18 Jul 2011
Karan Bavandi and I have been tweeting about whether content curation equals thought leadership. He believes it does and I believe it doesn’t. In Karan’s post he uses the dictionary definition of thought leadership which, unfortunately, is severely limiting in terms of where thought leadership has now moved (you can check out a whole lot of definitions here in this blog). Karan goes on to argue that curation is about authoring context and he maintains that is thought leadership.
Find me a thought leader through curation aloneMy challenge to Karan is to find me one recognised thought leader who has attained their position as a result of curating content only.If he can do that I will be convinced that content curation does equate to thought leadership.
Thought leadership = original, creative or innovative contentThe very nature of the term ’thought leadership’ implies original, creative or innovative thought. The very nature of curating content means that you are not the original generator of that content and therefore cannot claim to be a thought leader off the back of it.But that’s not to say that content curation cannot benefit thought leaders and thought leadership campaigns. In fact it can be used as a key tactic to turbo-charge your thought leadership campaign. But it is not and should not be the sole driver of your thought leadership campaign.Content curation experts like Karan can help you use it as a very powerful tool for your content strategy. Done properly it can be a great magnet for reaching an audience. It’s just not thought leadership.Here are some good examples of great content sites: www.mint.com, www.hubspot.com and www.openforum.comPlease download my free e book top right of this page. Follow me on twitter @thoughtstrategy and join me on LinkedIn.
19 May 2011
Most professional services firms are very sophisticated in their approach to thought leadership. The advert I found online at The Times for a global thought leadership position at PwC based out of their London office is testimony to this.
In particular I love this line: “We are committed to taking our thought leadership to new levels with the implementation of a new thought leadership strategy, which has been fully endorsed by leadership.”
One of the keys to success for any thought leadership campaign or effort is the endorsement and buy-in of the leadership team. Without that your thought leadership is doomed from the start.
The one thing I found curiously absent from the job description is any reference to or a focus on the customer or client. There lots of excellent stuff in there about collaboration, content management, research, third party endorsers, etc but all of this comes to nought if its not focused on the client and their needs, issues and challenges.
But then maybe that’s a given and they saw no need to reference it in their outline?
If you fit the bill I suggest you apply – sounds like a dream job for those who believe in the power of thought leadership.
11 May 2011
Every now and then you come across an example of a campaign, a company or an individual who exemplifies great thought leadership practice.
Dana Lynn Smith is the women behind the Savvy Book Marketer and the author of The Savvy Book Marketer Guides. She specializes in developing marketing plans for nonfiction books and teaching authors how to promote their books online.
In doing so she displays all the marks of a thought leader in her niche. She is an expert in how authors should market and promote their book/s.
Characteristics of a thought leader
Some of the thought leadership characteristics she displays include:
· A clear understanding of the challenges and issues authors face in raising their profile.
· A single-minded focus on an area she can own and one which plays to her expertise more importantly one which she is targeted at her clients’ needs.
· Deep diving i.e. she has done a really deep dive into her niche providing insights across all the challenges faced by authors.
· Saying something new – the information she provides differentiates her from the competitors and in the process, she has positioned herself as a trusted advisors or ‘go to’ expert in her field.
· Leveraging and packaging material and content across every touch point of her target audience and her prospects.
· And while I can’t say this for certain, as I haven’t met Dana, thought leadership and providing new, insightful information to her audience seems to be very much part of the culture of who she is and how she does business.
Thought leaders share
What I love about Dana is her willingness to share and give away heaps of useful content. Visit her site, subscribe to her enewsletter and you will see what I mean.
Besides her blog, The Savvy Bookmarketer, Dana has authored The Savvy Book Marketer Guides, a series of ebooks on book marketing topics.
She has a heap of useful guides which you can download for a minimal fee. These include topics like: Sell More Books on Amazon; Successful Social Marketing; Twitter Guide for Authors; Facebook Guide for Authors; Selling Your Book to Libraries and Texas Book Marketing Handbook.
In addition, she has a treasure trove of free articles on how to market and promote yourself – great stuff for all those aspiring or already published authors.
Finally, Dana is making maximum use of social media to deliver her content far and wide from her ranch in Austin, Texas.
For aspiring thought leaders, Dana is a great example of how you can set out and become a thought leader in a niched area. Visit her site to take a look and learn.
