Have you ever stumbled upon an article that felt more like a sales pitch? Or exited a webpage halfway through a blog because you were being pushed to buy a product? We’ve all been there. And your customers have, too.
For business leaders and marketing executives who feel pressured to deliver results and drive revenue, it can be hard to turn off the self-promotion. But in thought leadership — in articles, interviews, white papers, blogs — talking too much about your amazing company will likely damage trust and push away the very people you want to attract.
Instead, promotion-free content filled with unique insights elevates your profile and helps establish your brand. Your intellectual capital is your biggest selling point. When you drop your knowledge, sales and customers will naturally follow.
What is vendor neutrality and why do I need it?
Picture this: You’re on the hunt for some insights about the latest innovations in AI. You come across two articles. One is chock-full of praises for a specific AI platform, while the other breaks down various platforms, highlighting their pros and cons, offering useful industry insights. Which one are you more likely to trust and share with your colleagues? The second one, right? That’s vendor neutrality at work.
Vendor neutrality is about rising above the noise and ensuring that the focus remains firmly on sharing knowledge rather than product endorsement. When thought leaders embrace vendor neutrality, they establish themselves as trusted sources of information rather than salespeople. They build something money can’t buy: trust.
It’s not just customers — publications reject self-promotional content.
Not only is it best practice to steer clear of singing your company’s praises in thought leadership content, most publications will turn away pieces that seem to favor one company or sell a specific solution. We’ve experienced this first-hand many times — and we know how to pivot a piece away from self-promotion before it crosses an editor’s desk.
Editorial guidelines for media outlets of all sizes are very clear on the issue, saying:
- The article must be free of selling, promoting, vendor recommendations.
- Be 100% non-promotional and present an all-around view.
- Editors expect content driven by value, not promotion.
- To be considered, content must be vendor-neutral and completely non-promotional.
- The content should feature insightful commentary.
If you want to increase visibility and raise public awareness of your business, you’re going to need buy-in from the media. To create contributed content that publications not just accept, but are excited by, you need to think outside your elevator pitch.
What makes good vendor-neutral thought leadership content?
Use your thought leadership content as a platform to showcase your expertise and offer your unique perspective on a topic or issue. Think about what is trending in your industry and how that trend might impact your target audience. Provide deep insight and actionable advice.
To add value and get attention, good thought leadership should be:
- Specific to your audience’s needs
- Timely and trendy
- Human and relatable
Can you have it all? Balancing vendor neutrality and promotion
Staying vendor neutral doesn’t mean you can’t sprinkle in a bit of your company’s fairy dust. You can absolutely showcase your expertise without turning an article into an advertisement.
Imagine you’re an expert in sustainable fashion. Instead of shouting, “Buy my eco-friendly T-shirts!” from the rooftops, you could write an article about the environmental impact of fast fashion and provide tips on making more conscious clothing choices. You’re educating, not selling, and that’s what sets you apart.
Or, if you’re a cybersecurity expert working for a software company, instead of solely promoting your company’s security solution, you could produce content discussing broader industry trends, the latest cyber threats and risk management strategies. This approach positions you as an authority while subtly showcasing your expertise. This is what sells.
Numbers don’t lie: Trust breeds success.
Thought leadership content matters in business. According to the LinkedIn-Edelman B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study, “64% of buyers say that an organization’s thought leadership content is a more trustworthy basis for assessing its capabilities and competency than its marketing materials and product sheets.” In the same study, nearly half of all respondents (46%) cited “overly focused on selling or describing products rather than conveying valuable information” as a shortcoming of low-quality thought leadership.
When you remain vendor neutral, you’re saying, “I value your trust more than pushing a product.” You’re not just sharing information. You’re shaping perspectives and leaving a legacy of credibility that will help grow your business.
If your organization needs help making your thought leadership efforts more successful, reach out today. Not to break our rule about self-promotion, but our team is pretty excellent at it.
Maggie Schlundt is the Content Group Manager of Precision, a nimble and effective PR/content division of Matter that supports brands with highly focused PR needs. Maggie has over 10 years’ experience helping organizations hone their voice and craft with impactful written content. She’s penned effective thought leadership content for clients, landing contributed articles in Fast Company, Forbes, Entrepreneur, WIRED, Authority Magazine, RIS News, BenefitsPRO, Retail Touchpoints, Supply and Demand Chain Executive, Electronic Design and more.