When our "new" (well, kind of) corporate parent's PR department called recently wanting to profile me on the company's internal "Thought Leaders & Trendsetters" web page, I naturally thought it was either a hoax, or just another corporate whim that would quickly fade. But hey, my photo might (and now does) appear right next to the CEO himself, so why not? And later Tweeting my kids that I'm a trendsetter? Priceless.
Still...I'm skeptical. This "thought leader" thing seems like just another corporate buzz word. Then, bam! An email arrives from a very smart, Chicago-based marketing and PR person named Jean Van Rensselar explaining in abundant detail just how cool and beneficial it really is to be a "thought leader" in business -especially a business-to-business type business. Buzz word? Banish the thought, says Van Rensselar.
"Thought leaders are in extremely advantageous industry positions," says she. "In almost every industry, there is an unmet need for insightful information that customers and prospects can use now. The key to success is avoiding self-promotion. Becoming a thought leader is as simple as giving away valuable information and advice, without asking for anything in return.
"A thought leader is essentially a trusted resource. And in an information economy, a trusted resource is extremely valuable. A thought leader can be an individual or a company with a thorough mastery of its business, its customers and the dynamics of the broader operating environment. The bottom line is that a thought leader has an enormous industry edge.
"It doesn't matter what industry you're in - whether yours is a Fortune 1000 company or a bakery in a small town - thought leadership will propel your business in ways that you could never imagine. With the right approach and a relatively small investment, results will materialize quickly. To be a thought leader you need to consistently articulate and convey insightful information that listeners and readers value. Truly insightful information is a rare commodity."
Obviously, Van Rensselar has done a great deal of thinking about the benefits of thought leadership, how to become a thought leader -- and the mistakes that can cost you a thought leadership position. So we bring it all to you in her "Thought Leadership" guest post here on What Works for Business.
Just be clear on this: If avoiding self-promotion means giving up my spot next to the CEO on the corporate "Thought Leadership" web page, forget the whole thing.