28 Dec 2009
I have never come across a thought leader who didn’t share his or her thoughts the two just don’t go hand in hand.
However, how you take your thought leadership position to market is critical to the success of your campaign and the degree to which you are viewed as a thought leader.
Once you have a thought leadership position worked out, there are six critical actions needed to help you or your brand achieve thought leadership status:
- Make it a strategic business imperative
- Know your audience
- Share openly
- Cultivate the media
- Write and speak about your campaign
- Pump up your content online
In this post I am going to speak about the first and will cover the others in subsequent posts.
This is not a box-ticking exercise – you don’t have to complete all of these to drive your thought leadership position. You will, however, need the first two and preferably you will need to carry out one or two of the others well to help get your point of view out there.
Action 1: Make it a strategic business or brand imperative
By making your thought leadership campaign a strategic business imperative it will more easily slot into the short-, medium- or long-term business objectives of the company. Given this, and having identified a thought leadership champion, makes it much easier to position this as a strategic business imperative because you have already won senior management support. It is even better if the thought leadership campaign/idea is owned by the CEO or managing director.
Ownership at the top ensures commitment at a senior level, board buy-in and an easier ‘sell’ to the various departments, staff, third party endorsers and suppliers who may be involved in the campaign.
It also ensures commitment at a senior level and alignment of other business activities to the thought leadership campaign.
Thought leadership needs senior support
Without senior management commitment you run the risk of the organization’s skeptics squeezing the life out of the thought leadership effort.
At times things can go awry or the campaign is not delivering as fast or as well as it should. At this point the avoidance or blame game begins and so starts the death spiral for the campaign…that is unless the CEO or senior management sees the thought leadership campaign as integral to the organization’s strategy and is still prepared to back it as a result.
If a leader makes success non-negotiable it is amazing how much impetus it can give the campaign.
Make no mistake, you will still need to make sure that you have a well thought out and presented plan. This should cover the thought leadership idea in detail but also, importantly, how you intend to roll it out.
As part of this you should identify clear objectives, your rationale for doing this and measurable outcomes. The more measurable your outcomes the more likely you are to gain credibility for the campaign across the senior management ranks and for future funding.
14 Dec 2009
Gap analysis has been around for decades. Simply put it is the expectation of a brand’s current level of performance and where it wants to be in the future. The difference between the two is the gap analysis.
In Tiger Woods’ case the gap has become a chasm. However, it also begs the question as to whether his personal brand was built into something it was not. Testimony to this is the website www.tigerisgod.com which was taken down a few weeks ago.
What has this got to do with thought leadership?
Put it this way. If you are planning on using your thought leadership campaign to build you or your brand into something you are not you run the risk creating a massive perceptual gap problem – one which could be damaging to your brand.
Very few consumers stick with brands that overpromise and under-deliver. So be wary of the PR campaign or thought leadership campaign that sets out to build you into something you are not.
Align your campaigns to your values
I am a firm believer in aligning, in particular your thought leadership but also other campaigns like your PR and CSR campaigns to your company values.
These values should be the compass by which to steer your profile building efforts. But how often do you hear an advertising agency or PR company asking for a company’s values when designing a campaign?
True thought leadership campaigns need to be credible internally and across multiple external stakeholders. The more your thought leadership campaign relates closely to the issues, trends or hot topics across your sector and the more it addresses the concerns of your clients or customers, the more authentic it will be.
Today more than ever, consumers are looking for authenticity in the brands they choose. If you can achieve this there is far less chance that your campaign will create a gap between the perception of what you stand for and the reality.
A classic Australian example was a company called Firepower, a company which created enormous media hype around the promise of a fuel pill that would save motorists and transport companies a lot of money on their fuel consumption. It has gone down as one of the biggest corporate scams this country has seen – a brand promise that missed the mark by a country mile leaving a litany of court cases and red faces and designated the brand to the bottom of the corporate scrapheap.
I would love to hear from you if you have examples of similar companies or campaigns that have overpromised and under-delivered.
