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What Is Thought Leadership?

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Thinker Statue, NYC
Thinker Statue, NYC

The principle driver behind Information Marketing, also known as Thought Leadership, (a term coined in 1994 by Joel Kurtzman, editor-in-chief of the Booz Allen Hamilton magazine), is to offer expert advice freely to potential clients or peers in your field of expertise. With Information Marketing, the idea is to share your knowledge, thoughts and insight as a communications “Maven”. In the 70’s, a book entitled “The Strength of Weak Ties”, by Mark S. Granovetter, discussed how loose “acquaintances” vs close friends and business associates will generate more opportunities for you and your company. Hence, the explosion of LinkedIn’s popularity and its system of 1st, 2nd and 3rd connections.

As the theory goes, if you are able to reach enough people this way (also known as Buzz Marketing), you will increase your brand recognition, generating new business leads organically as an industry expert. Prospects will also position your Brand “top of mind” when they or a member in their network require your specialized services. Subsequently, Information Marketing initiatives will become valuable tools in generating new leads in the short-term and long-term business development lifecycles. You need only to share your knowledge, similar to a friend or playing partner might assist you on the golf course or to a YouTube Maven videocast, “How to train for a 10km race”. It is that simple. However, a strong content-strategy combined with consistent repetition is critical to the information marketing strategy.

Information Marketing is the act of a thought leaders connecting with their audience by finding the common ground on real ideas which are collectively motivating and game changing vs charming and calculating. Also known as “Mavens”, they share knowledge as emotionally intelligent communicators who thirst for engaging brainstorms, think- tank sessions, and stimulating conversation as they pertain to their growing expertise.
— Garrett Chong, Principal – ISI Branding

Frequently, people with whom you have shared your collective intelligence and experiential learning style will remember your goodwill, and either hire you and your firm, or recommend you to someone else. Your brand power and reputation in your field combined with your goodwill is what will distinguish you from competitors.

This sharing of knowledge can be delivered dynamically by way of speaking engagements, business seminars, social media channels, blogging, email marketing, white papers, or just about any online brand distribution channel that will reach potential target audiences. Seminars, association networking and guest speaking engagements are excellent communication channels on which to spend valuable face time with your potential customers.

Thought leaders are just that: leaders. They are at the forefront of their industries providing new and compelling perspectives to those who seek their advice. Thought leaders are there to share their stories and past experiences. The main objective for would-be thought leaders is first and foremost to establish credibility. People need to see tangible proof of your credentials before they will invest in you. Trust is also a critical factor in being recognized as a thought leader. Trust can be strengthened by way of information marketing strategies. Once you have shared original, thought-provoking content with your audiences, they will invariably begin to value your opinion, seek your advice, and ideally, opt for your services.

In order to build up your reputation as a thought leader it is important to be generous with the information you are providing. If the advice can be easily sourced elsewhere, it is of little value to potential customers. The purpose is to offer original thinking and strategies that showcase your level of knowledge. Over the years, you and your organization have developed expertise that is unique to your field of endeavour. The best thing to do is share it with potential clients.

Another important tip for information marketers is to be consistent with information sharing by periodically providing new and interesting content. If a thought leader lapses for any length of time in providing useful information, that leader can be quickly forgotten.

Checklist:
• Testimonials and Recommendations
• Third-Party Credibility and Validation
• Showcase of Awards and Citations
• Experiential Learning Stories
• Consistent Delivery of Relevant, Popular and Compiling Content

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