Thought Leadership Strategy

In 2009 according to Craig Badings, Thought Leadership involved establishing a relationship with and delivering something of value to your stakeholders and customers that aligns with your brand/company value.
Although the content below is from the site's 2009 archived pages, the message still resonants.

 

Hi, I’m Craig Badings and you can contact me directly via twitter @thoughtstrategy or email craig@leadingthought dot us dot com. the fact that you’ve visited this site means that you are interested in thought leadership – my passion. My more recent work though can be found at www.leadingthought.us.com – for my latest blogs and writings on thought leadership I urge you to visit this site.

On the site you’re on now, you’ll find interviews with some thought leaders who share some practical tips on what it took to get there. Interviewees include: David Meerman Scott, Ken Blanchard, Bernard Salt, Howard Gardner, Gary Bertwistle , Dana van den Heuvel, Jeffrey Bullas and Dr Liz Alexander the co-author of my latest thoguht leadership book #Thought Leadership Tweet 140 Prompts for Designing and Executing an Effective Thought Leadership Campaign.

You will also find heaps of useful information about the steps you can take to become a thought leader, the definition of thought leadership, how to evolve a thought leadership strategy if you are a business, the benefits of thought leadership, the importance of content and content curation, great thought leadership insights from various gurus from around the globe, how to take your thought leadership to market as well as some case studies. If you do visit my other thought leadership site Leading Thought you will also find a value-packed eight-part audio series with five leading global thought leadership case studies.

I have spent the past 25 years consulting to small and large brands about their public relations challenges. It has only been over the last 8 years that I have developed a deep interest and fascination with the topic, thought leadership. Feel free to download my e book at the top right of the home page and I’d welcome your follow on twitter @thoughtstrategy or you can join me on LinkedIn.

My interest in thought leadership started when I witnessed its power when used as a strategic business tool. Anyone can be a thought leader as long as they put in the time, they have new insights, points of view to share and they are able to package and communicate it effectively to their target audience.

While thought leadership is my passion, by day I am a partner at Sydney-based corporate and financial PR consultancy, Cannings Corporate Communications, a member of the ASX-listed, STW Group Ltd, Australia’s largest communications services group.

Please check out my three books that I have either authored or co-authored on the topic:

  1. Brand Stand: seven steps to thought leadership (there is a free excerpt available under free ebooks on this site)
  2. How to differentiate your company and stand out from the crowd: thought leadership - co-authored with Mignon van Halderen and Kym Kettler-Padd0ck (this is a free ebook available on this site)
  3. #Thought Leadership Tweet 140 Prompts for Designing and Executing and Effective Thought Leadership Campaign - co-authored with Dr Liz Alexander

Once again please download my e book at the top right of the home page.

 

Definitions of thought leadership

Thought leadership logo

 

19 Jul 2009

I have my own definition of thought leadership, it goes something like this: ‘Thought Leadership is establishing a relationship with and delivering something of value to your stakeholders and customers that aligns with your brand/company value. In the process you go well beyond merely selling a product or service and establish your brand /company as the expert in that field and differentiate yourself from your competitors.’

A simple example: Let's look at the product sanitizing wipes which are sold at a number of e commerce sites. What's the best way to sell this handy product? At CleanISupply, an online store, they are utilizing several smart strategies: SEO along with offering a wide selection of sanitizing wipes at a number of different price points. This store has positioned itself to sell to both the wholesale market for their janitorial, restaurant, and other business supplies, as well as to the regular retail consumer market. They obviously have done their research and have a deep understanding of their business and customers and, more importantly, the needs of those customers and the broader market in which they operate.

While there are many definitions I’d like to share a few. Professors Terrell and Middlebrooks of the Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and University of Chicago Graduate School of Business capture part of what thought leadership is about http://tinyurl.com/nc5due They say: ‘The key strategy is to be different from competitors…They break free from “be better”, internally oriented initiatives to be different’, externally oriented strategies. Being different is grounded in providing customers with unique value that they cannot get from any other competitor.’

A RainToday.com research report (www.raintoday.com) thought leadership, published in 2006, notes: ‘You cannot go after a market without something authentic and valuable to offer, without something spun from the passion you hold for your area of expertise…and you cannot continue to teach others and sustain your business as a whole without developing an ongoing relationship with your market. One without the other just doesn’t work.’

Wikipedia also has a definition: “Thought leadership as a buzz word or jargon ‘used to describe a futurist or person who is recognized among their peer mentors for innovative ideas and demonstrates the confidence to promote or share those ideas as actionable, distilled insights.

‘It is the recognition from the outside world that the company deeply understands its business, the needs of its customers, and the broader marketplace in which it operates.

