Love because it’s relevant. Legitimate thought leadership done right enhances reputation, increases presence, positions you above competitors, generates leads and conversions, and optimizes impact in the chaotic world of everything-internet. (see “6 Ways Thought Leadership Will Take Your Marketing to New Levels,” John Hall, 7/8/13, Forbes.com)
Hate because it’s overused and misused. Joel Kurtzman coined the term in the 90’s. He said not only customers, but peers and industry experts will recognize the individual as a thought leader. That individual “deeply understands the business they are in, the needs of the customers, and the broader marketplace in which they operate." Yet, lots of people use the mechanism of thought leadership (sharing content, inviting you in through dialogue, positioning oneself as an expert) without delivering anything of substance.
Perfect example: Someone tweets a revolutionary headline about some new HR innovation and when you click on the blog there is no content, but rather an ambiguous “register for webinar X for $500” link. On the other hand, when someone tweets that same headline and then offers deep, valuable information, I become a forever-follower.
I pull my examples from fundraising because it’s my industry. Thought leaders I follow include Dan Allenby and his Annual Giving Network; Kent Stroman at The Asking Academy; Josh Birkholz who wrote the book on Fundraising Analytics; and Anne Freedman, International Presentation Coach. These people blow my mind every time I read their stuff. It’s informative and valuable. For that reason, I’ve contracted with some of them and I’ve connected with all of them.
So why might a community-based non-profit or small company consider this approach to sharing expertise with various constituencies? It can lead to:
- Being thought of first when community conversations arise around your industry.
- Earning a seat at the table with the big players.
- Increasing customer acquisition and conversion.
- More opportunity for visibility.
- Increased revenue.
- What are the unique areas of expertise present in my organization?
- Who are the specialists who house that expertise in their brains?
- Can we capture and compellingly present that information?
- Who are our target audiences?
- In what venues can we begin presenting compelling information?
- Can we sketch out an infrastructure to push content often?
I'll close with this awesome quote from Britton Manasco in her 4/5/12 article "Out of the Darkness: Thought Leaders Illuminate the Path Forward."
"Thought leadership is the presentation of relevant and compelling insights - enabling one's intended audience to comprehend key issues, make decisions, and embrace change. It concerns all leaders that hope to influence our understanding of past events, present conditions and future possibilities."