrate the expertise of the curating organization – it still offers value to the market because it helps the market more easily find the information they want. The service of curating valuable information on behalf of clients is itself valuable, and so demonstrates the organization’s leadership, not just in their chosen subject area, but also in helping clients and prospects solve their problems. And ultimately, that should be the goal of any thought leadership program – to help clients and prospects solve their problems or fill their knowledge gaps. If that can be done, whether through curation or original content, then being recognized as a thought leader will be a natural outcome.
I was watching a hilarious bit of content from dollarshaveclub.com the other day. Not only did it make me laugh out loud several times (i.e., not only did I laugh out loud several times during one viewing, but I kept laughing out loud several times over subsequent viewings) but it also made me think about one of the vital factors required for long-term content marketing success. (BTW, for you grammar geeks, you’ll notice that I’ve written “long term” and “short term” in different ways, sometimes with a hyphen and sometimes without. There’s method to the madness that you can learn about from Grammar Girl)
You see, content marketing is not a short-term thing. Unlike holding a sale or distributing discount coupons, you’re probably not going to see immediate results. It’s something that often takes a longer time to set up and generate results, which is why creating a content development program geared to the long term is vital. And that means being consistent with the scientific method by defining a strategy and action plan (including editorial calendar, repurposing options, and distribution channels) on paper that anyone can follow.
How does the scientific method and effective content marketing relate? Well it’s only by defining and writing down a strategy and action plan that anyone could follow that enables your program to be reproduce-able, one of the key tenets of the scientific method. Being reproduce-able means that almost anyone could read your strategy and action plan and reproduce the activities defined within to achieve the same (or very similar) results you did when you ran the program.
And how did dollarshaveclub.com’s content help me realize this key to long term success? Because it seems that they don’t follow the scientific method. After doing some reading on it, I learned that the main guy featured – Mike – is the President of the company and actually has an improve/comedy/film background – he’s uniquely qualified to develop and execute this kind of content strategy. But if he were hit by a bus, or god forbid lost his sense of humour in a tragic shaving accident, the content marketing program could die from a thousand cuts because it’s based on such a unique (and hilarious) talent and approach that would probably be very difficult for someone else to reproduce if Mike wasn’t involved.
So make sure your content strategy is consistent with the scientific method. Over the long term, that’ll mean your content marketing party…is on.