Over our 35 years of content marketing experience, we have helped hundreds of B2B brands put structure to their desire to be seen as ‘thought leaders’. Notwithstanding the explosion of omni-channel options, the fundamental building blocks have remained constant. What has also remained constant is the moving target definition of what thought leadership means. Without a common, simple understanding of the term—agreed to by all corporate stakeholders upfront—a thought leadership program will have trouble getting out of the gate.
One strategy to coalesce thinking around thought leadership is to start with a discussion of what thought leadership is NOT. Here are a few examples:
- It is NOT always a unique point-of-view (but it should provide insights and further understanding)
- It is NOT a thinly veiled sales piece (shameless self-promotion is a surefire way to have your audience tune out)
- It is most definitely NOT the “random thoughts of leaders”
By eliminating some commonly held misconceptions, this short exercise helps focus attention on what thought leadership DOES comprise. It’s about enabling your subject matter experts (SMEs) to serve as trusted advisors by offering relevant, useful and timely advice. It’s about building reputation and authority over time, in multiple ways and through multiple digital, media, social and P2P channels. A succinct one sentence definition that ComBlu has come down to is:
Thought leadership differentiates companies in terms of their intellectual capital.
There is no single route to success. An organization, through its SMEs, can establish its position as a thought leader by:
- Owning a particular topic or issue
- Creating a new industry category or innovation
- Impacting legislation or government regulations
- Coalescing defined influencers
Before embarking on this journey, firms must have the right culture, processes and ideas to sustain constructive dialogue.
This graphic illustrates six key elements for success. If your thought leadership can’t meet each and every one—refocus your efforts. And for more tips, check out our own POV on thought leadership. It includes a strategic roadmap and checklist for success.
The focus of Kevin’s 40+ year career has been on strategic counsel, alliance and partnership formation and business development.