Archive for November, 2011

  • Thought Jacking your way to thought leadership

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    29 Nov 2011

    If you can Newsjack you can thoughtjack for your thought leadership

    I’m thought jacking David Meerman Scott’s latest e book – Newsjacking: How to Inject Your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage (Wiley).

    The premise of David’s new book is how to piggyback and take advantage of the momentum of a breaking news story for you or your company by injecting a fresh perspective in real time.  I must admit having been in the PR industry for 22 years, newsjacking isn’t really new but David has put a new slant on it and articulated it very well.

    How thought leaders can thoughtjack

    Thought leaders should take a lesson out of David’s book because if you can Newsjack you can thoughtjack and here are four ways how to do it:

    1. Scan the media – for ideas that play to your thought leadership platform and react if you believe there is a significant wave of sentiment or media focus
    2. Track trends – in social media, mainstream and trade press for early identification of any new, developing trends and integrate these into your thought leadership campaign
    3. Do they care– research the trends with your target audiences to find out whether they care about them and how they will influence their business
    4. Get to market – use all relevant channels at your disposal to get your new thought leadership insights to market.

    David Meerman Scott on thought leadership

    But before you do take our thought leadership to market, in fact before you even start, take heed of what David had to say when I interviewed him about thought leadership and content for this blog:

    “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.”  David Meerman Scott.

    There are two critical points in what David has to say above.  The first is that people care about themselves and ways to solve their problems.  The second is that you should create something interesting that will be talked about.

    If you have followed the four thoughtjacking points above you should be able to tick both boxes.


    Feel free to download my e book at the top right of this page.  I’d welcome you to follow me on twitter @thoughtstrategy and
    join me on


  • PR is undergoing a revolution

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    25 Nov 2011

    PR is undergoing a revolution

    This is a guest blog I wrote for Craig Pearce’s blog recently.

    The PR industry globally is undergoing one of its biggest changes since social media boomed across the web – it’s called content strategy and it’s rocketing through the traditional corridors of marketing and PR.

    Why do you think a well-known global PR firm recently appointed an ex BBC journalist as Chief Content Officer?

    We all know content’s not new it’s what we’ve been doing for years.  In fact when PR first started in the US, companies employed journalists to write content that looked and sounded the way the company wanted.  So why would I flag something that has been around the PR world forever as one of the biggest changes facing our industry?

    Because the rules of the content game have changed dramatically.  First, traditional content development and production required a significant process, budget and distribution but nowadays you can do it from your mobile phone and include sound, image and video if needed.

    Second, the gap between the customer and the company has closed.  Not only is the time of content to market almost immediate but clients and customers can interact with the company in real time with real people – except of course for those wretched voice response calls when you call your telecom provider!

    Three words come to mind:  strategic, authentic, storytelling.

    Companies can no longer interact with their audiences the way they have in the past.  The days of controlling and owning brand messages are gone.

    Today brands need to engage and interact with their audiences in different ways.

    We no longer live in the world of top-down story telling.  Instead we have entered a world where entertaining, authentic and engaging story-telling is what our customers want.

    Our content should connect with an audience so they feel inclined to interact, share, comment and most importantly own and believe it.

    The PR person of today and tomorrow needs to be a great story teller.  No more corporate speak, no more messaging cow clods, no more “We’ll tell you what you need to know and don’t ask us questions.”

    The way customers search for information these days means we need to deliver a fantastic content experience.  Instead of pitching products and services, our role is to deliver customers knowledge in an entertaining, timely, informative and non-promotional way that helps them make decisions and that enables them to share the content with their consumer friends or B2B colleagues.

    First we need to know the customer

    But to get this right and in order to deliver great content that hits the right spot we better be sure we clearly define the audience.
    We should understand their needs and their issues as well as know where and how they consume content.

    Only then can we truly develop a content asset and distribution strategy to reach, educate and inspire them.

    Content strategy is long-term

    The key is to engage the customer for the long-term.

    To do this, as PR practitioners, we will need to measure the impact of our content across various stages of the buying cycle.  Finding and understanding your audience in the first place takes time, effort and resources so why do it if you aren’t in the
    content game for the long haul.

    Our clients must become publishers

    Most companies, whether they are consumer or B2B oriented, will need to become publishers.  If not they are missing not only a huge opportunity to engage with their customers but they will lose ground to their competitors.

    When someone like Seth Godin says that content marketing is “all the marketing that is left” as PR practitioners we should sit up and take note.

    Please download my efree  book at the top right of this page.  I’d also welcome your follow on twitter @thoughtstrategy
    and join me on LinkedIn.

  • Views on thought leadership part three

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    11 Nov 2011

    Views on thought leadership part three

    This is the third and final part in an interview series on thought leadership.  Marte Semb Aasmundsen, is a postgraduate student due to graduate this month with her MSc Strategic Public Relations and Communications Management at The University of Stirling in the UK.  She approached me some time ago about interviewing me on the topic of thought leadership as part of her thesis.