Have you carved a niche for yourself in a particular area? Do you know someone who has? Is there someone you admire as a thought leader? If so let me know.
Follow me on twitter @thoughtstrategy
17 Feb 2011
After working in thought leadership for many years across multiple sectors, writing about it, researching it and speaking to a wide variety of people across a spectrum of industries, I believe the key challenges facing thought leaders or a thought leadership campaign boils down to three things:
1. 1. Thought leadership Engagement – are your senior leaders/executives engaged in your thought leadership position?
If not you will have a problem as the campaign is bound to be short-lived, it will miss the gravitas of senior commitment internally and externally, you will struggle to excite the target audiences for whom the thought leadership is intended, you will make limited inroads into making thought leadership part of the culture of your organisation and you will battle to convince your executives about the efficacy of thought leadership as a client and new business engagement strategy.
2. Thought leadership Connectivity – is your thought leadership campaign enabling your key client-facing people to connect with their clients and prospects? Did you include them in the journey? Do they feel part of this campaign or is it content that is thrust upon them at the last minute and they have to make use of it?
The risk to all of these questions that you can run the risk of your thought leadership material being perceived by your own people as ineffectual in helping them connect with your client or prospects resulting in them merely paying lip service to it at best and at worst not using it at all or dismissing it.
3. Thought leadership Packaging – are you maximising the opportunity to leverage your content as much as possible across every possible client or new business touch point? Have you researched your target audiences in terms of where they source their information, how they like to receive it, what they read, where they go online, whether they like face-to-face, etc?
These are critical questions that will guide you in deciding how you cut and dice your content for maximum effect. Furthermore, and only if relevant, are you packaging your content online for maximum search engine optimisation so that a) people can find you, and b) you feature on page one of Google for those specific search terms?
If you have any more to add to these I’d be delighted to hear from you.
13 Dec 2010
Reading a white paper from PR Newswire entitled Marketing is Content, it struck me that content can be compared to the presents under a Christmas tree.
But imagine presents with no tree. Not quite the same is it?
And herein lies the crux of your content marketing. The tree is critical to your content, it represents the core theme i.e. your thought leadership position – it is the focal point around which your content should revolve and which gives your content a sense of direction and purpose.
And the decorations? They make the tree look attractive, think of them as the myriad of channels you have at your disposal to share your content with your market.
As a parent with two kids, my wife and I do our ‘research’ well before Christmas. We pretty much know their interests and then cunningly ascertain what they want and what’s hot in their lives. It’s a combination of knowing them well but also sense checking because what was hot six months ago is old hat today. Can you imagine their disappointment un-wrapping a handful of presents on the day that in no way reflects their interests or shows scant foresight of their environment, sex and age group? Perish the thought.
Likewise perish your brand if you attempt the same with the content you provide to your customers and your prospects.
Without a deep understanding of their sector and their business needs don’t waste your time and money. Moreover don’t waste their time with irrelevant content. Just because it’s content doesn’t mean it’s useful and just because it’s content doesn’t mean you are a thought leader.
Thought leading content is the stuff that really adds value to your customer’s lives, it’s content that positions you as the expert in that field. Best of all it’s content which keeps them coming back and which ultimately underpins the sale.
By now, give or take a few disappointments along the way my kids pretty much trust Father Christmas’ judgment. There is a strong brand promise and a level of excitement that the content under that tree meets if not exceeds their expectations. They’re happy ‘customers’ who keep coming back year after year.
And if we really get it right, guess what? They tell all their friends.
Remember, Christmas is not the same without the tree, the presents and the decorations. I haven’t even begun on the higher intent, the very raison d’etre of Christmas which I equate to your values and the way in which you do business and your guide as to how you relate to your customers and how you conduct business with them – but another time for that.
Merry Christmas everyone.
5 Oct 2010
I need to declare up front that the thought leadership case study I am about to share was run by two sister companies in the Ogilvy Public Relations stable in Australia, Howorth and Parker & Partners. It is a great example of thought leadership in action and it recently won the WPP Communications WPPED Cream award for best PR campaign.
In late 2008, Australia’s leading telecommunications and information services company, Telstra, approached the team at Ogilvy PR Australia to devise a communication strategy to support its reinvigorated business-to-business offering.
The ensuing ‘Telstra Productivity Indicator’ campaign, not only successfully generated positive coverage in target business news and technology media, but the communication platform laid the foundation for all of Telstra’s marketing collateral: internal communications, website content, existing customer communication, advertising material and sales tools.
