When approached to write on this subject, I did what every self-respecting professional would do first …. I googled it!
Wikipedia, rather dismissively you might say, refers to thought leadership as business jargon.
So, what is thought leadership, who is a thought leader, how should we use it and what are the benefits of it?
What is Thought Leadership?
Thought leadership is often thought of as primarily a type of content marketing and there is no doubt that it is, but is it more?
A thought leader could be defined as someone or some company whose clients, and often even competitors recognise as one of the foremost authorities in a selected area, with the result of being the go-to individual or organisation for said expertise. I think of thought leadership as looking at the questions your audience or clients have and leveraging the skills and talent within your organisation to answer them.
Often, we search for a unique perspective to try and differentiate ourselves, after all, wouldn’t the sheer volume of content dictate this? There is a risk though if you constantly look for a unique perspective, do you move away from your core competency and dilute your expertise? Instead, should we strive to understand what our clients’ biggest questions are, constantly find the most comprehensive answers to those questions, and let this be our differentiator?
Who are Thought Leaders
So, who then, are our thought leaders? We’re all experts in some way, shape, or form on some subject. At 5 years old, for example, my daughter could have told you anything you wanted to know about Dora the Explorer, so are we all thought leaders?
Maybe, and maybe the trick is not who we leverage to talk to a subject, but what subject we choose to talk about. A thought leader though, in my opinion, needs to be someone who can look at the challenges we define, and talk to them, not only with authority but in a way that will inspire people to take action … think Greta Thunberg!
How do we best use Thought Leadership?
How we use it is key. Researching, understanding, and resolving customer challenges should always be the focus. Not selling or directly marketing. The time invested and interest generated by creating good quality content can be lost the minute we try and apply that knowledge to selling a solution. Patience is key here. To become established as a thought leader, wait for the mantle to be applied rather than labeling yourself. When designing a thought leadership program, the goal should always be to become a go-to expert in your relevant field, and thus, earn the compliment.
What are the benefits of using Thought Leadership?
There are the obvious benefits, increased credibility, shorter sales cycles, and those in themselves are key, but by introducing the thought leaders from our community to those in yours, we open up a wider community of real people, real experts who clients want to engage with.
So thought leadership then? Is it as Wikipedia suggests, simply business jargon? I for one think there is a little more to it than that!