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  • The Ultimate Guide To Creating Kick-Ass Thought Leadership Content

The Ultimate Guide To Creating Kick-Ass Thought Leadership Content

Plus: The Thought Leadership Matrix + Examples


Today, we have a special issue. Want to be AWESOME at creating Thought Leadership content? Then you’re in the right place.

I’ve written pieces that have gotten over 1500 shares from niche influencers.

And I’ve written interactive pieces that have gotten over 18,000 unique visits.

And I want to share some of the lessons I’ve learned, plus introduce you to a Matrix that will serve you well (no red or blue pills required).

Let’s jump in.

Why focus on Thought Leadership now?

Do you need a reasons?

Well, how about the flood of “hot dog” content that exists now. I coined this term after watching an episode of The Simpsons, and seeing Lisa’s aversion to hot dogs. But watch closely at how the hot dog is made:

How I feel about hot dog content

Hot Dog content is generally made in the following way:

  • Google a topic

  • Browse the first 10 links

  • Copy and paste content from said links

  • Form the hot dog

Then, someone’s gotta eat it. Might be good for SEO, but lousy for your brand.

So let’s build brand with thought leadership. If it’s good, it feeds someone soul unlike the mediocre content that’s flooded the internet.

Thought Leadership builds brand

This type of content is great at positioning you as the leader in a given market or category. The more you produce around the specific challenges that your audience has, and how to solve those problems, the stronger they will associate these feelings to your brand.

And brand is all about associations in the end.

If you entertain and make people feel good, people will associate those feelings with your brand.

Provide valuable insights about a certain industry? Then people will be clamoring for that next report.

Thought Leadership supports your business during economic downturns

When price is a non-factor when making purchasing decisions, and there’s a ton of choice, then people will consider other criteria before buying, like:

  • Quality

  • Brand Reputation

  • Product Features

  • Aesthetics and Design

  • Brand Values

  • Product Origin

  • Customer Experience

  • Personalized Experience

  • Social Proof

  • Convenience

Each of these buying criteria are opportunities for content that supports your case for why you’re the better option. And you can position your brand as the category leader if you simply just make it known how you make a difference in each of these areas.

Let’s get into some tactics.

What Experience do you want to create?

The goal for me remains the same: create something meaningful for someone.

And you know you’ve done something meaningful when someone shares or talks about a piece of content your produced.

In a previous newsletter, I introduced The 4 Levels of Experience. It’s just a reminder that your content must do one of the following:

  • Generate emotion (which comes from a unique experience or great idea or interesting information)

  • Be insightful (don’t just present info, connect dots in a way that others haven’t seen before)

  • Inspire change (moves someone into practical action)

4 Levels of Experience

Finally, the goal is always about helping someone to gain insight or make a change — not 1 billion people. Never forget the Rule of One:

Create content with ONE person in mind

If you can get through to just one person, you can get to two, and so on, but it focuses your content even more.

Stephen King, one of the bestselling authors of all time, wrote for one person: his wife.

I’m also a big believer in 1000 true fans. No need to be the next viral sensation. It’s nice if it happens, but it’s akin to winning the lottery.

Let’s talk about how to create kick-ass thought leadership.

First Things First

Let’s cover the basics first. How well do you know your:

  • Audience

  • Market

  • Product

  • Self

Everything begins here. Let’s tackle these quickly, one by one.


Your audience is the foundation of your entire business. Things you should know:

  • Challenges they face

  • How they solve (or attempt to solve) those challenges

  • How your product or service alleviates those problems

  • What do they aspire to socially? Emotionally? Physically (if applicable)?

Market or Industry

Your market is broader and includes your competitors and their customers. Not everyone wants a solution like yours, and that’s ok.

But if you’re at least competitor aware, then you can see what kind of content your competitors create. What do their audiences resonate with? Does it resonate with your audience?

Product, Service, or Subject Matter

You should know your product or topic well. People know if you don’t, and you’re just regurgitating what a million people already said.


If you don’t know yourself, then you might find yourself doing a lot of things that don’t put you in your best light. I’m a big believer in focusing on what you’re really great at, not what you’re not.