7 Dec 2009
Being a thought leader in your sector means that you will fail at some point.
Why? Because you can never satisfy everyone, not everybody will see you as a thought leader and you will always have your detractors. In fact some people and organisations may attack your position outright. That’s the price of being a leader.
Thought leaders aren’t shy, retiring types.
The very nature of thought leadership requires that you put yourself out there. If you want to be seen to be leading or framing the conversations around a topic, if you want people to sit up and take note and think differently about the way they do things, if you want to highlight issues or trends that we have not yet experienced you are opening yourself for criticism at some point with some audience.
Does that mean you have failed as a thought leader? Not at all.
Throughout history some of the greatest thought leaders have been criticised by the media, their competitors, government and other detractors.
Look at some of the great innovators and inventors of our time. Over the centuries they too have been wrong. Consider how many times some inventions or ideas failed before they came to fruition or before they were generally accepted.
Thought leaders require vision, courage and perseverance
The fact of the matter is that the very nature of leadership whether it be thought leadership, innovation or leadership per se requires three key characteristics – vision, courage and perseverance.
It is also precisely why so many large corporations don’t embark on thought leadership campaigns. True thought leadership often falls into the too hard box making it very easy for its detractors in the organisation to explore what could go wrong, how much IP they are going to have to give away and what the immediate return on investment might be.
It is far easier for the marketing department to stick with the tried and tested above the line campaign or PR campaign that disseminates media releases and marketing collateral. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that this stuff is not important to the marketing success of the company, indeed we could all name many a campaign which stands out and that really hit the mark.
However, more and more today the standard marketing and PR campaigns are probably not going to deliver your brand the cut through you need to stand out from the crowd.
If your thought leadership campaign isn’t working what do you do?
If you have a thought leadership campaign currently running and it’s not hitting the mark try some of these tips:
- Get closer to your customers, clients or whoever it is aimed at. Ask them what they like about it, what is most useful, what they don’t like and how it could be improved to truly deliver something of value to them. Far from failure, this should be viewed as a great opportunity to engage with your audience in a really authentic manner, a manner that shows you care
- As a matter of course, like any good marketing campaign does, your thought leadership campaign should be cross checked to make sure it is delivering on your initial objectives. Go back and re-evaluate these and measure them against what it is currently delivering
- Follow in the footsteps of the great inventors and thought leaders of our time. Don’t give up. Tweak your campaign, use the interactions and feedback from your market to adjust your campaign and you will end up with a far stronger thought leadership property than you initially envisioned.
Fear of failure will leave you lagging
If you aren’t prepared to give your thought leadership campaign a go because of the fear of failure you can be sure that you will remain in the marketing trenches doing what everyone else is doing.
I’d love to hear from thought leaders out there who have failed and who have come back better for it with a more robust campaign.
3 Dec 2009
I don’t think I’ve seen anybody encapsulate the essence of true thought leadership the way Chris Brogan has in his latest blog post.
I have quoted it here in part but I highly recommend you visit his blog to see the rest. Simply put he epitomises the mentality a thought leader should have at the purest level. No wonder he is a thought leader in his space. Go Chris!
”Sometimes, I’m asked why I give away all of my ‘how I do it’ information. I’m asked whether this gives others the ability to compete directly with me. Frankly, I don’t worry about competition. I worry that there aren’t enough people executing effectively for companies. I’ve got plenty of work to do as it is. New Marketing Labs picks up plenty of clients and has even when I give away all my major points and ideas.
“I feed the system because I believe you can take something I’ve started, run with it, and advance the whole space. I give you all that I can because I know that you’ve got your own ideas, and maybe components of mine will help you.
“Oh, and the more I share, the more business comes my way. It’s a built in reciprocal loop. ” Chris Brogan
Throughout my postings on thought leadership you will notice I talk often about having an abundance mentality. Many people struggle with this when it comes to thought leadership, however, as Chris so rightly points out ‘the more I share, the more business comes my way..”.
That ladies and gentlemen is the Eureka moment of thought leadership. That is what it is all about.
Thank you Chris.