What makes great thought leadership?
Everyone wants to be a thought leader. Yet today, the term is too often used by people or companies who are sharing middle-of-the-road corporate perspectives. Thought leadership has been devalued.
This a business risk for companies in the attention economy. In a world of high-quality content, audiences can and will ignore those who fail to captivate them. Put simply, that leads to missed opportunities and will, over the long-term, hit the bottom line.
There are significant competitive advantages for companies that can produce great thought leadership – more engaged customers, better informed stakeholders and greater sense of purpose among employees to name just three.
It is rare to find a good business that doesn’t have a mission. This means great thought leadership should be achievable for every company – something they strive for, seeking and defining the big concepts that set them apart.
So, what does great thought leadership look like? It is more art than science, but there are some golden rules that hold true.
The clue is in the name – – this is about leading the way, not following others. The viewpoint or argument you are conveying must be different to those being articulated by others.
Finding a unique perspective is not easy. There are very few people in the world who can sit down to a blank page and create a new idea in an hour. Great thought leadership involves making a time commitment to think and hone original points of view.
Great thought leadership needs to be true to author – whether that be a brand or a person. As Simon Sinek argued in his 2011 bestselling book, leaders must start with why.
Why have you chosen this topic? Why are you the right person or organisation to make this argument? Why does the idea matter? These are the questions great thought leaders ask themselves.
Everyone has an opinion. But why should your audience believe you? With great thought leadership, you need to show your audience why your perspective is undeniably true.
This means having proof points that add weight to your argument. As with developing a unique perspective, this often takes time – delving deep into your organisation to find key data points and examples, or by commissioning credible research that shines new light on an issue.
Thought leadership rarely involves a single article or piece of content. When that’s the case, for example when running a multi-channel long-term campaign, it can be easy to lose focus and see your unique perspective snowball into a multitude of unoriginal ones.
You must have clarity in your guiding thought – know what that is and don’t stray from it.
Thought leadership must be purposeful. The goal should never be to simply publish an article, a video or social media post – it’s about leading change. Once your audience has given you their time by engaging with your ideas, you must provide them with a solution or next step.
Great thought leadership starts at the beginning by knowing what you want to achieve. The solutions you are offering to your audience should be at the heart of your thought leadership.
As the world recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic there is an opportunity for businesses to act as a force for good and be part of building a society that is more prosperous and inclusive.
Now is the moment for business to be communicating their big ideas and demonstrating they are leaders, not followers. That their mission matters and will shape the world for the better.
Great thought leadership is about creating advantage. Creating advantage for society, for your audience and for your business all at the same time. Seize that opportunity.
By Jack Storry, Associate Director Grayling London.