So lean into your strengths. If you’re a better writer than speaker, then write your butt off. If you’re better on camera, but suck at writing, then find someone to write for you, and nail the delivery on video.

These are basic things, but foundational. You’re not going to create something shareable if you’re not tapping into your strengths in an authentic way.

Let’s dig into the Thought Leadership Matrix (no red or blue pills required).

Thought Leadership Matrix

Perspective + Content Type = TL Content

Let’s start with the matrix. You need to generate ideas, and this will help you do that.

Here it is:

There are two axes:

  • Perspective (y-axis)

  • Content Type (x-axis)

The Perspective axis refers to the “who” is offering their perspective. It comes from one of four sources:

  • Industry authority

  • Organization authority

  • Product authority

  • Personal authority

Perspectives, POVs, or Sources of authority

The x-axis represents the content type. There are four different Thought Leadership content types:

  • Visionary

  • Narrative

  • Research-based

  • Practical

TL Content Types

When you combine a Perspective with a Content Type, you should get, at the very least, 16 TL content ideas to explore. This is how you generate potential ideas for your next piece of stand-out content.

Working The Matrix


Let’s start with Industry, we’ll get something like this:

  • Industry + Visionary

  • Industry + Narrative

  • Industry + Research-based

  • Industry + Practical

Industry + Visionary

Envision and communicate the future trends, opportunities, and shifts in our industry.

Question: What future trends and shifts do we foresee in our industry?

Industry + Narrative

Tell compelling stories, anecdotes, and case studies about an industry, its history, or its future.

Question: What compelling stories, anecdotes, or case studies can we share about our industry or market?

Industry + Research-based

Provide valuable insights, trend analysis & patterns, and data within an industry.

Question: What industry trends, patterns, or data can we highlight & analyze — and share?

Industry + Practical

Offer practical advice and how-tos based on industry standards or emerging trends.

Question: What practical advice and best practices can we offer based on current or emerging industry trends?


For Organization, we’ll do the same:

  • Organization + Visionary

  • Organization + Narrative

  • Organization + Research-based

  • Organization + Practical

Organization + Visionary

Share the company's dream for its future and role in the world.

Question: What's our company's vision for its future and its role in the wider world? What's the right way to share this dream?

Organization + Narrative

Tell the story of the organization, its history, and its impact.

Question: What's the story of our organization, its history, and its impact? How can we craft this narrative to connect with our audience?

Organization + Research-based

Leverage organizational data to provide industry insights or trend analysis.

Question: What industry insights or trend analysis can our organizational data provide? How can we leverage this information?

Organization + Practical

Give a behind-the-scenes look of the company or dole out advice on best organizational practices.

Question: What happens behind the scenes in our company? What advice can we provide others based on our experiences?


Here’s Product:

  • Product + Visionary

  • Product + Narrative

  • Product + Research-based

  • Product + Practical

Product + Visionary

Communicate how the product shapes the future of the industry, marketplace, or world.

Question: What does the future look like with our product in it? What new innovations or use-cases do we envision?

Product + Narrative

Tell the story of a product’s creation, evolution, or impact.

Question: What is the story of our product’s creation, evolution, or impact? How could this narrative resonate with our audience?

Product + Research-based

Share product-generated insights that impact both the individual (micro) and the collective (macro).

Question: What data-driven insights can our product provide? How can this information enhance and communicate our value?

Product + Practical

Provide actionable guidance or tips on how to use a product to its full potential.

Question: How can users utilize our product to its full potential? What actionable guidance or tips can we share?


And finally, Personal:

  • Personal + Visionary

  • Personal + Narrative

  • Personal + Research-based

  • Personal + Practical

Personal + Visionary

Share a dream or vision for the future of your field or industry.

Question: What personal dreams and visions do I have for the future of this field or industry?

Personal + Narrative

Share personal stories, anecdotes, or experiences related to a field or profession.

Question: What personal stories, anecdotes, or experiences can I share related to this field or profession?

Personal + Research-based

Provide data-backed insights based on personal research or expertise.

Question: What valuable, data-backed insights can I provide based on personal research or expertise?

