What is Thought Leadership?

When I first heard the term “Thought Leadership” I was immediately skeptical and decided that the buzzword police would arrest the culprit and it would soon find its way into the Bullshit Bingo repertoire along with such 90’s terms as “paradigm shift” and “out-of-the box thinking”.

How wrong was I?! 

That was a few years ago and since it has become accepted as a fundamental principle in company strategy and has become a pinnacle in my own thinking, especially when it comes to marketing and positioning of a company and its employees.

There doesn’t seem to be a standard universal definition of the term “Thought Leadership” and if you google for a definition, then there are a few variations on a theme.

The most general definition, and the one google gives number one ranking to as of January 2019,  is given by Denise
Brosseau who has written a whole book about it: –

Thought leaders are the informed opinion leaders and the go-to people in their
field of expertise. They are trusted sources who move and inspire people with
innovative ideas; turn ideas into reality, and know and show how to replicate
their success.

She just must be a thought leader on thought leadership.

However, when you engage with marketeers, there seems to have a different spin on this definition. For example, the Marketing Insider Group, which is a general view shared by many, define thought leadership as:

 “… a type of content marketing where you tap into the talent,
experience, and passion 
inside your business, or from your community,

to consistently answer the biggest questions on the minds of your target audience,
on a particular topic.”

So one definition says they are informed opinions, the other says it’s a type of content writing. So, who is right?

Well they both are. For a start, no-one has a monopoly on manufactured business terms and can lay claim to it – it’s not like we are trying build a rocket to Mars when a universal definition of measurement has to be adhered to for it to work correctly.  Unlike a certain Mars Probe where they wasted $125M back in 1999 where they confused the definition of measurement. An example about thoughtless leadership. Moving on.

Thought Leadership is just a head line – the objective and the actual execution of reaching that level of success is what is important. I would go one step further and say that Thought Leadership includes addressing the perception of what prospects and customers view of you as a company i.e. your prospects and customers opinion, not necessarily the opinion of just the “leaders and the go-to-people” as defined above. Naturally you want that opinion to be that your company is the trusted expert in its field and that reputation will continue into the foreseeable future. This creates a positive brand affinity that can help in both attracting potential customers to your company and given your reputation will help grease the customer along the buyers journey to closure.

So how does a company and its employees obtain a reputation of being “Thought Leaders”?

From a marketing prospective the consensus is content marketing. This is content that can be written or videos that are
created that are then distributed through online portals and social media and could be white papers, case studies, blogs and other content that enhances the company’s reputation in its field of expertise. One word of warning – this content should
not be a product pitch. It needs be relevant, informative, educational, inspiring and backed up with evidence.

Also, content should not only address the types of questions that your customers are asking. Naturally it is good to identify them and address them in a blog or white paper. But a thought leader must also understand the direction and future of the market and express that, perhaps in an editorial, publication, social media post or be a guest within an online webinar. Especially when
selling technology, companies want to not only buy solutions that are relevant today, but they want to future proof their investment going forward. Change is inevitable, companies who stay ahead of the curve and are disruptive in their thinking and have the people to be able to convey that to a global audience, are the companies who are considered thought leaders and the ones that are successful.

Being a thought leader can be done by everyone in a company – maybe there are some people who are more naturally good it – but ultimately every one of us can be considered a “shop window” into our company. The whole reputation of a company can be built or destroyed by one person.  Though that can be a team effort too! “Toxic Marketing” is another buzzword altogether, and
maybe that can be the new buzzword word for bullshit bingo. Or maybe I should become a thought leader on it as part of my marketing services.

About Rain Dance  – We like to think of ourselves as Thought Leaders in Content Writing as part of a lead generation and brand building service. If you are looking at Digital Marketing, then check out our online digital marketing for lead generation services. It’s probably much cheaper then you expect. Check out our content writing website for more information including pricing. We can write content for global companies with native English writers. Serving companies globally.

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