Thought Leadership Content: Where Bright Ideas Get a Little Dark
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Subscribing to a newsletter has lost some of its meaning. You may have noticed, as we have, tons of publications suddenly start looking more and more like each other. Visually they use the same type of patterns and structures, click-bait titles are rampant, and the twenty psychological "tricks" are getting old.
Who wouldn't get bored reading more and more of the same?
That's where thought leadership comes in through the main gates as the "new" "hot" thing that will lead your battleship to the promised land. Except, there is nothing new about writing thought leadership content nor any certainty associated with it.
There are, however, a couple of things you can do right away to improve the quality of your content. Hopefully, reaching higher cultural resonance and being considered as "thought leadership" content.
Rule #1 - Fight Club was right.
We're in the Barbie era, but even in this unique and different moment, the idea of "not talking about fight club" is just as crucial for thought leadership content. You CAN'T approach the thought leadership challenge as an intentional thought leadership exercise. Instead, focusing on providing new angles, context, stories, frameworks, perspectives, etc., to a niche that consumes more and more of the same works better.
Beware of positioning your content as "thought leadership" content. Others can talk about you that way, but not you. Your job is to hunt for better ideas to paint fresh pictures for your readers.
You do not talk about your content as "thought leadership content". You merely try to write great things consistently; that's it. Simple yet extremely hard.
Rule #2 - Robots are cool; humans are better.
The internet changed how we write, how we read, and how we think. We want effortless scrolling, simple words, immediate gratification, and dopamine-driven sentences one after the next. Except, it's not just us that want that; robots also do.
The easier your content is to track by a blind robot, the higher you can rank (we all know how this works by now). Thankfully, humans also enjoy reading just for the sake of reading and imagining, not just because hunting for H2s kickstart your brain.
Looking for novel ideas we have not considered is one of our main traits as a species. We change, we adapt. Remember that before you even start writing anything.
Write for humans. Optimize for machines.
Rule #3 - AI is helpful, but not a writer.
AI this, AI that... just like every company when they discovered "tech," every company now is an "AI" company.
AI is like a tireless robot that can help you come up with thoughts but it’s not an intelligent entity (not yet, at least). The whole point of writing for the internet, pushing past basic SEO, is to be useful, entertaining, and provide new perspectives. AI can help you, from brainstorming to writing. It’s great. But, outsourcing the quality and essence of your thoughts and words and expecting novelty is risky.
Push yourself to do non-marketing and read non-marketing content (books, movies, youtube, whatever you enjoy). Dare a little. Discuss cultural pulse, insights, style, technical and tactical depth, etc. Connect your subject to the wider world and avoid persuading your audience to buy from you through boredom. And no, joining another marketing community might not be what you’re missing.
Leverage AI to help you, whether as a mirror or centaur but never as a replacement for a brain.
The quality of your content is up to you. Own it.
Rule #4 - Escape the rush.
The mythology of the startup, of the capital+runway limits, pushes us to think of time as an enemy. We must move faster, go faster, do more, work harder, etc. Coming up with thoughts that are slightly different or that push beyond tradition it hard. Aiming for originality is a non-linear process that can take seconds or months. Plan accordingly.
You can't fail-fast-move-fast if you're genuinely interested in building new ways to understand any particular field. Good things take time (true for wine, true for thoughts).
There are ways, however, to play around with new ideas and optimize them for growth. You can try more manageable formats, try out ideas using Tweets or LI posts, and develop them if they resonate in the wider world. You can launch shorter newsletters like this one or longer essays like the one we sent out last week. The more you listen to whatever people care about, the easier you can go for it fiercely (and get internal buy-in to try to do something unique).
Avoid sacrificing quality for speed, or depth for clicks. Some of your best ideas may take weeks to cook. Some are so raw they will take years, experiences, walks in the park, pandemics, recessions, etc. to emerge.
Listen. Pay attention to your surroundings. Improve the quality of your thoughts and stop consuming mental junk food and lookalikes. If you're lucky, and persistent, you might strike greatness.
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