Thought leadership is about anticipating the macro issues that move markets and transform industries. It’s about finding white space in your marketplace and owning the conversation. But in an environment where almost anyone can make a video or publish a white paper, how do you create game changing content that cuts through the noise and actually makes an impact?
At Man Bites Dog, we have our finger on the thought leadership pulse, and we think that these five key features will define the new generation of successful thought leadership.
Empathy — the ability to understand and share the feelings of another — is increasingly being recognised as critical to workplace dynamics and even business success. Sheryl Sandberg’s book Option B, published earlier this year, talks about the importance of approaching employees’ personal issues with empathy and offering support rather than ignoring the problem for fear of saying the wrong thing.
Option B's Adam Grant says expressing emotion is not a sign of weakness—it's a sign of humanity. https://t.co/fpwvKYlbyS
— OptionB (@optionb) June 5, 2017
This emphasis on empathy extends to thought leadership too. In a world of increasing digitisation and artificial intelligence, showing a human side has never been more important. There’s scope for thought leaders to show vulnerabilities, sharing setbacks as well as successes, to forge an empathetic connection with their audience.
Empathy also helps an organisation and its thought leaders to genuinely understand their customer base and to create content that they genuinely want to consume, in a way that they want to consume it.
If you’ve seen 2017’s blockbuster war film Dunkirk, you’ll understand the power of a nonlinear narrative. While it’s always important to tell a compelling story and take your audience on a journey, the narrative doesn’t necessarily have to follow the ‘beginning, middle and end’ structure.
The new generation of thought leadership takes lessons from structured journalism, turning information into rich data stories that keep evolving, making digital connections and creating a web of meaning.
This nonlinear approach has repercussions for both content creation and consumption. The process of creation is potentially less repetitive, as it builds on what’s been created in the past, and the thought leader’s expertise isn’t lost once published, but continues to be surfaced in related content.
It’s common knowledge that modern thought leadership needs to be digital and interactive, but the new thought leadership does this much more effectively, moving from interactivity to immersion. Gamification and virtual reality (VR) may have increasingly important roles to play.
This is thought leadership that can be explored in different ways by different people: each prospect can find their own way to navigate the information and to interact with the stories and data. Consumption effectively becomes a process of co-creation, with everyone taking a much more active role in creating their own version of the story.
This is a more networked, collaborative approach to thought leadership, finding ways to invite other people to contribute to the story, and positioning the organisation as a content curator rather than sole owner of the narrative.
Simon Sinek’s most recent book Find Your Why is all about finding purpose for yourself and your organisation. Thought leaders can play a role in making this purpose clear, articulating ideas that people from across their business understand, get behind, and are keen to personally share and talk about.
— Nicholas James (@TheChameleon777) October 26, 2017
Thought leadership is no longer just senior professionals talking to each other and to potential clients. Instead, it’s about filtering ideas through the company and allowing them to be refracted in different ways.
This allows thought leadership to galvanise the whole organisation and help to join it up, creating strong internal connections as well as external ones.
The success of this new thought leadership can’t necessarily be measured in views, clicks and conversions. Obsessing about these metrics can lead to creating the wrong content in the wrong format.
The new thought leadership has the power to actually shape new services and to create new conversations. It’s about enhancing the depth and quality of your conversation with leads, building relationships that are richer and ultimately more productive. It’s this one-to-one connection that releases the value from the content.
If you’d like to find out more about our award-winning approach, or you need help with your thought leadership campaign, please get in touch.