What does it take to be a thought leader in today’s changing world? Many organizations look to pave the way and blaze trails in their organization and present themselves as experts in their field, but what’s the best approach? On Wednesday, March 20th, Webolutions brought in Denver-area leaders to discuss how they achieve goals as an effective thought leader and inspire attendees to improve the way they connect to their local audience.
Webolutions kicked off the roundtable by presenting a definition of thought leadership, from thoughtleadershiplab.com: “Opinion leaders and the go-to people in their field of expertise who move and inspire people with innovative ideas, turn ideas into reality and show others how to replicate their success.” However, if organizations are going to identify themselves as thought leaders, the first thing they need is followers. But, it’s not enough just to have followers. Attendees said that executives must put their organization’s focus on transforming the audiences’ journeys. When we asked Denver-area leaders to define what thought leadership means to them and their organization, one attendee said she defined the term as “being continually inclusive while dealing with the sweeping changes in our industry.” No matter how much disruption or changes happen within each organization, Executives said that nearly all industries — from non-profits, to insurance, to government — are continually changing and escalating. And when it comes to wrestling with a continually changing environment to engaging their audiences, one executive defined its thought leadership stance as “being more inclusive and valuing what our audience wants.”
The discussion then shifted to the outlined the benefits of effective thought leadership, including increased brand reach and awareness, more opportunities for the organization, and better engagement with clients and prospects. Denver executives agreed that in order to build purpose-driven thought leadership, focus must lie with an organization’s goal of showing appreciation to its audience. “It’s all about reciprocity,” said one Denver-area executive. “If I don’t see that you have value, I can’t be of influence.” Many leaders explained that in order to be recognized as a thought-leader organization, the team must understand the organization’s vision — also known as its “why,” based on Simon Sinek’s TED Talk, “Start with Why” — to better engage it. Webolutions then presented its purpose, to help passionate people to thrive, to help drive the conversation and provide attendees with an example of aligning purpose, goals and vision with thought leadership. And in order to make these critical connections, Webolutions said an organization’s approach to content must move beyond products or service offerings and focus on your purpose as an organization. In other words: What’s in it for the customer? For example, one executive in the insurance industry said the company has shifted its marketing and messaging from focusing on the offerings to highlighting the client’s transformation. He said, “One example of transformation content is ‘Winter is approaching. Is your house ready?’ vs. ‘Save on these special rates.'”
Once Denver-area leaders solidified the approach to becoming more effective in its thought leadership, Webolutions then asked what executives are doing to put their engagement skills to work and expand their thought-leadership message to beyond its current base. It takes the same effort to send a thought-leadership email to 20 people as it does to send to 20,000 people. The greater your reach, the more effective your thought leadership content will be. One executives said he wanted to expand his reach by signing up for speaking engagements wherever he could find them. Once he established a footing with speaking opportunity, he then got creative in presenting his messaging by having the audience text their information to receive a copy of the slide deck and take advantage of a special offer. Whether executives are getting started with becoming a thought leader or looking to expand its audience, executives said that messaging and motive must centered on presenting value to the audience. “If the content is just about you, there’s zero relevancy. It’s important to see the value you bring for someone else,” said one attendee.
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