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The 10 killers of great thought leadership

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Much has been written and said about thought leadership, how it is defined, what it can do for an individual or brand and how to take it to market. But believe me, there is no easy path if you want to do it well and unfortunately, there are some potential thought leadership killers along the way. Overcome these and you could be well on your way to truly differentiating your brand from the competition. Get it wrong and at best your thought leadership will stumble along.

Some of these thought leadership killers are more important than others. I have tried to order them but it is a subjective exercise that doesn’t take into account each company or individual’s unique circumstances so subsequently, under different situations, this order may change.

Thought leadership killer #1

Not linking your thought leadership to your business strategy or business objectives. Before you even start on your thought leadership journey the first thing you and your team should ask is: “Why are we doing this?”; “At whom is it aimed?”; “What do we want it to achieve or what are the business objectives and how does it link to/serve our broader business objectives?”; “What do we want our audience to do as a result of it?”

Thought leadership killer #2

A lack of senior executive or management support and buy-in. In my experience thought leadership that does not have senior management support will fail. Typically no senior management support shows me two things: First, a disconnect with the key business objectives, and second a lack of planning and integration across the business of your thought leadership idea/property.

Thought leadership killer #3

Not being clear on your target audience. To come up with something useful you need to understand your audiences’ biggest issues, challenges and concerns. Then you need to think about the action you want your thought leadership content to elicit from this audience and what is required to do so.

Audience insights are everything in terms of making sure your thought leadership content and the delivery hits the mark. Earlier this year, I interviewed John Meacock from Deloitte and he talked about ‘sensing’ i.e. the part where Deloitte does a deep dive on what are the key matter truly concerning their clients and their businesses now and into the future.

Thought leadership killer #4

A lack of research. The best thought leadership I have seen is backed by evidence-based research. It’s not about the company’s opinions or ideas – where these can certainly inform the research or add value, great thought leadership is not founded on opinion. Everyone can have an opinion, opinions are cheap but opinions backed up by empirical evidence, that’s a different matter.

Thought leadership killer #5

Quantity over quality. Quality always trumps quantity when it comes to reaching and influencing your clients. On this blog site we have written much about quality over quantity; in fact we started The Slow Content Movement as a result and to showcase our thinking on this.

In an always on and connected world we are increasingly swamped by content so the stuff that truly makes people sit up and take note or adapt their thinking or business principles/approach should be your goal.

Thought leadership killer #6

A short-term focus or quick fix. Thought leadership is a long-term play requiring sustained time and resources and it is why planning up front is so important. It’s also why it requires executive commitment. In addition, high on the priority list should be finding something about which people in the organization can be passionate about, without passion you run the risk of your thought leadership concept withering on the corporate vine.

Thought leadership killer #7

Choosing a topic you or one of the executive likes. This is not about you, rather it is all about the client or prospect so make sure you choose a topic that is relevant to them.

Thought leadership killer #8

Content marketing pretending to be thought leadership. If I was a thought leadership policeman I would be wealthy on account of the amount of content I come across that is self labelled “Our thought leadership”. Content marketing has a very important place in marketing and in reaching people online but don’t confuse it with thought leadership.

Thought leadership killer #9

Lack of internal resourcing including ideation as well as writing, design and publishing. Thought leadership requires resources. You need the right people assigned to the task and their key performance indicators should be tied to delivery of the thought leadership program otherwise it becomes another ‘thing’ they have to deliver in their already busy lives.

Thought leadership killer #10

Fear. The fear of taking risks, the fear of being first to say something, the fear of being proven wrong, the fear of leading the pack, the fear of what your peers will think…and I could go on.

By their very nature thought leaders are brave. Anyone who is prepared to say something new should be prepared to have the naysayers disagree or challenge their premise in public. However, that’s precisely what thought leadership should be doing. It should be challenging paradigms. It should be creating debate. It should stop and make people think and then rethink their point of view.

In fact, if it isn’t doing any of this I’m afraid it’s just another piece of boring content that isn’t going to shift anybody’s dial.

Thought leadership killer #11

I’ve left this one open so that you can send me your thought leadership killers…either via the comments in this blog or to Craig at leadingthought.us.com or contact me via twitter @thoughtstrategy

This article originally appeared on the author’s LinkedIn page.