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Ownable Conversations: How To Create Content That Leads Niche Discussions

Executives don’t find thought leadership content all that insightful.

A recent Edelman-LinkedIn study revealed that 71% of decision-makers say half or less than half of the thought leadership content they read or watch gives them valuable insights.

How can your brand’s content fall into the half of content that provides valuable insights? Enter ownable conversations – a more intentional and substantive approach to creating thought leadership content.

Ownable conversations are editorial perspectives that highlight a brand’s unique value and category expertise to its audience. As “big ideas,” they allow a range of expert-driven discussions, industry nuances, and clear perspectives that help to increase market awareness and build brand reputation.

More simply, ownable conversations are typically big ideas within your target industry that develop more detailed discussions, industry nuances, and intentional perspectives.

Ownable conversations are your insurance against generic content. Investing in an ownable conversation can help you to:

  • Steal share of voice from competitors
  • Drive increased traffic to your digital properties
  • Retain and engage your target audience
  • Steer clear of the cycle of creating generic content
  • Establish credibility by highlighting your expertise
  • Prime future customers for your products and services
Ownable conversations are your insurance against generic content, says @lieuthi via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

How to create an ownable conversation

Ownable conversations have some key trademarks:

1. Harness something proprietary

Offer audiences something no other brand can – your proprietary information. This often comes in the form of data insights or original research. A study by BuzzSumo and Mantis Research reveals 94% of responding marketers agree “original research elevates their brand’s authority in the industry.”

94% of marketers say original research elevates their brand’s authority in the industry, according to #research from @BuzzSumo and @MantisResearch, via @lieuthi via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

If you’re in a hyper-competitive category or building a new one, original research is one of the fastest routes to making a good impression and establishing your credibility. Consider turning any type of first-party data (anonymized and aggregated) into content. And if you don’t have access to that data internally, you can easily generate it via surveys.

IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report is a highly anticipated annual report in the IT, technology, or cybersecurity industry — whether you’re an IBM customer or not.

Why it works: A lot of brands and media cover cybersecurity topics, but few have the breadth of experts IBM has who can put that news into context with thoughtful analysis and real-life applications. Against a backdrop of proprietary data, IBM uncovers what makes cybersecurity exciting for the people behind it and what’s next for the industry while emphasizing the brand’s authority in this space.

2. Exhibit your niche expertise

A CMO Council study finds that only 12% of marketers think their content marketing programs reach the right audiences. One possible reason is that brands are failing to serve the content that B2B professionals need. The more niche your expertise, the better. An ownable conversation asks you to meet your audience’s needs by showcasing what you’re uniquely good at. For example, if you’re in digital advertising, which lane within the topic can you drill down into and claim as your area of expertise?

As exemplified in case studies, the niche for Google’s navigation app Waze is in-car advertising. Via this lane of expertise, the brand illustrates its ability to drive awareness, reach new customers, and increase visits to brick-and-mortar stores.

Why it works: Waze offers a unique option for brands to reach their audience. By occupying this niche corner of the market, Waze highlights its competitive difference in a highly fragmented landscape via executions across a suite of content, including case studies, blog articles, and proprietary insights by category.

3. Be innovative

A global B2B study conducted by Edelman reveals 81% of business executives want provocative insights that challenge their assumptions rather than validation of their thinking. An innovative point of view helps your brand stand out and strengthens brand awareness.

An innovative point of view helps your brand stand out and strengthens brand awareness, says @lieuthi via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Being disruptive should come from a natural place for your brand. Every company has a value proposition, and that value proposition usually has something to do with improving the status quo. Brands should seek to elevate the category rather than merely keep up with the competitors. By doing so, you take a natural leadership position.

GE’s 2017 Balance the Equation campaign was crafted to address the gender imbalance in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) industries.

Why it works: This GE campaign expertly identified a sweet spot between what was happening culturally (a lack of women in the STEM industry) and GE’s agenda for innovation. While GE had historically been known for innovation in aviation, renewable energy, and other industries, this campaign allowed the brand to emerge as a change-maker and champion of diversity.

By pledging to put 20,000 women in STEM jobs by 2020, the campaign’s unifying message of #BalanceTheEquation increased GE’s share of conversation, as evidenced by several earned media mentions, heightening the brand’s reputation and increasing its appeal as an employer of choice.

Ownable conversations take time

Like any investment in content, ownable conversations take time to build traction. I see three distinct phases – how long each takes is based on your budget and resources.

Ownable conversations take time to build traction. How long? That’s based on budget and resources, says @lieuthi via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Phase 1: Establish the conversation

Identify ownable conversations by locating the gaps in thought leadership content across the customer journey (vertical-specific trends, consumer insights, etc.) and within your category. Create editorial content to show your coverage of these key areas and drive an organic share of voice.

Phase 2: Hone your niche

Find the content within each ownable conversation that drives the highest traffic to your domain and the highest engagement (e.g., time on page, engagement rate). Explore how you can go deeper on those topics and carve out an even more specific corner of the market.

Phase 3: Grow your impact

Extend your reach, build brand salience, and amplify your messages through rich, multi-channel content experiences and campaigns, reaffirming your brand as a leader in your industry landscape and the authority in the category.

Let your content own the conversation

As marketers and content creators, it should be our mission to create the most value we can for our audiences and our brands. But we fail when delivering B2B thought leadership content that doesn’t offer value to decision-makers. We can win the conversation only when we create ownable conversations by elevating our content to meet audiences where they are, with the information they need.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute