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.
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