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Rob Mitchell: The Growing Importance and Misunderstanding of Thought Leadership

By Alexander Højfeldt Lund on May 30, 2024

In today's competitive B2B landscape, the term ‘thought leadership’ is often touted as a key strategy for brands looking to differentiate themselves. 

However, its frequent misuse and misunderstanding can undermine its potential impact. 

Rob Mitchell, CEO of FT Longitude, Financial Times, sheds light on why thought leadership is becoming increasingly important and how it is often misunderstood. 

Mitchell is addressing these topics in more detail at the upcoming Native Advertising Days 2024.

The Rise of Thought Leadership

Mitchell emphasises that one of the primary reasons thought leadership is gaining traction is the need for businesses to stand out in a crowded market. 

"If you look at law firms, for instance, a top-10 law firm does pretty much the same things as its competitors and is structured similarly," Mitchell says. 

"When a client chooses between these firms, thought leadership can be a key differentiator. If potential customers find your thought leadership content interesting, it creates a lasting impression, making them think of you in the future."

Beyond mere differentiation, thought leadership is crucial for brand building. According to Mitchell, there's a growing recognition within the B2B space of the importance of brand as a valuable asset. 

"Thought leadership helps build a brand around key areas that you want to be known for. It creates associations between your brand and the messages you want to communicate to your audience."

Moreover, thought leadership provides sales teams with valuable content to engage prospects and customers. Instead of merely pushing products and services, thought leadership offers a way to initiate meaningful conversations. 

"In a sales context, your team needs reasons to contact prospects beyond just selling. Thought leadership gives them something valuable to discuss," Mitchell explains.

Common Misunderstandings of Thought Leadership

Despite its importance, thought leadership is often misunderstood. One common misconception is that any content can be labelled as thought leadership. 

"People like the term because it sounds better than content marketing. It creates a halo effect, making something seem smarter than it is," Mitchell notes. 

Mitchell points out that true thought leadership must be distinctive and aligned with the brand. 

"In the banking sector, for example, many banks produce similar market outlooks and forecasts. They might call this thought leadership, but if it's indistinguishable from competitors' content, it doesn't truly qualify."

Another misunderstanding is that thought leadership should be separate from marketing and sales. 

"Good thought leadership requires input from across the organisation and must have a clear marketing and communications rationale. It's not just an academic exercise but a crucial part of brand building."

Mitchell also highlights the importance of focusing on the audience's needs rather than the company's message.

"One hallmark of effective thought leadership is that it addresses the audience's problems and provides genuine insights. It's not about communicating what the company wants to say, but about solving the audience's problems."

The Role of Native Advertising

At Native Advertising Days 2024, Mitchell will also discuss the role of thought leadership in native advertising. He believes that native advertising can be a powerful distribution channel for thought leadership content. 

"Good thought leadership creates real insight that makes the audience think differently about a brand. This is different from traditional branded content because it’s research-driven and offers genuine value."

Mitchell will share examples from his work at the Financial Times, illustrating how thought leadership can be effectively integrated into native advertising formats. 

"By combining thought leadership with native advertising, companies can reach a broader audience and enhance their brand's credibility."

Do you want to learn more from Rob Mitchel and 40 other industry-leading speakers on native advertising? Native Advertising Days 2024 takes place from June 12 -13 2024, DGI-Byen, Copenhagen Denmark

Register here