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Thought Leadership – the clue is in the words.

The concept of ‘Thought Leadership’ is evolving at a rapid pace. I recently came across this definition: “Thought leadership is the expression of ideas that demonstrate you have expertise in a particular field, area, or topic. Many executives and business leaders strive to become a thought leader in their respective fields. It takes dedication, patience, strategy, and education.” I was instantly struck by how inappropriate this is for the 4th Industrial Revolution.

If this is the case let us unpack ‘Thought Leadership’ into its component parts. Firstly, what thoughts are we trying to represent, and why? Secondly how do we project and measure our effective ‘Leadership’ with these ‘thoughts’?

The great advertising mogul Sir Martin Sorel was quoted as saying “..Growth in Business will come from innovation not volume” – and it’s no surprise that a recent PWC survey ranked “innovation’ as top of mind with the C Level and ‘sales’ at a lowly 8th on the list. Presumably companies that use ‘Thought Leadership’ as part of their positioning are trying to show their clients and consumers that they know what they want to hear and could prove an effective collaborator. So with that in mind – demonstrating that you are experts in ‘what has been done” – and not “what could be done” is not going to impress. The corporate leader as somehow an educated and devoted ‘expert’ is an archaic notion.

The ‘thoughts’ that clients want to hear are ‘future focused’, predictive and about the possible – to help them make critical decisions about new value-creation that will both drive growth and future-proof their business. It’s no surprise that it’s often easier for the start-up team- in shorts and hoodies to get in the C Level door than IBM in their grey suits. There is a perception those guys will be sharing the ‘thoughts’ and perspectives on the future that I need to hear.

So we know what we need to be talking about in our thought leadership strategy – topics that help senior leaders and business owners manage risk in critically difficult decision making about their future and purpose. For sure this is not easy, as ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’ about the future – but with access to creative thinking, insight and data we can bring confidence to new levels and manage risk at the same time.

So if this is the content – what about the “leadership part’. How can we become ‘better at it’ than our competitors. According to an African proverb – Leadership can only be given it cannot be taken! What this basically means is that leadership is in the eye of the beholder. In other words, it is our clients who decide what ‘Thoughts’ are relevant and meaningful to them. It is surprising therefore that many organizations regurgitate huge amounts of newsletters, social campaigns- webinars, podcasts – I could go on, with no real idea of their effectiveness.

The Agency Trybe Website provides clients with a portal where they know they will find provocative future focused content from a wide variety of sources. The key benefit to those contributing their ‘Thought Leadership’ is that they will be provided with a dashboard that demonstrates to level of focus and resonance their content has with different types of potential clients, and also what topics they are looking for across the spectrum of ‘Thought Leaders’ on the site.. This allows them to develop effective content strategies to differentiate and be perceived as a leader in the eye of the beholder. Clearly once the perception of ‘Leadership’ are established the chances of becoming a ‘provider of choice’ rises incrementally.

The Agency Trybe is not a Network – it is a systemic showcase for ‘Thought Leadership’ that benefits the reader and the content provider in driving agile content strategies for businesses that are interested in value creation, not just value capture.

If you are interested in optimizing your content for what clients REALLY want to hear – join us.

New Cannibals

Stuart Hardy