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It seems like the pendulum has swung too far on the concept of thought leadership.  There are some camps that treat the concept of influential marketing as a panacea:  “Anyone can do it – just think of something thought-provoking to say!”

There are lots of folks who can shout from the top of a mountain and believe the words will be heard, simply because they are spoken loudly. There are others – individuals and organizations – who call themselves “thought leaders” simply because they have what we call “klout.” And still, there are people on social media channels who believe they are ‘thought-enablers’ simply because they have thousands of followers or perhaps have had a tweet retweeted dozens of times.

We’ve come to believe that thought leadership is not about words or proclamations. Rather, it is about behavior and a ‘stand tall’ stance. It is about the willingness to go one way when most people are going the other. What really counts – and what makes thought leadership both effective and recognizable – is whether your clients, customers, and competitors recognize you as such.

Thought leadership needs to be recognized as a business-wide alignment between new ways of thinking and your organization’s mission and vision.  It should never be reduced to a mere communications or marketing tool. Thought leading content is not peddling an opinion, putting out a list of hints and tips, nor curating other people’s content. Instead it is offering a new, fresh perspective, preferably one based on empirical evidence that delivers value beyond the product or service.

When crafting a thought leadership platform, here are a few secret ingredients:

  • Will thought leadership motivate your target audience to act or change the paradigms of your industry or market sector?
  • How will you avoid suffering the all-too-common mistake of being data rich but insight poor with respect to your thought leadership metrics?
  •  Will your thought leadership platform have long-term potential? The campaigns that benefit clients and organizations best run for many years.
  • General Patton once said, “If everyone is thinking alike,  someone isn’t thinking.” How differentiated is your thought leadership thinking?

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