Approach a group of five or ten to ask what thought leadership is and you will probably get five or ten different answers. I didn’t understand what thought leadership was at first a few years ago, but thanks to a lot of research and working in the publishing field, I was able to finally realise its meaning.
The conception of thought leadership comes from a deep level of understanding of what your brand or organisation is and what it does. While a thought leader is someone who is an expert in their field and can easily communicate to the minds of his/her target audience and create influence; which as publishers, is one of our aims… to inform, impact and influence.
Thought leadership is more than just knowing about a field and communicating it. It is also about forming a connection with the audience. Daniel Rasmus mentions it should further go ahead to intrigue, challenge, and inspire people, even those who are already familiar with a company. Thought leadership brushes shoulders with content marketing and it dives into provocative and educative thinking, idea generation and provides guidance and clarity to people.
This form of leadership provokes new directions and methods of thinking, reveals new or better direction and inspires action. Thought leadership is divided into three: industry, product and organisational thought leadership.
Industry thought leadership entails focusing on the news, trends and forces that shape the market of the industry you are in. Keeping in mind your audience, the thought leader further develops and shares innovative thoughts and insights about the dynamics mentioned with them. This type of thought leadership also includes providing a fresh perspective and not just what people’s thinking has been before.
Product thought leadership helps a company to go from point A to point B on how best an industry should go about business. It includes sharing some best practices, roadmaps that are strategic, how-tos. Moreover, it entails information on your product’s potential for transformation. This content and ideas are what show evidence of your thought leadership. It can inspire others to partner with your company.
Organisational thought leadership drives your company’s culture and at the same time, reflecting its vision, innovations and uniqueness. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings published a 126-page slide deck outlining how he hires, fires and rewards employees. The level of insight into the inner workings of a company’s culture was unprecedented, and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has since said the Slide Share “may well be the most important document ever to come out of the (Silicon) Valley.” It’s a very forward-thinking approach to thought leadership that set off a movement for others to follow in Netflix’s footsteps. More than 6.5 million views later, Hastings’ “Netflix Culture” has spurred a conversation among business leaders that’s at the backbone of every organisation: What is, or should be, a company’s culture? How do you create the perfect workplace? How do you attract and retain top talent that is the lifeblood of your company? (business.linkedin)
In order to gain a deeper understanding of the topic, define what leadership means to you and align it with your organisational leadership goals, products and service. Source for a process that helps you brainstorm, vet and develop manageable ideas, infuse concept marketing concepts to break down your thought leadership. Finally, define what the success criteria is and measure and report on it.
As publishers, we can help you get your voice out to your target audience as you practice thought leadership. This can be done through your brands/company’s publications such as newsletters, policy documents, reports, and so on.