The successful execution of the brief was demonstrated through increased sales figures and improvements in independent brand and media audits. Telstra’s positioning was so relevant to target business and government audiences that the then Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, quoted key research findings developed for the campaign during a national press conference in April 2009.
Telstra’s largest division is Telstra Enterprise & Government (TEG), which provides network based solutions and services to organisations across Australia and New Zealand.
In a crowded marketplace, Telstra was finding it difficult to achieve neutral or positive media coverage, despite its world leading information and communication technology (ICT) offerings. The Ogilvy team wanted to present TEG as a leader in ICT and an expert in productivity. It followed research which showed that while Telstra’s competitors and other key stakeholders in the ICT space were all fighting for a share of the ‘innovation’ space, everyone was ignoring the driving force for potential customers – productivity.
There was a distinct lack of conversation around the topic presenting an ideal opportunity for TEG to embrace productivity and use it as the platform for the campaign.
The target publics
In order to communicate with their tier one target audiences: senior decisions makers, key influencers and IT executives within Australian business and government organisations, the campaign first had to reach business and technology media, industry associations, business groups and government stakeholders.
1. Research – Survey Report
An independent research company was commissioned to conduct a survey of senior decision makers at Australian business and government organisations on their approach and treatment of productivity and how it was defined, measured, managed and funded. The findings were compiled in a report titled: ‘The Telstra Productivity Indicator: A Report on business attitudes towards improving productivity in Australia’.
2. Research – Whitepaper
Supplementing the report was a 36-page white paper, commissioned from a second independent organisation. The paper, ‘ICT as a driver of productivity’, examined in detail the impact of ICT on productivity and economics in Australia and around the world.
3. Branding the insights – identifying Australia’s ‘productivity gap’
The research not only provided interesting content for media engagement, but uncovered insights to underpin the campaign. Critically the results showed that while 78 per cent of Australia’s largest organisations said improving productivity was a high priority, only half had any systems to measure improvements or set targets.
This was termed the ‘Productivity Gap’ – the gap between the importance placed on productivity improvements and the lack of measurement and management around it. With productivity a large part of the rationale for ICT investment, the findings provided framework for new conversations with Telstra’s target audiences.
4. Key messages identified, spokespeople briefed
Senior spokespeople were comprehensively briefed on the research with a series of key messages designed to deliver the productivity story.
5. Direct mail to business and government
A personalised letter from the CEO detailing research findings and implications was sent to government officials and the heads of leading Australian business associations.
6. Strategic media outreach
An extensive media outreach plan was implemented including:
· Embargoed media interviews with Telstra’s most senior spokespeople and tier one media
· An embargoed media release distributed to IT and telecommunications media the day before the launch
· A general news release distributed on launch day
· Targeted, long-lead media outreach with tailored byline articles for vertical press
7. Speaking opportunities
Speaking opportunities were set up at corporate events for senior Telstra spokespeople.
8. Employee Communications
The research was launched internally to employees through Telstra’s intranet.
9. Sales Tools
The sales teams were armed with new diagnostic tools to present to existing and potential clients to quantify areas for productivity improvement.
The insights were supported by an above the line campaign including print, outdoor and online with a budget edition wrap of the Australian Financial Review newspaper.
An independent media analysis company compared the analysis to Telstra’s competitors across reach, impact and favourability. From January to March 2009, TEG significantly increased its share of voice over competitors, holding 55 per cent of the brand mentions (with 96 per cent favourable). A spike in coverage was traced against the launch of the productivity campaign.
The Telstra Productivity Indicator dominated media discussion, with 29 per cent of coverage directly related to how Telstra could help enterprise and government improve productivity through the innovation and functionality of Telstra services. The analysis tracked an overall increase in the number of key messages appearing within campaign coverage. More than 60 per cent of TEG coverage featured at least one of the pre-agreed key messages.
Importantly, the PR campaign set the foundation for all of TEG’s marketing and communications collateral and the messaging was adapted seamlessly for internal communications, existing customer communication, website content, an advertising campaign and sales tools.
The campaign drove online traffic to Telstra’s productivity website, becoming the second most visited site after the Telstra homepage. At the time of the campaign, Google click-through increased by 72.3%. There were 178 whitepaper registrations and site interactivity (clicks, print-outs and forwarding of content) increased by 200% month on month.
