As with any strategic communications initiative, a thought leadership programme needs to be carefully planned and follow a strict methodology if it is to be a success. The process should involve an understanding of the individual’s current brand, a peer evaluation, an agreement on the long-term personal brand objectives and the development of a personal narrative. Once these have been established, the methodology should be put into action with a 24-36-month calendar of interviews, speaking opportunities, round tables, awards, blogs and tweets so that there can be a regular engagement with the all-important stakeholders.
In my role as Head of Strategy, I often find that the senior leaders I work with are very comfortable with interviews, round tables and speaking opportunities, but are often reluctant to become active bloggers. My response to this reticence is simple…
The most influential leaders in business, government, non-profit and education are avid tweeters and bloggers – getting their opinions, thoughts and ideas out into the public and interacting with their customers, voters, members, learners, investors, supporters and employees.
A few brilliant bloggers that come to mind and who embody everything that thought leaders should be doing are Apple’s Tim Cook, founder of SpaceX and co-founder of PayPal Elon Musk, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella and Richard Branson. They are leading the way in the recognition that there has been a huge shift in communication, with power being transferred from an organisation’s executive offices to its stakeholders. These stakeholders are already using social media to discuss what products they like and dislike, which businesses they support, which politicians they plan to vote for and the celebrities they admire. Senior leaders are now having to adapt their engagement approach because these stakeholders expect organisation heads to be active on social media.
Expertise, Transparency, Trust and Engagement
Blogs are an excellent opportunity for leaders to demonstrate their expertise in a subject to a receptive online audience by posting about such topics as industry trends, their organisation’s activities and current events. People also want to hear leaders’ views, so an important aspect of blogging is personal opinion. By engaging with their stakeholders online and not from behind the PR machine, leaders who blog on a regular basis will be respected by their followers and perceived as being credible, transparent and trustworthy. Even more influential are leaders who blog regularly and who also make an effort to engage with those who post comments. Blogs that demonstrate expertise are strong, but ones that are driven by a blogger who has an active interaction with followers are the most powerful when it comes to thought leadership.
Building and delivering an effective thought leadership programme is no easy task, but when it takes a planned and strategic approach, it can be a powerful tool to build a person’s ‘personal brand’. Blogging is a vital element of any thought leadership programme and the power it has in building credibility should not be underestimated.