‘Thought leadership is also an emerging discipline in its own right. Our ability to understand its core practices and then effectively apply them is key to positioning ourselves and our companies for next level growth.’

I like the second paragraph of the Wikipedia definition, but this only comes if you have first evaluated your own values, researched the deeper needs of your stakeholders/customers and then identified, sometimes in conjunction with those stakeholders, what will be important for them.

One of the common themes in most of the thought leadership definitions I have seen is that at its core, thought leadership revolves around developing a deep understanding of your business and customers and, more importantly, the needs of those customers and the broader market in which you operate.

Please send me your definition I’d love to publish it on my blog.

19 Responses to “Definitions of thought leadership”

 

   Merle O'Brien says:/p>

   July 26, 2009 at 22:58/p>

   Hi Craig

   Wow! How exciting and congratulations on your book. I have a definition on thoughtleadership to toss in the ring – the strategic practice of cultivating market insight and building foresight using business management tools (media scans, market research, statistics, trend analysis, scenario planning, forecasting etc.) that INFLUENCES organisational change, sustainability and brand integrity. For me – leadership comes down to influence – a leader influences change – managers implement the change – but lack the skill to change direction – leaders who can influence a change in direction based on their intellect (not money, status, charisma, power etc)- are the ones who are ruling the meetings these days.

   Wisdom is the highest level to which we can mature ‘data’ – first into knowledge – then we develop intelligence – and using a time-series we can then build insights on which to develop strategies – the process deepens our understanding of the dynamics influencing the driving forces of our market / business. Only then, do we reach a point of being able to take a sound / wise business decision. Many problems were created in 20th century by management not maturing the data – and their decisions are now tripping them up because it lacked depth, creativity and a systematic approach. I think a thoughtleader must also be a good systems thinker – able to respond to situations analytically and creatively (to join the dots into intelligent patterns and also not react to situations according to prescribed patterns). It is also interesting that social scientists now promote the view that there are 3 stages ‘beyond Maslow’s hierachy of needs’ – when after we self actualise (stage 5), we become more fulfilled by helping others grow (stage 6), then we evolve our awareness of our eco-impact on the world (stage 7) and then we come into unity consciousness (stage 8) at which level wisdom is acquired and for these individuals – fulfilment is found in daily solitary reflection on how s/he makes a positive influence in the world each day. I imagine that a thoughtleader of the 21st century would need to be at stage 8 in order to navigate an organisation to a sustainable better place thro the 21st century’s complexity, chaos and paradigm shifts.

   ALl the best – and regards to Margi,

   Merle

   craig says:

   August 5, 2009 at 11:07

   I love Merle’s thinking on thought leadership, particularly the way she has linked to the three stages beyond Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. For it is here that the true thought leaders of the next few decades will emerge. There are many different levels of thought leadership but the great thought leaders are the ones who take their stakeholders to a place they didn’t know existed or enlighten/expose an audience to new thinking in a way that adds unexpected value to their lives whether that be in a professional or personal capacity.

   Best Blog Posts on SEO for Thought Leadership | The B2B Formula says: /p>

   July 17, 2010 at 07:46/p>

   […] Craig Badings nicely assembles several definitions of what thought leadership is, and he invites everyone to contribute their own ideas in the comments. I particularly like the […]

   Employer branding boosted by public relations | Public relations and managing reputation says:/p>

   May 18, 2011 at 09:34

 

   […] Thought leadership is a highly strategic approach to reputation management and/or branding that can be applied across both media and social media with the specific aim of enhancing employer brand equity. […]

   PR-driven thought leadership turbocharges employer branding | Public relations and managing reputation says:/p>

   May 24, 2011 at 09:19

 

   […] post on employer branding I talked mainly at a more strategic level and talked extensively about thought leadership. And this is all lovely, isn’t it, but let us not, dear congregation in the Church of PR, dwell […]

   Five top global PR, marketing & social media blog posts | Public relations and managing reputation says:  /p>

   June 22, 2011 at 09:34/p>

 

   […] relations. And, partly because of the sheer NOISE of all this online activity, this means that thought leadership, value and insightfulness – and let’s not forget HUMOUR – are more valued than ever […]

   PR Strategy Steps for Thought Leadership | Edelman Australia Blog says:  /p>

   May 23, 2012 at 11:58

 

   […] describing thought leadership, it is hard to go past corporate communication expert Craig […]

   On Thought Leadership in Public Relations says:

   June 5, 2012 at 19:01  /p>

 

   […] of excellent thought leadership tend to be originality, boldness and worthiness (i.e. topics that are weighty and that target […]

   21 Definitions of Thought Leadership says:  /p>

   July 27, 2012 at 08:58/p>

 