    This is part three of three excerpts from that interview:


    What is your view on thought leadership’s role in influencing
    a market?

    “You’re talking to somebody who’s obviously biased towards thought leadership. You know I would say that it’s one of the more powerful tools that you can use as a brand.

    “I’m not saying it’s the be all and end all, there are other ways that people influence but there is no doubt in my mind having witnessed the power of thought leadership that it can create huge influence.  It’s all about eminence and expertise and if you show eminence or excellence in the field, people see you as an expert, they want to come to you.

    “If you just sell a service or a product, they can get that anywhere.  Where’s the stickiness, where’s the trust associated with your brand?”

    What’s your critique of thought leadership? How legitimate is

    “You’re touching on a topic that I get quite passionate about – the loose use of the term thought leadership.
    “There are a lot of businesses out there that use it incredibly loosely.  Some businesses  just like put out a piece of pop-research, you know the sort – a quick, cheap and nasty opinion poll.  They call this thought leadership and its absolute bull!

    “Then you have other companies putting content out there, calling it thought leadership but it’s actually just their opinion. It’s not evidence based in any way.

    “There will always be varying levels of what people think is thought leadership but some of it isn’t.

    “I’m pretty pure in my definition or my approach to what thought leadership is.  The key is having a process.  The first step in that process is researching what the challenges and issues that your audience face – in their day to day lives – or in their business. Than matching it to where your expertise lies and how you can elevate those areas of expertise or conduct a deep dive through further research to enhance your understanding and knowledge in that particular field. Then you need a communications strategy, a content management plan and an activation plan so that the whole thing is tied together very neatly into a comprehensive thought leadership plan.

    “This plan should incorporate the business objectives, the research, the content management strategy, the activation strategy, and then the measurement and evaluation at the end.

    “I think that’s how practitioners have to look at it.  You need a process and a methodology that takes the client on a journey that arrives at a thought leadership property that is well researched, has a good strategy behind it, is well thought through and  importantly has the buy in of the business and not just the PR team.

    “If it doesn’t have the buy in across sort of senior level it will never be effective.

    Has thought leadership been used for short term promotional


    “Absolutely, it goes with what I said earlier, there are a lot of companies out there that use pop-research or pop-thought leadership as the quick and nasty, let’s get it out there approach.

    “It may well be an interesting, quirky angle but typically it doesn’t have any depth and really doesn’t add any value to anybody.  However, companies are putting that sort of stuff out all the time and all it’s for is a quick media hit.

    Is the short-term approach detrimental to a thought
    leadership strategy?


    “I think that’s a really interesting question and I think you’re right. I think it could.  I have no evidence to support this, but off the top of my head I think it could actually do some damage.  The reason I say this is because it puts you on the lower rung of the thought leadership ladder and people come to expect that from you.

    “Once your audience associates your brand with that level of content, trying to elevate the perception of the market about your content/thought leadership material you deliver can be difficult.”

    Feel free to download my e book at the top right of this page.  I’d welcome you to follow me on twitter @thoughtstrategy and join me on LinkedIn.

  • Views on thought leadership part two

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    8 Nov 2011

    Views on thought leadership part two

    This is part two of an interview series on thought leadership.  Marte Semb Aasmundsen, is a postgraduate student due to graduate this month with her MSc Strategic Public Relations and Communications Management at The University of Stirling in the UK.  She approached me some time ago about interviewing me on the topic of thought leadership as part of her thesis.

    This is part two of three excerpts from that interview:

    Do you believe a brand can be a thought leader?

    “I think there are enough examples to show that brands can be thought leaders.  In fact, I have changed my opinion on this over the years.  My view previously was that a thought leadership campaign needed individuals. And while you do need individuals to take that message forward, from experience I’ve witnessed how a brand can evolve a thought leadership strategy on its own.  Examples would be Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty; BMW’s Activate the Future, IBM’s Smarter Planet.”

    What’s the way forward? How sustainable is thought leadership
    and what are the risks?

    “A thought leadership campaign that rests on one individual is risky.  What happens if that person leaves?  If Richard Branson were to leave Virgin would that thought leadership go with him? There is always that danger.

    “Companies are aware of this and they adjust accordingly.

    “I think thought leadership is in its infancy.  As companies rapidly catch on to the content game to engage with their consumers or clients they will also realise that they need to differentiate their content, come up with something new, something to challenge their audience and something that adds value to their challenges beyond just a good ‘for information’ read.”

    Is thought leadership measurable?

    “I believe measurement is the key to thought leadership – not only can it be measured, it has to be measured.

    “The critical element that you need up front before you even start, is setting out the business objectives. What do you want to achieve for the business from your thought leadership campaign?

