3 Aug 2012
Business leaders are recognizing that thought leadership has become a key sales and business differentiator. As a result it is being
integrated more readily into strategic business development plans. Many businesses that have doing it for a while are embracing a more sophisticated style of thought leadership – one that is packaged and presented in a far more customised and tailored way.
This increased focus on thought leadership as a brand differentiator is going to have a number of impacts on where the discipline goes over the next few years. And yes thought leadership is a discipline in its own right.
Here are 10 thought leadership trends:
- There will be better resources and budgets for thought leadership campaigns.
- Thought leadership will drive increased innovation and ground breaking thinking.
- A more personalized and tailored thought leadership approach will be driven by the client and their sector. Somebody
who sees and analyses a lot of thought leadership material is Fiona Czerniawska from Sourceforconsulting. They analyse the thought leadership of around 30 leading global consulting firms and Fiona maintains that what clients really value is someone making a personal effort to tell them why they should read a particular piece of material i.e. “Read this particular chapter/piece/ article because it’s important to you and your business.” Or: “Come to this event as we will be covering x,
y and z which is of particular relevance to you right now.”
- Real time thought leadership will come to the fore – in the words of well-known marketing and PR author, David Meerman Scott: “Businesses should start exploring real-time thought leadership i.e. thought leadership that responds to what’s going on now.”
- Cloud computing will play a role in better ordering and structuring content and intellectual property so that it is easily
findable and shareable.
- As thought leadership becomes more sophisticated so too will the key performance indicators and return on investment measurement criteria.
- There will be an increased recognition of thought leadership as a brand differentiator by senior management as well as marketing and sales.
- Companies will get wise to using their thought leadership as part of their employee value proposition i.e. showcasing the business as a great place to work, as a leading thinker, as a pool of innovation in order to attract and retain the best talent.
- There will be increased rigor in capturing and translating a company’s expertise into well researched points of view that help clients achieve their business goals or challenge their strategic thinking.
- We will see a growth in thought leadership specialists. Already there are job advertisements for people who have experience in running thought leadership campaigns.
What are the leaders doing now?
These are the 10 key trends coming down the track but what are the leaders in thought leadership doing right now:
- They are being creative in how they package their content.
- They are bundling content i.e. curating related articles, in a mix of different formats with their own thought leadership material.
- They are personalising their thought leadership material i.e. suggesting articles to a particular client or prospect that they think the client may find interesting and sending it to them with a personalised note. This should be backed up by a sophisticated client relationship management program in order to manage this properly.
- They are better cataloguing their thought leadership online so that it is easy to find.
But ensure it is always client centric
While thought leadership will continue to evolve and become more sophisticated the underlying philosophy remains sacrosanct – always make your thought leadership client centric. It is not about you! Rather it is about the issues impacting your clients’ business.
Craig Badings is a director at Sydney-based, Cannings Corporate Communications. He has consulted to companies small and
large, listed and unlisted across Australia and South Africa about their communication strategies and corporate reputation. He is the author of “Brand Stand: seven steps to thought leadership” and the forthcoming co-authored book #THOUGHT LEADERSHIP Tweet: 140 Prompts for Designing and Executing an Effective Thought Leadership Campaign.
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