Using Thought Leadership Content to Drive Brand Success

Thought leadership content illustration with megaphone

It’s more essential than ever that brands deliver high-value content to their audiences in 2021. That’s because, after a year of economic hardship and elevated social and racial consciousness, audiences have higher standards for the organizations they patronize. They want to know you have the same values as they do — and that what you have to share is truly useful. The result is that thought leadership content will be an essential component of your 2021 marketing strategy

Let’s take a look at 5 types of thought leadership content that will drive greater engagement for your brand this year. 

1. Visual ebooks & whitepapers

eBooks and whitepapers have always been essential marketing content. Because they’re usually gated, they’re a strong lead-building tool, and they’re a great way to prove the value of what you have to share. 

But the quality of the information being shared isn’t the only consideration. Today’s audiences also expect a level of quality in the presentation of that information. That’s why ebooks and whitepapers are increasingly visual. 

Visual content not only boosts engagement, but increases retention of the information you’re sharing. In fact, compared to text alone, visuals combined with text improve comprehension by 89%.

Visuals mixed with text increase retention up to 89%

So from data visualizations to illustrations to flow charts, make sure your ebooks and whitepapers incorporate visual elements that complement and elevate the information you’re sharing. Meanwhile, keep blocks of text to a minimum. 

2. Webinars

Webinar illustration with computer screen as thought leadership content example

Especially as individuals and organizations continue to work remotely in 2021, webinars will remain one of the primary means of staying connected with the latest developments and data within industries. So make sure you’re leading the way in your field by providing key thought leadership content in the form of webinars

Consider developing a schedule for hosting regular webinars in 2021. Alternatively, you can seek to be featured in others’ webinar presentations or webinar series. For instance, for the Strategic Content Summit — a 10-week virtual conference hosted by Killer Visual Strategies CEO Amy Balliett in 2020 — we featured a new expert speaker every week. 

3. Original research, data, & insights

Sharing the results of original surveys or proprietary data that no other brand can offer is a great way to establish your organization as a source of high-quality thought leadership content. So consider: what insights would be most useful to your target audience? Ideally, you’ll want to make sure to gather data on a theme or topic that: 

  • No one else is sharing yet. 
  • Is repeatable — that is, that you can collect on a regular basis so you can offer insights over time. 
  • Proves the value of your product or service offerings. 
  • Establishes your organization as an industry leader. 

Once you gather this data, there are a number of ways to share it. For example, tease some of the most compelling data with bite-sized social-media content, and use that content to drive audiences to a gated ebook, whitepaper, report, or interactive landing page

Curious what visual communication can do for you?

4. Virtual conference presentations & exhibits

Conference presentations are a type of thought leadership content

Virtual conferences created huge potential for brands in 2020 — in many ways, more opportunities to connect with audiences than in-person conferences. Adobe MAX alone logged more than 21 million video views. And that potential doesn’t end once the conference is over — most are offering sessions on-demand long after the live event is over. 

So take advantage of the virtual, remote aspects of these events to participate in as many as possible. Decide who you want to position as the face of your organization. This may be different depending on the theme of the conference, or it may be a single person no matter the event. At Killer Visual Strategies, we take the latter approach, with CEO and Founder Amy Balliett speaking on a wide range of topics at dozens of events every year. We’ve found that promoting a single expert helps us streamline our marketing efforts and develop a coherent message across all our platforms. 

In the long term, and in a post-pandemic future, we’ve found that presenting at in-person conferences and events is a highly effective way to establish thought leadership as well. Here’s crossing our fingers that such events will return in 2021! 

5. Books

Amy Balliett visual communication book cover design on desk

There may be no better way to establish your organization’s thought leadership than to publish a book on the topic. That’s what we learned this year when Amy published her first book, Killer Visual Strategies: Engage Any Audience, Improve Comprehension, and Get Amazing Results Using Visual Communication. Publicity, podcasts, and conference presentations related to this book have been among the top drivers of traffic to our site, and are also adding highly qualified leads to our pipeline. Meanwhile, the book has driven more public-speaking opportunities for Amy, which are great chances to promote the company, as well. 

So what insights can you offer that no one else can? In 2021, make your goal to write the book on it. As a marketing campaign with a long half-life and a lot of potential promotional opportunities, it’ll be well worth the effort. 

Thought Leadership Content: An Investment in Your Company’s Future

At Killer, developing thought leadership content has been at the core of our marketing strategy for years. So we can confirm from firsthand experience that it’s one of the most effective types of marketing content for supporting the long-term success of your organization. 

Once you’re established as the leader in your industry, people will look to you for everything from trustworthy insights to predictions on future innovations. Establishing that base level of trust with your core audience ensures more successful long-term relationships with your customers. So what are you waiting for? Start developing your thought leadership content plan today.

Erin McCoy

Author Erin McCoy

Erin McCoy is director of content marketing and public relations at Killer Visual Strategies. She earned her BA in Spanish with minors in French and Russian, and holds 2 master’s degrees from the University of Washington: an MFA in creative writing and an MA in Hispanic literature. She has won nearly 2 dozen awards in photojournalism, and has dedicated those skills to boosting Killer’s brand recognition and thought leadership in visual communication. Since Erin took on her marketing/PR role, Killer has been named a member of the Inc. 5000 for 4 years in a row; has been featured in such publications as Inc., Forbes, Mashable, and the Huffington Post; and has been invited to present at such conferences as SXSW and SMX Advanced.

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