Be More Like Cicero

By Imogen Robinson, Senior Account Manager, Good Relations

Thought leading organisations don’t just have eye-catching ads, slick web sites and weighty reports. They also have great faces and voices to carry the insights or ideas that reflect their chosen themes. We hosted Zoe Sheppard, Director and Head of Press Office at KPMG, and Rachel Cunliffe, Comment and Features Editor at City AM, at a breakfast event last week in our offices to discuss the traits of effective thought leaders.

At Good Relations, we believe thought leadership is ALL important, because it’s proven to create Awareness, Leads and Loyalty. In fact, 41% of C-suite executives said that effective thought leadership prompted them to invite a previously unconsidered company to pitch for new work, according to new research from LinkedIn.

But for communications professionals considering their best thought leaders, what are the traits they should be searching for and how can they provide effective support for them?

Here are four things we learned from the discussion with Zoe and Rachel:

1.You don’t have to agree with a point of view for it to be effective

Whether you agree or disagree with the point of view they share, the best thought leaders leave you mulling over their insights or ideas long after you stop listening or reading. So who are the people that have the biggest day-to-day impact in their everyday workplace conversations? The office ‘disruptors’ or ‘agitators’ can often be the boldest and most effective thought leaders as they dare to go against the grain.

2. Let thought leaders lead

Effective thought leadership connects with new audiences and moves understanding or discussion on. Are there pioneers in your organisation opening new markets or transforming work practices? If you have these individuals, it’s important to avoid trying to impose information or opinions on them. Focus on activity that helps them refine their own insights and shape a clear point of view based on their personal beliefs, because this will be more authentic when they communicate.

3. Avoid saturated topics  

Topics such as AI and Blockchain used to be at the periphery of business, but they have now shifted to the heart of debates. Be cautious when approaching subjects like these and thoroughly research what has previously been said.  Whilst you may think a point of view is new and thought provoking, the odds are someone has already said something similar, so you’ll need to work hard to make it distinctive. Sometimes the difference comes in what you challenge people to do as a result of having a point of view rather than the view itself.

4. Be more Cicero

But don’t avoid saturated topics, just ensure your thought leaders bring something new. Cicero was perhaps the first thought leader of our time, and while he didn’t take a radical or original stance against dogma, he always looked to advance and enhance existing arguments. “Blockchain marriage” and “diversity in AI” were both mentioned as great examples where thought leaders took a well-worn subject, and moved the discussion on by applying it to a new, but still relevant concept.

The best thought leaders bring a blend of content, courage and communications skills. Getting involved satisfies their personal passions and professional goals. Communications professionals have an important role to play in helping to pinpoint the best characters and create the right support that enables them to be a leader not a follower.  

Thought leadership works. If you are interested in finding out more about how it could work better for you, join our LinkedIn group, or if you would like to attend one of our events, contact Holly Dedman on