• David Meerman Scott on thought leadership

    Thought leadership logo
    31 Mar 2010


    david-meerman-scottDavid Meerman Scott  is one of the pre-eminent thought leaders on PR and marketing.  For those who are in the marketing or PR industry I can highly recommend his book “The New Rules of PR and Marketing”.  I asked him six questions about his views on thought leadership and its role in building a brand.  See what he had to say and the thought leadership case studies he nominates at the end: 

    1.      David, when you were working for NewsEdge you ignored the advice of your PR and ad agency, in effect you ‘broke the old rules’ by publishing lots of free content online that resulted in hundreds of sales.  Could you explain the link between thought leadership and sales?

     “The Web gives everyone—B2B companies, consumer brands, consultants, nonprofits, and even rock bands, churches, and colleges—a tremendous opportunity to reach people and engage them in new and different ways.


    “When you build content especially for your audience, you build a relationship with people before you’ve even met them. When it’s obvious that you understand your buyers and their problems, it jars your visitors into paying attention.


    “You transform your marketing from mere product-specific, ego-centric gobbledygook that only you understand and care about into valuable information people are eager to consume and that they use to make the choice to do business with your organization. Instead of creating jargon-filled, hype-based advertising, you can create the kind of online content that your buyers naturally gravitate to—if you take the time to listen to them discuss the problems that you can help them solve. Then you’ll be able to use their words, not your own. You’ll speak in the language of your buyer, not the language of your founder, CEO, product manager, or PR agency staffer. You’ll help your marketing get real.”



    2.    You have written 5 books which have clearly driven a large part

    of positioning yourself as a thought leader in your field but what advice would you give to companies striving to become thought leaders where books may not necessarily be appropriate?


    “Now we can earn attention by creating something interesting and valuable (call it thought leadership if you like) and then publishing it online for free: a YouTube video, a blog, a research report, photos, a Twitter stream, an e-book, a Facebook page. There are hundreds of different outlets for valuable information.”



    3.    Does content alone make a thought leader?


    “The problem is that most organizations create content about their stupid products. What people need to realize is that nobody cares about your products (except you).  What people do care about are themselves and ways to solve their problems.


    “People also like to be entertained and to share in something remarkable. In order to have people talk about you and your ideas, you must resist the urge to hype your products and services. And you must resist the urge to “control the message.” Create something interesting that will be talked about online.”



    4.    Do you have any advice for companies who don’t share content and

    hold their knowledge and insights close their chests?


    “It all comes down to the goals. For decades, marketers have had a goal of collecting names (via registration forms) so they can then sell and market to those people. You are measured on the number of forms submitted. 


    “But I think for many people a better goal is to spread your ideas. How many people can your reach? A million? Ten million? You can measure how many people have downloaded your stuff. How many bloggers are talking about you.


    “When you lose control of your marketing by opening up and not requiring a registration, as many as fifty times the number of people will download it compared to the form requirement.


    “This is a difficult one for people to make the leap to do, but believe me, it works.”



    5.    In a world where content is readily available and easily

    accessible at the click of a mouse what will be the key things that differentiate companies/ products/ brands in the eyes of their target audiences over the next decade?


    “My most important aspect of creating information is to throw away your own ego and instead create content, what I call “buyer personas.”


    “I think “buyer personas” are the king of marketing and a focus on buyer personas allows you to create the content. A buyer persona represents a distinct group of potential customers, an archetypal person whom you want your marketing to reach. Targeting your work to buyer personas prevents you from sitting on your butt in your comfortable office just making stuff up about you products, which is the cause of most ineffective marketing.


    “Incidentally, my use of the word “buyer” applies to any organization’s target customers. A politician’s buyer personas include voters, supporters, and contributors; universities’ buyer personas include prospective students and their parents; a tennis club’s buyer personas are potential members; and nonprofits’ buyer personas include corporate and individual donors. Go ahead and substitute, however, you refer to your potential customers in the phrase “buyer persona,” but do keep your focus on this concept. It is critical for success online.”


    6.    What companies or campaigns stand out for you as thought

    leadership best practice? 


    How Lisa Genova used social media to turn a self-published book into a NY Times bestseller http://www.webinknow.com/2009/01/how-lisa-genova-used-social-media-to-turn-a-self-published-book-into-a-ny-times-bestseller.html


    Fun with Sharpies




    Film producer builds pre-release buzz by making soundtrack available for free download http://www.webinknow.com/2009/01/film-producer-builds-pre-release-buzz-by-making-soundtrack-available-for-free-download.html


    CENTURY 21 moves TV ad spend to online: Bev Thorne, CMO, tell us why http://www.webinknow.com/2009/01/century-21-moves-tv-ad-spend-to-online-bev-thorne-cmo-tell-us-why.html


