The 4 Key Differences Between Thought Leadership and Content Marketing

Thought leadership garners a lot of attention among entrepreneurs and those aiming to pick up more traction in their marketing to increase brand recognition. So does content marketing, which is often touted for its ability to create top-of-funnel and marketing-qualified leads.

Many, however, are unsure exactly what the differences between the two are. This is a pity, because there are clear differences — and they are worth underscoring. The best recent research into this space is from a 2019 Edelman and LinkedIn study, which is my main point of reference for this article.

1. Content marketing is top-down; thought leadership is peer-to-peer

First, content marketing is typically a top-down communication method, irrespective of whether the authoring party is trying to sell business to business (B2B) or business to consumer (B2C).

Think about the last time you read a company blog that was clearly intended to sell you as a customer and ask yourself this: Was the company talking with you or to you?

In the vast majority of cases, content marketing’s intended purpose is not to start a dialogue with its intended authorship. Rather, content marketing’s central objective is to initiate a relationship with the reader…

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