Why you should be focusing on Thought Leadership
Thought leadership is one of those intangible assets that can make a big difference to both your perceived brand value and your bottom line.
You may well get the feeling that with the advent of Brexit and the inevitable economic turbulence that accompanies political upheaval, this is not very high on your priority list.
The economic climate, however, is precisely the reason that you should be paying attention to thought leadership. If done well, relevant and well-timed comments and messages will inadvertently promote your brand, shine a spotlight on a confident leadership and highlight your capacity to be an influencer; just the head start you will need in a period of flux.
Most companies will invest in thought leadership as part of a content marketing programme as studies continue to show that it both increases trust in a brand as well as playing a significant part in the vetting process by potential employees, agency partners and customers alike.
It goes without saying however, you need to choose your comments wisely. Good thought leadership should sustain attention and even better, act as a call to action. Personally, I enjoy reading articles from leaders who are happy to focus on social issues and are prepared to act upon them from within their companies.
Levi Strauss’ CEO, Chip Bergh raised eyebrows and sparked a storm of debate on Twitter when he announced at a conference that he hadn’t washed the jeans he was wearing for over a year! He later posted a blog where he explained that washing a pair of jeans once a week will use an average of 3,500 litres of water over a 2- year period. The comments were indeed well-timed as they were made at a sustainability conference organised by Fortune. And Levi Strauss was able to back up Bergh’s spotlight on the issue as the company had invested considerably in sustainability issues; developing a finishing technique that uses 96% less water and sharing their technology methods with other manufacturers.
Acknowledging the importance of promoting Levi as a value driven company, Bergh has again taken a public stand with the anti-gun lobby in the US (a stance I admire given it is such a politically charged topic). In 2016 he wrote an open letter requesting people did not bring firearms into their stores, following an incident when a customer accidentally shot himself trying on a pair of jeans! This was followed by threats to the business, his stores and his life. In September 2018 he wrote:
We can’t take on every issue. But as business leaders with power in the public and political arenas, we simply cannot stand by silently when it comes to the issues that threaten the very fabric of the communities where we live and work. While taking a stand can be unpopular with some, doing nothing is no longer an option.
Bergh's thought leadership leaves me in no doubt as to the sort of company I might be doing business with, or working within. I would be drawn to that were I seeking a job, as they are values I share and I'll be honest, the next time I buy a pair of jeans I will probably go for Levi's.
Above all, your thoughts and comments have to be genuine and as altruistic as possible. Media savvy readers will smell a self-publicist a mile away and whilst there is nothing wrong with promoting a service you genuinely believe to be valuable, a thought leadership piece is not the right vehicle to do this. Save those messages for your marketing campaigns and keep your thought leadership articles as strong, thought-provoking, influential pieces that give your readers something to think about.