Thought leadership: The human element your marketing needs

AI may reduce the effort required to create marketing assets, but outsourcing expert perspective is a big mistake.

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AI is everywhere, filling the web with content that often lacks the depth, nuance or forward-looking angle of expert insight. While tools like ChatGPT can supplement expertise with efficiency and creativity, more than ever, buyers need perspective that comes from years of experience and deep industry knowledge.

In this sea of increasingly repetitive and recycled content, you need to offer something unique to capture attention. That’s where “thought leadership” comes in. Yes, it’s a buzzword that took a beating several years ago with many self-proclaimed thought leaders, but it has never been a more important part of your marketing strategy.

What is thought leadership again?

Thought leadership is a strategic approach to content marketing that positions you or your brand as an authority in a specific field. It’s driven by human perspective, contributing meaningful insights, offering fresh perspectives and challenging conventional wisdom. It’s about demonstrating your expertise by providing helpful and interesting takes on the subject matter.

Some examples of thought leadership might include:

  • Trend-forecasting articles. Annual reports predicting industry trends, helping businesses prepare for the future.
  • Industry-specific videos. Video content that simplifies complex industry practices, like a tutorial series.
  • Interviews and podcasts. Appearances on reputable platforms to discuss industry insights, such as a sustainability expert talking about renewable energy on a podcast.
  • LinkedIn posts. Well-crafted posts that offer valuable resources or fresh perspectives, like a post on effective remote work strategies.
  • Contrarian viewpoints. Articles or posts that challenge popular opinions, backed by data or unique insights.

Why is human thought leadership so valuable right now?

It helps stand out against the sheer volume of content

Generative AI excels at creating explainer articles on well-trodden topics but can’t offer fresh, informed opinions. As a result, the web is becoming a sea of repetitive content. Thought leadership, with its original and sometimes contrarian viewpoints, stands out in this crowded space.

Brand trust is low — human voices and perspectives can help raise it

Brand trust is more important than it used to be, in part because it’s so scarce. In a survey of 395,000 people worldwide, 71% say they aren’t convinced brands will deliver on promises.

If your brand lacks a strong public-facing human element, it’s harder for new customers to build trust and for existing customers to keep it. Thought leadership helps your customers navigate an industry with the help of someone with a track record of expertise and brings a human face to the conversation.

Effective thought leadership mitigates the risk of brand apathy and distrust. The consistent delivery of valuable insights not only educates customers but can also foster a community to amplify the brand’s trustworthiness.

What might this look like?

Take any C-suite leader of a SaaS company, for instance. By sharing her expertise and perspective, she demonstrates her knowledge to an audience who might not be sure which company will be most reliable or share their values. This leader’s transparency about handling issues like data security further cements her company’s credibility and shows they value customers.

This is especially true if you offer consulting services where your judgment and thought processes are central to your value. For instance, for our agency’s HubSpot consulting services, we find it’s much easier to close deals with leads who have seen our HubSpot Hacks YouTube channel because they’ve seen firsthand demonstrations of our knowledge and perspective.

Dig deeper: AI in marketing: How to balance automation and the human touch

OK, but can I still use AI when writing thought leadership pieces?

We’re not luddites here — you should generally leverage any tool that helps you maximize your impact. But you should also understand the limits of that tool for the task at hand.

AI should be viewed as a tool to enhance, not replace, human expertise in thought leadership. It can handle tasks like data analysis and initial content drafts, freeing you to focus on providing deeper insights, extrapolations or ethical considerations. 

For instance, AI analytics tools can identify trending topics based on customer behavior. Still, it takes a human expert to craft a narrative that addresses these trends meaningfully, such as what they might imply.

Similarly, generative AI like ChatGPT can speed up your writing process, but the core insights, data, opinions and perspectives must come from you.

This is a time for marketing perspectives to shine

At a time when technology is as integral to your marketing success as is the content you promote, marketing leaders have a wealth of perspectives and insights to share. This can help teams navigate change more effectively, think through the implications of shifts in strategy and tech stack and more. 

After all, generative AI tools don’t give much competitive advantage when everyone has them. Thought leadership takes more effort than whipping up a fluff piece in ChatGPT, but putting in that extra effort is becoming increasingly necessary to stay ahead in marketing and your position as a leader in the industry. 

Dig deeper: Mitigating the risks of generative AI by putting a human in the loop

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Ali Schwanke
Ali Schwanke is the founder of Simple Strat, a platinum HubSpot Solutions partner and cohost of the popular YouTube series "HubSpot Hacks". She's a go-to expert in B2B marketing strategy and content, and a well-known HubSpot advocate in many digital communities including MOPros, Vistage, and more. She's passionate about helping companies make the most of their marketing and sales technology without sacrificing the human aspect that's so critical to the B2B buying experience.

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