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Follow the leader; a game for thoughtful natives

Like most imports from the United States, ideas tend to arrive on a tsunami of garish promotion liberally smothered with a dressing of wild enthusiasm. Sometimes though, just to mix a few metaphors, the present inside is actually more interesting than the wrapping.

One such import is the idea of ‘thought leaders’; not, as you may fear, a band of fiendish aliens controlling our minds and stealing our souls, but quite simply a bunch of folk who actually know what they’re talking about – and enjoy talking about it.

Call them thought leaders, call them icons, call them experts, whatever you want to call them we all have people in our mental contact list who we would turn to for advice. What’s more, we are ourselves probably the thought leaders, in our small way, for a number of stakeholder groups, such as our kids, our colleagues or our neighbours.

The point of all this is that, if we work on being thought leaders, we might just find that our community of thought followers starts to grow; and if we really know our stuff and put it out there in an easy to digest and easy to find fashion, our following could start to grow very quickly indeed.

Now, marry that thought with the very fundamentals of native advertising, providing content that is perfectly and uniquely pitched to the publication and the audience, and there’s an opportunity for some great synergy between these two movements.

Applied ‘thought leadership’ could become an approach to developing good native content. Proactively developing your expertise in your area of interest (and for marketing purposes this will probably be an area close to what you would eventually like to sell to the reader) and becoming the fount of all knowledge on the subject.

OK, so this means the content creator becomes more journalist and less copywriter but, if we’re talking about producing material that people actually want to read for its own sake, that’s probably no bad thing. It also means being able to talk authoritatively and inspirationally, without arrogance or alienating the reader with jargon, vocabulary overdose or excessive adjectives.

Dyson, today the new Hoover, did so well with vacuum cleaners because they explained, they drew pictures; the very machine with its transparent body was designed to show how well it was working.

If we, as native advertisers, show through our content that we really do know what we are talking about, if we bring information and stories to the content that illustrate, entertain and add to the knowledge of our readers, then we are building the foundations of trust, respect and reliability that is at the heart of native.

Native advertising is growing very fast because it works very well; but the rapidly ageing “Five things you should know about ……..” approach to creating sponsored copy is going to pale into insignificance compared to brands that can genuinely take on the mantle of thought leaders in their field.