   […] ThoughtLeadershipStrategy.net – ‘Thought Leadership is establishing a relationship with and delivering something of value to your stakeholders and customers that aligns with your brand/company value. In the process you go well beyond merely selling a product or service and establish your brand /company as the expert in that field and differentiate yourself from your competitors.’ […]

   Brian Rom says:

   August 22, 2012 at 12:16

 

   Wikipedia’s definition identifies the key elements of TL: ‘buzzwords’ and ‘ jargon’. Only marketers and academic hucksters could have commoditized such an obvious element of the client- service provider relationship; and with such an infelicitous label to boot. P. J. Barnum would surely chuckle if he knew his oh-so-true words still apply.

   craig says:

   August 22, 2012 at 13:23

 

   Brian I wish it was an obvious element of the client-service provider relationship to which you refer – unfortunately in reality that’s not the case. In fact it is precisely because so many service providers flaccidly and erroneously label so much of what they put out as thought leadership that has led to the phrase being degraded and called a buzzword or jargon.

   In its true sense it is and can be an extremely powerful differentiating factor for a brand and if use properly becomes part of the culture of the organisation much like a sales or innovation culture you find in some organisations. Specific cases that come to mind are Mckinsey, IBM, PwC, Dove to mention a few.

   Are you a thought leader for your ideas, service, or product? | Vision.Strategy.People.Business/biancalcassidy says:

   March 14, 2014 at 18:58 

 

   […] an ongoing relationship with your market. One without the other just doesn’t work’, notes RainToday.com on a research report on thought leadership, published in […]

   Thought Leadership in the Not-For-Profit World | Onward Consulting says: 

   April 11, 2014 at 00:59 

 

   […] http://www.thoughtleadershipstrategy.net/2009/07/definitions-of-thought-leadership/ […]

   Shonali Burke Consulting, Inc. | On Thought Leadership in Public Relations says:  /p>

   August 11, 2014 at 01:43

 

   […] of excellent thought leadership tend to be originality, boldness and worthiness (i.e. topics that are weighty and that target […]

   Fifty Shades Darker PDF says: 

   October 15, 2014 at 17:19 

 

   Amazing blog! Do you have any tips and hints for aspiring writers?

   I’m hoping to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything.

 

   Would you recommend starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a

   paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m completely overwhelmed ..

   Any ideas? Kudos!

   craig says:

   October 16, 2014 at 09:02 

 

   I’d go for wordpress – I did and have been very happy with it.

   Free Pdf Ebook says:

   October 18, 2014 at 23:44 

 

   May I just say what a relief to discover somebody who really understands what they’re discussing on the net. You definitely understand how to bring a problem to light and make it important. A lot more people have to check this out and understand this side of the story. It’s surprising you’re not more popular because you surely possess the gift.

Thought LeadershipDefinitions of thought leadership – Thought … | test-3 says:

   October 27, 2014 at 01:55 

   […] Wow! How exciting and congratulations on your book. I have a definition on thoughtleadership to toss in the ring – the strategic practice of cultivating market insight and building foresight using business management tools (media scans, market research, statistics, trend analysis, scenario planning, forecasting etc.) that INFLUENCES organisational change, sustainability and brand integrity. For me – leadership comes down to influence – a leader influences change – managers implement the change – but lack the skill to change direction – leaders who can influence a change in direction based on their intellect (not money, status, charisma, power etc)- are the ones who are ruling the meetings these days. Wisdom is the highest level to which we can mature ‘data’ – first into knowledge – then we develop intelligence – and using a time-series we can then build insights on which to develop strategies – the process deepens our understanding of the dynamics influencing the driving forces of our market / business. Only then, do we reach a point of being able to take a sound / wise business decision. Many problems were created in 20th century by management not maturing the data – and their decisions are now tripping them up because it lacked depth, creativity and a systematic approach. I think a thoughtleader must also be a good systems thinker – able to respond to situations analytically and creatively (to join the dots into intelligent patterns and also not react to situations according to prescribed patterns). It is also interesting that social scientists now promote the view that there are 3 stages ‘beyond Maslow’s hierachy of needs’ – when after we self actualise (stage 5), we become more fulfilled by helping others grow (stage 6), then we evolve our awareness of our eco-impact on the world (stage 7) and then we come into unity consciousness (stage 8) at which level wisdom is acquired and for these individuals – fulfilment is found in daily solitary reflection on how s/he makes a positive influence in the world each day. I imagine that a thoughtleader of the 21st century would need to be at stage 8 in order to navigate an organisation to a sustainable better place thro the 21st century’s complexity, chaos and paradigm shifts.Originally published here. […]

   craig says:

   October 27, 2014 at 14:17 

  To [I’m not sure who wrote this] thanks for your very in-depth definition and contribution. I would love to publish this on my blog but would need your name. If you can come back to me that would be great.

