Thought leadership is something that has always been an important part of my professional life.
I’ve invested a lot of time creating my own thought leadership through writing, speaking and research. I’ve also created and implemented thought leadership strategies in the professional services firms in which I’ve worked.
I’m certainly not alone; this is a common strategy employed by many firms in my industry and used widely in B2B marketing efforts.
At its core, thought leadership represents a powerful approach for a company to build its brand, differentiate itself from competitors and be more effective at attracting new customers.
All of this is supported by research conducted last year by Edelman, a global communications marketing firm that partners with some of the world’s largest and most successful organizations to evolve, promote and protect their brands and reputations.
Edelman surveyed more than 1,300 executives and C-Suite leaders and found that thought leadership played a key role in building the brand of companies, attracting RFP opportunities, creating preference with buyers, and directly contributing to sales wins. It also helps a company command premium fees for their products and services.
Based on these findings, it’s clear why more and more companies are investing in thought leadership as a strategic priority.
One fascinating trend I’m seeing in my consulting work is how many of my clients in other industries are also adopting thought leadership as a critical strategic priority. It doesn’t matter what industry it happens to be; these companies understand that their customers expect them to bring new ideas and perspectives that help them solve complex problems.
When companies invest heavily in thought leadership, they also start raising the expectations they have for their leaders. More specifically, companies want leaders who can, in a clear and concise manner, share their innovations, best practices and inspiring insights through their own networks.
To better understand how leaders can help their companies successfully implement thought leadership strategies, I reached out to Dr. Nick Morgan, founder and CEO of Public Words. Morgan is one of the world’s leading communication experts. He and his team consult with companies, independent thought leaders and speakers. My team and I have benefited from his experience as we’ve utilized thought leadership as our go-to-market strategy for quite some time now.
Here are the top five tips that Morgan believes all leaders need to embrace to help their companies execute an effective thought leadership strategy.
- Share your company’s content. “The first and most basic way that leaders can help their companies execute their thought leadership strategy is by sharing the content created on social media platforms,” says Morgan. Many leaders tend to underestimate the power and impact that a simple like, share, tweet, follow or comment can have in building the brand of an organization. A leader might think that a single action would have little impact. They are probably right. However, if every leader in a company implemented these simple steps, the collective impact would be powerful.
- Understand the pain points of your customers. Morgan also believes that good thought leadership is focused on the problems and the struggles that their customers are experiencing. These challenges represent an opportunity for a leader to bring ideas that can help. Morgan has found that leaders who use thought leadership for helping organizations overcome their biggest challenges are more respected and more coveted as trusted advisors.
- Develop a strong point of view. Morgan believes that thought leadership is not about advertising the company you work for. It begins with developing a strong point of view on an important or pressing topic that is top of mind for your customers. Leaders who successfully embrace thought leadership are showcasing their expertise to help their customers. That’s a powerful sales tool.
- Be curious and stay current. “Thought leaders tend to read a lot of business books, articles and research reports. They have a built-in radar that’s always monitoring and picking up anything relevant to their topic of interest,” says Morgan. It’s simple in the digital age to set up Google Alerts on any topic to stay informed on current news and trends.
- Develop and share your own content. The ultimate form of thought leadership is sharing your own observations and expertise. “Write an article for an industry or trade publication. Join relevant industry associations. Attend their conferences and consider speaking or doing a breakout session,” Morgan says. These activities not only raise your individual profile, but also strengthen the brand of their company.
Successful companies already understand how a comprehensive thought leadership strategy can build their brands. This increasingly means that leaders must become experts in devising, developing and executing thought leadership.
Leaders who accept this challenge, and become champions of thought leadership, within their companies, will reap many benefits. Whether you’re share content being created by others in your company, or creating your own, you will be showing people that all great leaders are, in fact, thought leaders.
This week’s leadership gut check asks: Are you stepping up as a thought leader?