    How an active Facebook group drove 15,000 people to the Singapore Tattoo Show http://www.webinknow.com/2009/01/how-an-active-facebook-group-drove-15000-people-to-the-singapore-tattoo-show.html


    Persona focused Web site leads to 4x conversions for RightNow Technologies http://www.webinknow.com/2008/12/persona-focused-web-site-leads-to-4x-conversions-for-rightnow-technologies.html


    New marketing at work: BitDefender and the hip new Malware City site reach internet security geeks http://www.webinknow.com/2008/11/new-marketing-at-work-bitdefender-and-the-hip-new-malware-city-site-reach-internet-security-geeks.html




    16 Responses to “David Meerman Scott on thought leadership”

    1. Social comments and analytics for this post…

      This post was mentioned on Twitter by dmscott: Some of my ideas on Thought Leadership in an interview with @thoughtstrategy http://bit.ly/cF67E7 #fb…

    2. I totally agree on people using old forms of communication to capture information. I also think they are really stuck in the old way. Relationships on blogs are easier to foster than a cold call. Which helps with business to business relationships.

      If you know someone is coming to you because they have a problem to solve. You are solving a problem which is big.

      I think a good blogger relationship can build a solid relationship and in turn evolve into a sale.

    3. Dipal says:

      I absolutely loved your notes on thought leadership and am amazed by its power. Do let me know if there are newsletters that I can subscribe to. Thanks.

    4. Do you plan to keep this site updated? I sure hope so… its great!

    5. Thanks for providing the written Q&A. I’ve had the opportunity to read both of David’s books: “World Wide Rave” and “The New Rules of Marketing & PR”. I enjoyed both of them and the principles outlined therein very much.

      I definitely agree that with the right approach (knowing who you’re writing for, understanding your objectives), marketing through the web provides such a tremendous opportunity to capture good market-share.

    6. craig says:

      Jamie I agree with you but am a firm believer that depending on your audience a mix of both can work as well.

    7. craig says:

      Dipal, if you go to Hivefire.com there is a guy called Taariq Lewis there who aggregates thought leadership content which he sends out daily.
      Good luck

    8. craig says:

      Curt, I sure do but given my day job and the fact that I have a family I normally only update once a week. Hope that’s enough for you.

    9. craig says:

      Ricardo, I still have to read “World Wide Rave” which is something to look forward to given how much I enjoyed “The New Rules of Marketing and PR”

    10. Mark Delfeld says:

      Aren’t buyer personas just as critical for offline marketing? For that matter, aren’t they just a critical for outbound digital marketing? And does the term “Content Marketing” do a good job in describing the essence of a good marketer – listening to the customer so as to develop a solution to meet their needs? Isn’t is just plain ole’ Marketing as taught by Philip Kotler and others for a long time. Or does the term “content” connotate substance for you?

    11. craig says:

      Mark, I agree, buyer personas are critical across any form of marketing. However, when it comes to content marketing I have a slightly different view. There are a lot of people aggregating interesting content based on what they think their buyers want but that doesn’t necessarily make them a thought leader.

      Thought leaders do exactly what the term implies, they lead with their thoughts, they don’t follow. Merely supplying content doesn’t make you a thought leader. Rather, thought leadership content should shape or frame the discussion in your market. It should make people question, see things differently, deliver interesting and unique insights to elements of the buyers life that other product/service suppliers aren’t doing. And all of this should be done to engage with your clients and to invest in building trust. Understanding your buyer’s persona goes a long way to hitting the mark when it comes to identifying the challenges and issues they face in their lives which is where the rich vein of thought leadership opportunity lies.

    12. Mark Delfeld says:

      I understand and agree. My point re content marketing might have been misconstrued. In my mind, new terms like “content marketing”, “inbound marketing”, “knowledge marketing” or “thought leadership” marketing appear to confuse the basic issues involved in B2B marketing. You need to understand the market, customer needs and your solutions. Many marketers focus on the solutions (they call them products). Many others (in particular PR and marcom) focus on communicating content but don’t want to get to dirty with the needs or the solutions. My sole point is that while social media might has change some of the ways we can communicate with customers, it hasn’t altered basic B2B marketing principles they way many now so claim (under the cover of terms like content marketing or buyer persona, etc.). Sorry for this diversion from the main topic of thought leadership. I should have created a separate post.

    13. craig says:

      No worries Mark, I think we are on the same page – the basic B2B marketing principles stay the same – content marketing, thought leadership, etc should all be informed by those principles.

    14. […] for example the following comment from Craig Badings who responded to a comment of mine on his interview with David Meerhman Scott from his excellent Thought Leadership […]

    15. […] for example the following comment from Craig Badings who responded to a comment of mine on his interview with David Meerhman Scott from his excellent Thought Leadership […]

    16. Matt says:

      Just finished “World Wide Rave”. Great book. A lot of great ideas. Marketing and PR is really changing towards relationship building. Thanks.

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