Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Thought leadership - the clue's in the name

Thought leadership has been something of a buzz term in professional services marketing for a number of years.  Many organisations or individuals aspire to be recognised as thought leaders.  In fact, it’s often seen as the holy grail amongst marketing professionals.

But here’s the rub:  few manage to achieve the status.  Why?  Well, simply put, the clue’s in the name. It’s about leadership, not following.

True thought leadership is attained when the organisation or individual is able to demonstrate three key attributes:

  1.  A deep understanding of the topic area.  Not just a working knowledge, but detailed understanding based upon expertise and experience. Backed up by concrete examples/case studies
  2. A relevant opinion, not just the ability to regurgitate what others have said, however eloquently or concisely.
  3. Something new to say, taking the debate to a new level.  This is probably the most important attribute but sadly the one that is often most noticeable by its absence.  It’s one thing to contribute to a debate but quite another to step ahead and lead.
True thought leadership should cause the audience to stop in its tracks.  To stop, think and question.  It should engender fresh debate by introducing a new perspective.

There’s nothing wrong with taking part in a debate about current issues.  If you’re a professional services organization, it can certainly help convey your understanding of your markets, customers and the issues they face.  It might help cement a reputation for expertise, provided you’re consistent in joining in the debate.

But if your contribution is not original or doesn’t take the debate to a new level, please don’t assume you’re a thought leader. You’re probably not.