A comprehensive overview of an important marketing technique
Serious people who represent some of the world’s most respected businesses make very effective use of thought leadership, which is the deliberate creation of ideas to help businesses succeed, according to Laurie Young in his book Thought Leadership: Prompting Businesses to Think and Learn. It is something which is increasingly influential on buyer behaviour, and the best purveyors of thought leadership are becoming more organised and sophisticated with their programs.
The book outlines a range of attributes of good thought leadership:
- Informative and credible, prompting businesses to learn, investigate and change
- Visionary, shaping an idea and providing “foresight”
- Authentic, rather than empty hype
- Unique, although it can be based on recycled ideas
- Insightful, helping people to see things in new ways or solve new problems
- Communicating values that resonate with the intended audience
- Freely shared
The author claims that very little is written about thought leadership, but a quick search on Amazon reveals more than 30 books with “thought leadership” in their titles, with many more on content marketing, which is a closely related concept. Whilst this is the most comprehensive book on thought leadership that I have read, it fails to arrive at a concise definition, and as a result ends up encompassing things ranging from scientific research to innovative advertising, things which are clearly not, according to common understanding of the term, “thought leadership”.
The Dove Real Beauty advertising campaign, for example, was a highly successful case of creating and communicating ideas, but did not in my opinion constitute “thought leadership” because it did not attempt to establish someone as a recognised authority in a specialised field. Thought leadership is normally regarded as a marketing technique for someone who is a provider of expertise such as a professional service firm, not for a company that sells products.
In my opinion, someone who is interested in pursuing a thought leadership strategy will find plenty of interesting material in this book, but would be well advised also to read a good book on content marketing for advice on how to use an integrated social media communication program.