Do thought leadership content marketing best practices differ from those of practitioner marketing?
You may not think so. After all, thought leadership pieces are best generated by practitioners, as the topics that interest practitioners are those issues that your customers face and are often unaddressed.
However, not all practitioner-generated content is thought leadership content. You need to take a particular approach if you want to be a thought leader.
Once you have created the content, what comes next?
What Is Practitioner Marketing?
For those unfamiliar with practitioner marketing, it’s not just influencer marketing, which requires a social media account and followers. Practitioner marketing is a form of content marketing. Specifically, the content is generated by someone with subject matter expertise (someone a lot like your customer).
Markets that need practitioner marketing tend to be skeptical markets—They are typically those that deliver products and services that require specific, applicable knowledge. Practitioner-generated content from outside your organization is perceived as more credible and authentic. Therefore, thought leadership pieces created by practitioners drive customers to your site and act almost like the voice of customer data.
In order to keep that authenticity, you can’t just hire some paid shills to tout your products—If you do, you instantly extinguish credibility and lose the value of reputation, technical credibility, and influence. Instead, you need to harness practitioners that have strong, technically supported opinions, stances, and approaches. This means you have to harness their expertise to educate people about the issues through topics they gravitate toward discussing.
Best Practices to Achieve Thought Leadership
Define a Measurable Goal
In order to know if you have succeeded, you need to have a goal. Content marketing best practices include goals that are measurable. Our recommendation is to use metrics like share of voice (SOV) or share of conversation (SOC) to determine if your brand is establishing itself as a source of thought leadership in a particular area. There are a number of tools available. Other relevant metrics are search engine ranks for particular keywords and related data. Prior to beginning your campaign, take a baseline of whatever metric you will use to define your goal and determine progress toward it. The easiest way to measure share of voice is by turning to social media.
Determine Which Topics are Important to Your Industry
Topic generation is difficult. This is where having a cadre of practitioners to contribute your content is key. Fixate uses a combination of human insight and data to determine the conversations that require thought leadership and the topics that will get you there. If you are managing your own practitioner contributor network, you can develop your own methodology for tapping into their expertise for topic and conversation ideas.
We have found that clients can start to see search engine SOV and SOC increases after just 4–6 weeks of promoting a key topic area with a specific keyword with two blog posts a week. Overall SOV and SOC may take longer. Generally, it’s only possible to influence the conversations in your industry with a content stream that amounts to at least two pieces per week. The good news is that the topics can be different, as long as they are relevant to your industry within the specific conversation you want to own and lead. It is most important to have a content production process that helps you acquire and publish content at this minimum frequency.
Keep an eye on your metrics on a monthly basis. Routinely compare your pre-campaign numbers and keep a running average. This is the best way to see if you set the right goal and if you are progressing toward it.
Adjust as Needed
Based on market needs, trends, and your own data, you may have to adjust your thought leadership content strategy. It is important to make changes informed by both data and intuition. The danger is always that you become too flighty and nothing sticks. However, pursuing a topic area that is interesting but irrelevant for your customers poses dangers as well. It’s one part data based and one part the art of your expertise.
Using practitioner marketing to create high quality, credible content translates into brand awareness and thought leadership. But remember, there are some mechanics of producing content that contribute to success. Starting with a measurable goal is critical. Selecting topics that resonate with your customer and publishing content in those topic areas frequently enough are both important. Successful campaigns require continuous measurement and adjustment. With these best practices in place, you can increase the chance of success for your practitioner content marketing campaign.
This post was originally published in November 2017 and updated in June 2021.