Over the campaign, Telstra sold and activated thosands of new PDAs and smartphones, migrated thousands of 2G devices to the NextG network and sold a number of fleet deals. The campaign elevated the Telstra brand to one synonymous with improved business productivity that in turn has driven demand for its product and services.
The integrated campaign directly affected perceived brand value. Telstra outperformed competitors in the ‘Customer Value Analysis’ brand positioning benchmark study in May 2009 on all performance drivers (service delivery; product; brand; Account Executive performance) showing a significant spike in approval. ‘Brand’ recorded the largest increase (up 11%). Besides improved buyer preference, Telstra was able to focus customer discussions away from price and towards value.
20 Aug 2010
On this blog you will find a few definitions of thought leadership including my own – click on the Definitions of thought leadership to right of this piece under Categories to see the others. However, like anything, as I learn more about the topic my definition changes slightly.
So here is my latest definition:
“Thought leadership is about delivering new ideas and content to your target publics based on deep insights into the business issues and challenges they face. In the process, the value you deliver should go well beyond merely selling your product or service. Your thought leadership point of view should differentiate you from your competitors, establish you as the ‘go to’ expert in that field and position you as a trusted advisor – all with the intent of underpinning the sale.” Craig Badings
5 May 2010
Ken Blanchard is one of the world’s most influential figures on leadership and management. He is a sought-after author, speaker and business consultant on the topic.
His book “The One Minute Manager’ co-authored with Spencer Johnson has sold more than 13 million copies. He has co-authored over 50 books including: Raving Fans, Gung Ho, Whale Done, Leading at a Higher Level, Know Can Do and The One Minute Entrepreneur among others.
His success as an author has seen him inducted into the Amazon Hall of Fame as one of the top 25 best-selling authors of all time.
While he has received many awards and honours for his contributions in the field of management, a little known fact is that he received The Thought Leadership award by Association of Learning Providers.
I interviewed him about his views on thought leadership and he had some great insights to share with some handy hints and tips for aspiring thought leaders.
1. Ken, as a pre-eminent global thought leader on leadership and management what tips can you give other aspiring thought leaders?
The first thing you have to do is to determine your leadership point of view—your thoughts about leading and motivating people. Your leadership point of view relates to who you are as an individual. It grows out of who influenced you, what your purpose is, what your values are, and what people can expect from you. This is important because research has shown that the most effective leaders have a clear leadership point of view and they’re willing to share it with others.
2. What are the key differentiators that have positioned you as one of the world’s most sought after experts on your topic?
I really don’t know. I think my popularity is more the result of a blessing I’ve received than a strategy I’ve implemented. I guess I’ll have to leave that question for others to answer.
3. Are there any defining moments that signaled when you broke through the ranks of the thousands of other ‘experts’ on management and leadership and became a ‘go to’ person and a thought leader in your space?
Without a doubt, William Morrow’s 1982 publication of the book I wrote with Spencer Johnson, The One Minute Manager, was the event that drew a lot of attention to me and the work I’d been doing in the leadership arena. The publication of several other bestsellers—Leadership and the One Minute Manager, Raving Fans, Gung Ho! and others—also helped to establish my name as a thought leader.
4. You have written and co-authored 45 books and have been inducted into the Amazon Hall of Fame as one of the top 25 best-selling authors of all time. How important have these books been in positioning you as a thought leader? And, what advice would you give to companies striving to become thought leaders in their sector where a book may not necessarily be appropriate?
Actually, I think I’ve co-authored more than 50 books at this point, but who’s counting? All kidding aside, as I said earlier, the books have probably been instrumental in establishing the Blanchard name. I want to emphasize here that with the exception of a couple of books, I do all my writing with coauthors. I’ve had the privilege to work with an amazing assortment of writers and they all deserve a lot of credit for their contributions.
As for how to become a thought leader in a sector where publishing a book is not feasible: I suggest that people use all the other forms of information technology available to get their message out—film, radio, blogs, television, newspapers, etc. You can also be so good at what you do that your customers become your sales and marketing team. A good reputation and word-of-mouth advertising is more effective than most marketing campaigns. The bottom line, though, is that you have to get the word out somehow. You can have the greatest, most innovative thoughts in the world, but if nobody hears about them, they’re worth squat.
