What Makes for Great Thought Leadership?
Thomas A. Stewart is the Chief Marketing and Knowledge Officer (CMKO) of the global management consulting firm Booz & Company. Stewart most recently served as editor and managing director of Harvard Business Review, and is a best-selling author, an authority on intellectual capital and knowledge management, and an influential thought leader on global management issues and ideas.
During Stewart’s six years with Harvard Business Review, the magazine was a two-time finalist for general excellence in the National Magazine Awards, and received an “Eddie” in 2007 from Folio Magazine.
Previously, Stewart served as the editorial director for Business 2.0 and as a member of Fortune’s Board of Editors. He is the author of two books, Intellectual Capital: The New Wealth of Organizations, and The Wealth of Knowledge: Intellectual Capital and the 21st Century Organization, published by Doubleday Business in 1998 and 2003, respectively.
Stewart is a fellow of the World Economic Forum. He is a summa cum laude graduate of Harvard College, and holds an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Cass School of Business at City University, London.
Big Think is posting a series of three videos in which I discuss how to use thought leadership strategically. Surely the tactics of content marketing should connect to those strategic principles. In brief, thought leadership (and content generally) can do four things better than any other kind of corporate chest-thumping:
1. Define a field of play where you can lay claim to being an expert. When GE produces and publishes material about what it calls “The Industrial Internet,” it’s asserting broad and deep knowledge about a topic important to its customers. By doing so—and proving its expertise with thought leadership that is truly thoughtful and leading—GE can then claim something commercially valuable: the right to win in markets where the industrial Internet is.
2. Create an aspirational purpose for the things you do and sell. IBM’s “Smarter Planet” campaign did that—credibly, too, which is remarkable given how grandiose the aspiration is. Part of the value in this case is that it allows Little Old Me to feel like a participant in a grand adventure.
3. Put gravitas, defensively, into a brand to help you be taken seriously, especially where you encounter trouble or controversy. It’s no accident that Google began commissioning white papers about the same time it began facing regulatory challenges in Washington and Brussels. Lobbyists and lawyers cannot win in the court of public opinion.
4. Generally build a reputation for being smart and practical. That’s essentially what Booz & Company and our consulting industry confreres do: We pump out a steady and broad stream of material to demonstrate to potential clients that we’ve been thinking about issues they’re facing, have experience they can use, and will be both prescient and solid.
Content marketing needs to create value in one or more of those ways. Anything less is, well, Candy Crush.
In the video below, Tom explains how to create thought leadership of real value.
Image credit: Atos International/Flickr