Personal + Practical

Offer practical advice, tips, or how-tos based on personal experience or expertise.

Question: What practical advice, tips, or how-tos can I offer based on personal experience? And make it actionable?

Perspective Matters

We start with Perspective, because the source of the information matters.

Perspective (Personal, Product, Organizational, Industry) is the unique lens through which the content is created and presented. It informs the type of content that will be produced and how it will be perceived by the audience.

For example, the Personal perspective leverages personal experiences, beliefs, and observations. It tends to be more personal, meaning it may be more emotive, anecdotal, or reflective, and is usually perceived as more authentic and genuine.

Ever wonder why posting from your personal LinkedIn generally outperforms posting from your brand’s profile?

The Organization’s perspective tends to be more structured and formal, providing a macro viewpoint. But it’s not as personal, but it can hit you in a very personal way.

Yeah, they really mean it

The Product perspective demonstrates thought leadership through features, innovation, use cases, and customer experiences. It provides practical insight on how to make the best use of the product within the context of a person’s problems, wants, needs, or what have you.

And the Industry perspective typically is more factual, data-driven, and perceived as more objective because it tends to focus on more macro trends and patterns. Think Forrester reports and guides.

Let’s fill the TL Matrix up with everything we’ve covered so far:

But I prefer questions because they inspire you to think. So let’s switch out the statements for questions (highlighted in yellow above), like so:

Generate more ideas with questions


Here’s a few examples:

Industry + Visionary: IBM regularly shares predictions about future trends in technology and AI.

Industry + Research-based: Nielsen is well-known for their detailed reports on trends within the consumer goods industry.

Industry + Practical: Moz offers practical SEO advice and best practices based on current industry trends.

Industry + Narrative: National Geographic tells compelling stories about the planet and the people in it.

Product + Visionary: Tesla shares its master plan for sustainable energy openly.

Product + Research-based: Spotify generates and shares data-driven insights about music listening habits and trends among its users.

Product + Practical: Creators like Marques Brownlee provide useful reviews on technology products.

Product + Narrative: Patagonia tells the story of its sustainable product line and its impact on the environment.

Organizational + Visionary: Google often shares its vision of organizing the world's information and its role in the wider world.

Organizational + Research-based: LinkedIn leverages its own platform data to provide industry insights and trend analysis.

Organizational + Practical: Buffer offers behind-the-scenes looks at its remote working practices and company culture, and of course, its State of Remote Work report.

Organizational + Narrative: Ben & Jerry's shares the story of its history and its impact on issues like climate change and social justice.

Personal + Visionary: Dr. Jane Goodall, the famed primatologist and conservationist, frequently shares her personal visions for the future of wildlife conservation and environmental sustainability.

Personal + Research-based: Dr. Brene Brown provides data-backed insights on topics like vulnerability and courage based on her personal research.

Personal + Practical: Chef Gordon Ramsay offers practical cooking advice and tutorials based on his personal expertise.

Personal + Narrative: Oprah Winfrey regularly shares personal stories and experiences related to her career in media.

Remember: stay authentic and provide value.

Dr. Bronner’s has a message for you

Final Tips

Here’s a list of tips from my own experience (some I’ll repeat for emphasis):

  • Write for ONE person (already mentioned this)

  • Focus on quality — never compromise on this — if it doesn’t make you laugh, cry, or excite you in any way, then why do it?

  • Tap into a little fear and conflict — you might have a controversial take on industry practices that, if you were to put it out there, might scare you a bit — do that!

  • Start from extremes — this helps get my creative engine going — what’s the craziest, most extreme take you have about your (product, market, category, challenges, company, etc.)? Start there, even if you don’t end there.

  • Take a risk — invest some budget into a piece of content — make it more interactive, for example. Get in front of a camera and speak what you really think (don’t damage your brand, but there’s always a risk of that if you don’t do anything, right?)

  • Fight mediocrity — nothing is worse than average. Take a stand on something, damnit!

I hope this was helpful. Feel free to comment if something wasn’t clear. I wrote this in a day, so please forgive any grammatical mistakes.

Have a great weekend.


P.S. Oh! Wanted to leave you with this:

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