5. You have been quoted as saying: “I absolutely believe in the power of tithing and giving back. My own experience about all the blessings I’ve had in my life is that the more I give away, the more that comes back. That is the way life works, and that is the way energy works.” This seems to be the antithesis to the culture in a lot of businesses today where the focus is more on holding information, knowledge and insights close their chests. Is this your experience, and if so, how do you believe companies can overcome this?
I think it’s sad that some people still don’t know that their role as leaders is to serve, not to be served. The truth is, if you want love, you have to give it away. If you want money, you have to give it away. If you want success, you have to give it away. We’ve found over the years that when you focus only on success, you will never reach significance, and that’s where the real results and satisfaction are. But if you focus on significance—generosity, service, and loving relationships—you’ll be amazed at how much success will come your way. Take Mother Teresa. She couldn’t have cared less about accumulating wealth, recognition, and status. Her whole life was focused on significance. And what happened? Success came her way. Her ministry received tremendous financial backing, she was recognized all over the world, and she was given the highest status wherever she went. She was the ultimate servant leader. If you focus on significance first, your emphasis will be on people. Through that emphasis, success and results will follow.
6. 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?
What sets companies/products/brands apart is delivering Legendary Service. This goes way beyond merely good customer service. It’s service that’s so outstanding that it inspires customers to tell stories about your company. The best companies in any industry—for example Southwest Airlines in the airline industry, Chick-fil-A in the quick service restaurant industry, and Nordstrom in retail—have empowered their employees to make decisions on a day-to-day basis that serve customers at the highest level. These frontline people are not bogged down at the bottom of a red-tape filled management hierarchy. They can use their brains and creativity to make customers happy. That gives energy to the whole organization, and it’s what creates the kind of legendary reputation that sets a company apart.
7. Are there any companies or campaigns that stand out for their thought leadership?
I just mentioned one: Southwest Airlines. Herb Kelleher, the founder of Southwest, and Colleen Barrett, the president emeritus, had a clear vision of what they wanted their organization to be. They designed the company around three values: Warrior Spirit, Servant’s Heart, and Fun-Loving Attitude. Southwest is the only airline company that has made money year after year and it’s because they value their people as much as their profits, and they know how to treat people right.
5 Jan 2010
Great content marketing is merely thought leadership dressed up in another form. Or is it?
I have been reading a bit about content marketing of late and it appears there are, in many instances, close correlations between thought leadership and content marketing.
My understanding is that content marketing is high quality content packaged in a way that presents the intellectual property of that brand in order to attract, engage and retain customers. The question is how that is different to thought leadership?
I don’t believe it is.
The key, however, lies in what and how a brand gathers and uses its content. I have previously posted that content alone does not make you a thought leader and I still believe that. Rather it is the insights and intellectual property that comes with your content that measures whether you are providing thought leadership material or not. It is how you frame and stimulate new thinking and debate in your field, how you empower people with your knowledge, how you stimulate them to think differently as a business or as consumers.
Is your content thought leadership or not?
Anyone can piece together content but the trick lies in whether it makes a difference to your target audiences and whether they see it as thought leading content or not.
In a recent white paper entitled ‘Marketing is Content’ by PR Newswire, it states: “Marketers are investing more aggressively in content in myriad forms, all in the interest of driving engagement with new customers, enhancing brand loyalty and share of wallet among existing customers, and creating both buzz and substantive value exchange across social, online, search, mobile, viral and traditional channels.”
It goes on further to say: “compelling content…is becoming the glue that re-integrates brand marketers’ audiences…”
All great but one important thing is missing. The thought that goes into this content, the intellectual property or the compelling insights that the content so clearly needs in order to have the desired impact is in fact the thought leadership piece. It’s the stuff that sets your brand apart from the others.
Any old content can be dangerous to your brand
Content marketing without the thought leadership component is merely dangerous drivel which runs the risk of irritating your consumer and potentially damaging your brand. Hence the importance for strategic input and senior management commitment to focusing on what this content should include and how it is resourced.
Content without thought leadership is just that – content.
The marketers who were interviewed for the PRNewswire white paper said: “…rich, high-quality content, in multiple forms and formats and distributed intelligently to the right media channels, has emerged as the backbone of their marketing strategies.”
So is content marketing a misnomer? I think it is. Content without thought leadership properties will merely end up in file 13. Content on the other hand that will engage consumers and clients alike is thought leading content.