   Cheers

   Craig

 

I wrote this as a guest post for Jeff Bullas blog. Jeff is without doubt one of the global thought leaders on social media but particularly the strategy of how you integrate it into your marketing and your business as a whole – keep an eye open for an interview with Jeff on this blog shortly.

The natural reaction of most business people and certainly anyone in marketing, communications or social media these days is to label those companies and individuals not using social media as dinosaurs. But are they?

Thought leadership is content on steroids. It stands out from the crowd because it is different; it offers something new and the good campaigns deliver information or insights that address a client’s challenges or issues. In some cases really brilliant thought leadership shifts paradigms of an entire industry. Thought leadership is no ordinary content but rather content that sets one brand apart from the competition and, in the process, leverages a phenomenal platform for trust and engagement.

Good thought leadership content is sophisticated and intelligent and should be packaging and delivered appropriately to a defined audience. And herein lies the key.

Do you know where and how your audience consumes content?

In our recent book on the topic #Thought Leadership Tweet 140 Prompts for Designing and Executing an Effective Thought Leadership Campaign, co-author Dr Liz Alexander and I ask in tweet #32: “Have you clearly defined who you want to reach with this thought leadership campaign and why?”

If for example your market is a small universe of 30-50 senior decision makers at listed companies in a certain sector and they are not using LinkedIn, twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, blogs and the like, why on earth would you need to be on social media?

Great thought leadership goes to the very heart of your markets’ issues – thinkDove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, IBM’s Smarter Planet, GE’s Ecomagination, Phillip’s Health and Wellbeing campaign and Booz&Co’s Global Innovation 1000. The planning for these campaigns had a very clear why, as Simon Sinek says in our tweet# 26: “It doesn’t matter what you do. It matters why you do it.” Why are you embarking on a thought leadership campaign?

I have been in the public relations game for 23 years. There was an industry expression back then – “Spray and pray” – it meant sending a press release to as many media contacts as possible hoping to generate coverage. Of course the results were always poor because three critical questions were not clarified up front: Why are we doing this? Who are we trying to reach? What do they read?

Content planning today is no different we merely have a host of other channels to use social media being one of them.

Using social media effectively for your thought leadership content

Let’s skip ahead. You’ve done your research and you know that a lot of your market is consuming social media. At this point it’s probably worth considering SKM’s Dale Bryce’s question in tweet# 120: “Are you ensuring your thought leadership facilitates a dialog? Think of it as a conversation.”

One of the most critical aspects of any content is whether it facilitates customer engagement and acquisition. I am singularly and cynically commercial in my view of thought leadership and content – if it is not driving engagement or acquisition why do it.

If you are using social media platforms to share your thought leadership content you may want to consider the following to measure its success:

  1. Identify your prospect’s buying cycle – have you identified the various stages of the engagement and customer buying cycle and are you modifying your content for each stage and using the appropriate channels at each stage? For example what formats do your customers/prospects want – are you offering more than one option e.g. a powerpoint, a pdf, audio, video, etc
  2. Leverage your content – do you have a process to make sure you’re sharing your content and leveraging it appropriately across all the relevant social media channels and are you optimising your content. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) has changed and now it is all about targeted content using the key words people search for when looking for information on your topic and, more importantly, gaining links from authoritative influencers.
  3. Go visual – all trends indicate that the visual mediums of YouTube, Slidshare, Pinterest, Instagram and using things like Infographics is the way people are trending in their consumption of content. Are you graphically interpreting your content to take advantage of this trend?
  4. Gear your content for earned media – are you paying enough attention to making your content shareable. One of the greatest powers of social media is the ability for people to share your content. Are you designing your content to be shareable and to make it easy for people to link to it?
  5. Quantify the revenue impact – there is tons of content on this topic but one stands out – businesses will only allocate big money to your social media campaign if they understand which of your social media channels is truly working. This means you have to find ways to gather feedback and data that better informs your understanding of your prospects at the various stages of the buying cycle and then critically what impact your content is having on them.

Your metrics may show how many back links you have, how many eyeballs you attracted, how many retweets you received, how many downloads you had, your click-through rate but the bottom line is whether your content enables you to capture these visitors, convert them into leads and ultimately nurture them into customers?

I leave you with this thought. Research in a report by KPMG in 2011 “Going Social: How businesses are making the most of social media” found that regardless of industry group or ownership structure, business adoption rates for social media now average around the 70% mark around the world. Perhaps even more tellingly, the report found that a high proportion of consumers now use social media to inform their purchasing decisions.

ThoughtLeadershipStrategy.net