Towards effective Thought Leadership

By Richard Moss, CEO, Good Relations


As the Boeing Dreamliner came sweeping in over the Farnborough air show for the first time in 2010 a strange thing happened, commentators turned to each other and agreed, Boeing was the clear thought leader in aerospace innovation.

You could be asking yourself at this point, what’s strange about this? Well, less than two years earlier those same commentators were awarding this same ‘sales enhancing’ accolade to Airbus, as it delivered its first huge A380. Is it really possible that two global businesses the size and complexity of Boeing or Airbus can change so fundamentally and so rapidly? Are they really only as good as their last product launches?

B2B and Corporate communicators are increasingly realising just how important ‘emotion’ is in navigating their complex and often long sales processes. The premise behind the famous ‘you won’t get fired from specifying IBM’ statement has never rung truer and businesses are rushing to publish their own ‘thought leadership’ to demonstrate their own sector ‘mastery’. The use of the term ‘thought leadership’ has increased by a third over the last five years.

This confidence in the power of ‘thought leadership’ is well placed. Thought leaders do grow faster than their competitive set, they do get more sales enquiries, they do create a pricing advantage and they do develop more advantageous relationships with critical business stakeholders. The challenge for communicators however is that most ‘thought leadership’ fails. Most ends up as unread ‘white papers’ and email clutter.

So how do the best of the best do it? How did IBM give birth to ‘ebusiness’, McKinsey develop ‘the war on talent’ and The World Economic Forum establish the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’. What is the most effective process for developing thought leadership and how can every business do it better?

The team at Good Relations have been developing ‘thought leadership’ programmes for SMEs and large global corporations for many years. This interest led to the observation that many businesses were wasting huge amounts of energy and resource because of a simple lack of understanding of best practice in delivering effective thought leadership programmes.

This led us to creating The Thought Leadership Project, an open community of senior communicators coming together around a Seven Step Thought Leadership Effectiveness Model, with the aim of sharing and building best practice for thought leadership programmes worldwide.

The seven step thought leadership model is outlined below:

1.     Prioritise long-term effects

2.     Develop a point of View

3.     Create a compelling Platform

4.     Touch all buyers

5.     Maintain campaign currency

6.     Activate advocates

7.     Measure impact

Following the Farnborough air show Airbus launched a new aircraft to demonstrate its innovation credentials. At about a meter in length and made of plastic, the Airbus Concept plane heralded the launch of a single-minded thought leadership programme called The Future by Airbus. Over the next few years the programme showcased innovative thinking, dealing with some of the biggest aviation challenges. The programme decoupled the corporate brand from its product brands and helped to positon Airbus as the innovation leader in aerospace.

If you would like to join The Thought Leadership Project, join us on Linkedin or email Holly to find out more hdedman@goodrelations.co.uk.