Thought leadership is not predictable, objective or safe
Companies that thrive place much importance on thought leadership in their business development. Businesses understand that in order to get ahead, they have to be in a leading position. Their approach has to be unique, better yet if they have a unique understanding of what they do. Finding new ideas and forming unique opinions is what gets attention. At times it may just be a fresh way of looking at things- the novelty of a new idea is always exciting, worth paying attention to, and ripe for further discovery.
Brands are looking to cultivate thought leadership that will put them in the forefront of their industry- creating their ‘Blue Ocean’, per say- as opposed to basing their values, opinions, and strategies similar to others. There is always a niche to be found. Forbes covered an article on brands that are carving out their market positions here.
What’s thought leadership?
Thought leadership is the ability to tap into a pool of talent often called ‘’thought leaders’’ in a bid to find solutions to your customer’s needs. It’s a content marketing strategy where you try to find the most appropriate answers to your customer’s questions. To achieve this, you will need distinguished thought leaders, people who can bring in an authoritative voice on the topic at hand. These people are gurus in their area of expertise meaning they have the expertise, and keep up with trends in their field of specialization and can ‘predict the future’ using this knowledge. Most importantly, these individuals need to have solutions to real life problems affecting your customers. In this regard, their theories will be applicable in your industry with a tiny margin for error.
Can thought leadership be unpredictable?
In this new era, the business world is turbulent and unpredictable and so is the competition. The economics and pervasiveness of digital communication have made it possible for nearly every business to become an information hub. In this regard, brands need to understand that they are not just up against their direct competition but virtually against everyone. In many industries, the uncertainty and turbulence in today’s business environment have minimized the effectiveness of traditional strategic planning and long-term forecasting. Moreover, competition is becoming diverse by the hour which leaves us with some predictable business environments and some not-so-predictable ones. In this case, thought leadership can be unpredictable especially if you focus on a unique point of view. Consumers today are smart- you will often find that customers are seeking the most appropriate answer to their questions and not necessarily something different from the rest.
Is it really objective?
Thought leaders are looked upon to offer informed opinions and profound insights as well as speculate about the future. According to Mark Rogers, CEO and founder of Insights Without Borders, an established management consulting firm, thought leadership is about extending your personal brand, being able to create and maintain a reliable online reputation. This means that your audience needs to feel the passion and honesty in your content delivery. They need to feel that you honestly want to provide a solution for their questions. This will often leave very little room for objectivity. Remember, a thought leader is one who knows their stuff right meaning they have put in many hours in their field so personal experiences and opinions will automatically come in handy in delivering thought leadership content.
How safe is thought leadership?
Thought leadership is about walking your talk. It’s about pushing content that you believe is valuable to your customers. It’s about originality, enthusiasm in your area of expertise; it’s about being able to be courageous and have strong opinions on your industry.
Thought leadership is about being able to provide solutions to problems before people realize they have them. Richard Branson and Steve Jobs are considered by many to be true thought leaders in their respective fields. As thought leadership isn’t about playing it safe and neutral, there will be a difference in opinions in audience feedback. But that’s just part of the package when you rock the boat.
We liked reading this awesome interview with CBRE’s Paul Suchman on how thought leadership is going to add to brand building in a massive way. Click here for the full story on Ad Age.