    “If you don’t do that upfront, it will be very difficult to measure. Once you’ve established these, you need to attach key performance indicators to them with assigned responsibilities. You should be able to be very clear in your measurement criteria e.g. we want to meet the board or the CEOs of 20% of the top 100 listed companies in America or Australia or wherever you
    are. Or, we need to publish four white papers a year and each should be distributed to our entire client base, etc.

    “So you become very specific about the criteria and how you measure them. You can become even become more specific e.g. if we want to meet 20 % of the top 100 companies over the next two years we want to have three as clients.

    “Another key thing to do is to research the impact of your thought leadership on your stakeholders.  You should be researching them to find out whether what you gave them was valuable and how it can be improved.  If you’re in it for the long-term, you need to be measuring and evaluating so that you can tweak it and change it and make it relevant to your customers.”

    What are the evaluation methods for a thought leadership

    “I would say that most thought leadership probably isn’t measured.  From my experience, companies that do measure normally use a mixture of qualitative and quantitative research but mainly qualitative.”


    Does thought leadership have a financial impact?

    “I think it can have a significant impact and I base that on what I’ve seen. I’ll give you an example, Deloitte in Australia identified six years ago that they wanted to get in front of the boards of the top 100 companies listed on the Australian stock exchange.  It was identified as an area on which they wanted to work and they came up with a thought leadership proposition on risk – risk to boards, risk to board members, how they look after that risk, what that risk is, etc.

    “Five to six years later they now have access to the top 100 boards. Their partners now have relationships with members on those boards, which they didn’t have before or to a limited degree.

    “I am not privy to the numbers in terms of the monetary return but they wouldn’t be committed to it at such a senior level if it wasn’t working.”

    In part three, Marte asks me about thought leadership and influence, my view on the legitimacy of thought leadership as a marketing tool and its use as a short-term campaign. 

    Feel free to download my e book at the top right of this page.  I’d welcome you to follow me on twitter @thoughtstrategy and join me on LinkedIn.

  • Views on thought leadership part one

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    4 Nov 2011


    Views on thought leadership

    Marte Semb Aasmundsen, is a postgraduate student due to graduate this month with her MSc Strategic Public Relations and
    Communications Management at The University of Stirling in the UK.  She approached me some time ago about interviewing me on the topic of thought leadership as part of her thesis.

    I will run excerpts from that interview over three posts.  This is the first:

    How would you define thought leadership?

    “As evolving content that is geared towards the issues and challenges of your target audiences or your business prospects.
    It should enable you to have conversations with them and a relationship beyond selling your products or services. It’s got to be client centric and it’s got to address the issues and challenges that clients and your prospects care about, because if it doesn’t you’ll struggle to gain traction.

    “Ideally good thought leadership should be a bit of a game changer – it challenges conventions, it can be pretty out there, it’s new and not everybody agrees with it. In fact, if you can engage in dialogue with people who disagree, fantastic, because that just raises the profile of your thought leadership even further. Effectively, you want to be challenging the industry with your point of view as well as your stakeholders to think differently about that sector or that industry.”

    What’s the underlying purpose of thought leadership?

    “Quite simply to position yourself as the expert in that field, to position yourself as someone that has a different point of view and who can add value to your clients or your prospective clients.  To position yourself as the go to person in your area.”

    Why do organisations choose to implement a thought leadership

    “More than ever companies are struggling to differentiate themselves.  There is so much content out there and the competition is in the increase.  It’s very difficult to stay at the top of the pile and companies have realised that the consumer, whether they are in B2C or B2B, are looking for something a little bit different, they want to be engaged with that business.

    “And it shouldn’t be an engagement that says to them ‘these guys are just trying to sell me their products, or they’re just trying to sell me their services.’  Ultimately it should be the type of engagement that says to them ‘these guys really understand my sector, they really understand me, and they’ve given me stuff that has added value.  I feel very comfortable talking to these guys because they really do understand my issues and challenges.’

    “It becomes a lot easier to sell when you talking to somebody about their problems as opposed to your product.”

    Is there a difference between B2B vs B2C thought leadership?

    “Yes.  B2B can be a lot more targeted.  It also requires more depth in terms of the research in the sector within which you operate. I think B2C in some ways can by more difficult because the audience is a lot bigger and more diverse – depending of course on what you’re selling. As a result it is more difficult to define your thought leadership position and delivery of that is more challenging.

    “When it comes to a business, for example if you are a lawyer or a management consultant, you have a very defined audience, you probably have a closer relationship with them and as a result I believe it’s easier to target your thought leadership in terms of their needs. “

    In part two Marte asks me about whether a brand can be a thought leader, the sustainability of thought leadership, whether it’s measurable and how you measure it.  

    Feel free to download my e book at the top right of this page.  I’d welcome you to follow me on twitter @thoughtstrategy
    and join me on LinkedIn.

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