Thought Leadership Simplified: An Executive’s Guide to Getting Started
Executives, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to thought leadership. In our latest article, we share three basic rules for finding your voice as a leader, plus efficient methods for generating your executive messaging.
The Potential of Thought Leadership
Executive messaging is typically both misunderstood and misused. The cottage industry in “thought leadership” as a unique genre of branded content has obscured executives’ roles as decision-makers. Executives aren’t analysts, or marketers, or venture capitalists, or sales representatives. As an executive, your job is not to come up with incisive, creative, or unique perspectives on the industry issues of the day. Your job is to lead. Your messaging should reflect that.
Another way to say this is that just by fulfilling the day-to-day responsibilities of their roles, executive officers and presidents (and vice presidents and department heads) are generating all the “thought leadership” content they need. Every time a CEO makes a difficult decision, they weigh and account for a combination of logistical, personnel, market, and accounting factors that no one else has the same view of – that no one else sees in quite the same way. That perspective needs to make it into their video messages, LinkedIn posts, contributions to the company blog, and press appearances.
As one of the most visible members of your organization, your role is to display the competence that earned you your position in the first place, not to play a trend- or SEO-driven game of content generation. The heads of biotech companies, in other words, should talk about the problems they’re encountering and overcoming, describe how they evaluate new high-level hires or potential acquisitions and discuss the difficulties involved in recent strategic choices.
Finding Your Corporate Voice
There are three basic rules to finding your voice as a highly visible corporate leader. First, you need always to be helpful to your audience. Unlike a marketing or publicity team focused on coordinating strategically crafted messages across multiple channels, a leader’s role is to present their perspective. Here’s where sticking to your core competence and everyday decision-making helps the most: by talking about concrete issues that come up in meetings and discussions with staff, you ensure that your points are relevant, specific, and clearly defined.
Second, leverage your resources. Your talents are better spent leading than sweating over the details of your messaging. Content, social, and marketing teams can provide critical information about industry trends and expectations for upcoming news cycles. Don’t write to those trends. Instead, keep a list of them and address them as and when you have something specific and valuable to say. It would be best to rely on colleagues and peers to act as a sounding board for potential articles, posts, and briefings.
The final fundamental guideline for executive messaging is to leverage communication channels strategically. Owned channels like company blogs and even press releases allow for precision and clarity; outside press coverage gives your message valuable authenticity by adding the credibility of a reporter’s voice. Social media, meanwhile, allow for short, straightforward takes – presenting your perspective without going into detail – and keep you visible, creating a sense of transparency and accessibility. Finally, speaking engagements, and even the occasional keynote or panel appearance, are high-prestige channels that build credibility and help establish you as a voice to be listened to.
If there is a way to summarize these principles, it is this: don’t let “thought leadership” become a separate job responsibility for you. Don’t over-complicate it. Trust that the work you’re already doing is an excellent form of thought leadership, and use executive messaging as a tool to showcase the value of your perspective, experience, and achievements.
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