Today's post comes from ROAM Communications network partner, Rory J. O'Connor, Chief Storyteller at San Francisco-based Morcopy Communications. He is an award-winning former journalist and long-time senior PR executive, who provides executive communications consulting and writing services to corporate clients.
There's hardly a corporate communications program that doesn't include a "thought leadership" component, whether the goal is to increase the visibility of a key executive, position a brand to stand apart from its competitors, or influence the direction of an industry or public issue.
Unfortunately, few of those programs succeed as well in practice as they do on paper. What often gets in the way of success is fear of risk.
Being a true thought leader is inherently risky. It requires an individual or a brand to be bold, to take a stand on something important, or point with confidence to a vision of the future. But taking a stand means choosing sides, and predicting the future means you might be wrong. The stronger the stand, the more risk there is of opposition; the bolder the vision, the greater the risk it won't come to pass.
The temptation is to back away from that risk -- but that also saps a thought leadership campaign of vitality and effectiveness. You wind up with speeches that don't excite audiences, op-eds that don't entice editors, and blog posts that don't ignite conversations.
Don't run away from those risks: Embrace them instead, and then build your campaign around these five key principles:
Finally, even if you follow these principles, a thought leadership campaign rarely succeeds overnight. It takes time to earn a following and respect with a target audience. One of the most successful thought leadership campaigns of my career, which a colleague and I developed for a major global technology brand, developed quite gradually over 18 months. We were fortunate to have a CEO who both embraced the risk and was willing to invest the right level of time and resources. Setting expectations at the outset will help ensure the campaign has the opportunity to deliver its full value.
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