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3 great ways to put thought leadership to work in your business

With the explosion of professional social media channels such as LinkedIn, it makes sense for your managers, leaders and future stars to get serious about building a presence. As we all remember from school science experiments, nature abhors a vacuum. If your people are not a voice in the market, chances are your customers are tuning into someone else.

Building a Thought Leadership profile is one of the key aspects of turning your leaders into INFLUENCERS. They need to build their personal thought leadership and, in turn, the thought leadership credentials of your business. Trouble is that the whole ‘Thought Leadership’ thing can be off-putting. Many leaders have placed it in the ‘too-hard’ basket because they can’t see the value (for them or their business), don’t know where to start, or fear they will be found wanting.

Unlocking the mystique
One of the challenges is to make thought leadership accessible. This shouldn’t be hard. It’s simply about attracting more customers to your business. It makes you money, grows your leaders and enriches your culture. In 2016, LinkedIn introduced the Sophisticated Marketers Guide to Thought Leadership. It’s a great resource. LinkedIn has gone ALL IN on the whole Influencer channel of course. It is a mainstay of their platform - a platform that the professional world loves. It stands to reason that your business needs to play in the Influencer Market (make no mistake - that’s what it is). To win, your people must participate fully. Most don’t of course - and that’s where the opportunity exists.

The LinkedIn piece breaks down thought leadership into 3 categories. I think this is helpful in providing businesses with a ‘way in’.

3 ways into Thought Leadership
1. Product Thought Leadership
A great starting point for any business. It’s explaining in a neutral and accessible way how your products/services solve the problems that your customers experience. It’s about sharing best practise and ‘how-to’s’.

The tone should be one of generosity. Do your best to provide great information that will genuinely help existing and potential customers. There should be no expectation of immediate return. Crucially, do not sell from this place.

Any business of any size can generate immediate commercial returns by getting involved in product thought leadership.

2. Industry Thought Leadership

This is perhaps what most people think of as ‘thought leadership’. It’s about getting the experts inside your business to share their thinking in a way that will contribute to or shape the development of your sector. They will comment on the news and pick the trends and forces shaping your market. The aim is to position your people (and therefore your business) as leaders and a thinkers. So challenge sacred-cows! Throw some rocks! Future cast. Then show the way by mapping out the path that will get people from NOW (the status quo) to NEXT (where they need to be).

Industry thought leadership is very powerful. Few organizations do this well or consistently. They let their leaders off the hook! I believe it’s a high-ground that, in many cases, is there for the taking. Smart leaders who understand the commercial merit of playing this game will identify their personal Everest and plan their assault on the summit!

3. Organisational Thought Leadership
The last category has an internal focus. It is better suited to larger organizations and can be summed up as a content-marketing strategy for your staff and customers. Using a wide range of communication channels (e.g. video, workshops, facilitated staff or customer sessions) it can bring your values, vision and culture to life. It’s about the promotion of ideas, encouraging participation in debate and empowering innovation.

Organisational thought leadership can be a very effective way of energizing the structures and dynamics that exist in larger organizations. For a very low investment, this activity can result in greater levels of staff engagement, contribution and therefore business performance.

No longer just a ‘nice-to-do’
Thought leadership has been around for over 20 years. It has always been a good thing to do. Today it’s imperative.

We all hate being sold to. Traditional sales and marketing strategies and retailing models are failing. We need to do different things to stand out. Thought leadership is a big part of this. It costs very little and there are no down sides. In truth, there’s no good reason for every organization not to be exploring the possibilities in at least 1 of the 3 approaches.

Time to get your people in the game
When the world’s largest professional networking portal creates a specific platform for this kind of information distribution, you know it’s a mainstream event. You sit on the sidelines at your peril.

Getting started
So time to get going. Task your experts to create some content, book a slot to speak at your next industry event or make some ‘how-to’ videos. It may be a bit rough at first, but that’s fine. Any journey worth making starts with a few small steps. The trick is to start at all!

I’ll be exploring what your people need to DO, BE and BUILD to build their thought leadership capability in my upcoming free webinar BUILDING INFLUENTIAL LEADERS.

Mark Hodgson
Work with Mark
Since 2010 Mark Hodgson has been successfully helping executives, coaches and consultants to build confidence, gain clarity in their message and position themselves as influential thought leaders who people want to work with.

He is the author of Time To Shine - Adapting who you are and what you know to succeed in the ideas economy and a leading thinker and speaker on adapting our personal leadership to succeed in a volatile world. To book Mark as a speaker for your next event contact him here.

If you want to know more about working with Mark to activate this thinking in your world, check out the following options:

Time To Shine – Leader Workshop -> 1-day in-house programme for teams
Time To Shine – 60 or 90 Keynote speech ‘Why Humanity is our point of difference’
Time To Shine - Personal Mentoring Programme -> For organisational leaders, independent consultants, coaches and entrepreneurs.
Contact us on or call +61 425 230 335 for details.
Mark Hodgson

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