Monthly Archives: January 2012
It’s the start of a new year and hopefully you’ve had time to reflect on your personal and business goals. But are you doing anything differently to position your own or your clients’ business? Thought leadership is a term that is bandied about with little regard for the powerful role it can play in a communications strategy.
What is thought leadership?
Here’s a definition.
Thought leadership is about delivering new ideas and content to your target publics based on deep insights into the business issues and challenges they face. In the process, the value you deliver should go well beyond merely selling your product or service. Your thought leadership point of view should differentiate you from your competitors, establish you as the ‘go to’ expert in that field and position you as a trusted advisor – all with the intent of underpinning the sale.
Arriving at a thought leadership platform.
Arriving at the right thought leadership platform in the first place is the tough part. A good starting point is to apply a methodology to add some rigour to the process. Try this one, START IP:
- Scan the media and social media sites for issues impacting your brand or sector.
- Make sure you Track your competitors’ share of voice to ensure the thought leadership approach you want to take is not already ‘owned’ by a competitor.
- Analyse and understand the ‘true north’ of your company, i.e. its values, in order to define better the thought leadership areas you should enter.
- Most critically, Research your clients’/customers’ needs with regards issues, challenges they face over the next two to three years to ensure that your thought leadership aligns with these.
- Trend spot to identify the forces that could potentially shape your audience’s lives now and in the future. This will offer greater focus for your thought leadership material.
- Identify a thought leadership champion to lead your campaign – you need a spokesperson.
- Finally, ensure that you have examined your Properties. Do you have any existing intellectual property that could, with a little more work, be turned into a thought leadership campaign?
The culture of thought leadership.
We’ve all heard of a sales culture, a culture of innovation, a culture of safety, a client service culture etc. Companies with strong cultures tend to do well.
Thought leadership should be no different – in order for it to truly succeed it should become part of the culture of the organisation.
For many years some of the leading management consultancies have had an intense focus on thought leadership. They’re bloody good at it and it has been the pointy end of their client engagement strategy. In many cases it underpins their sales process and has become part of their culture from partner down through the rest of the organisation.
These companies have illustrated that in order for thought leadership to thrive, it cannot be the sole domain of the marketing or PR team. Rather it should become part of the DNA of the entire organisation.
Content and sharing.
I’ve yet to meet a thought leader that doesn’t share their thoughts/ideas/content. The question is how. The channels you use is dependent on who you are trying to reach. For example a B2B campaign aimed at the boards of the top ASX 100 companies will require a very different content distribution strategy to one aimed at mobile phone users.
But beware of the products and services trap. Best-selling PR and marketing author David Meerman Scott says:
Typically marketing people spend their time talking about products and services. The average marketing person is very good at doing things like brochures and advertising but they have great difficulty in providing thought leadership-type content that has nothing to do with their products or services.
If experienced thought leaders will tell you anything it will be to make sure your content is first and foremost client-centric. It must deliver new and relevant insights. Product-speak and brand-centricity is the death knell of thought leadership.
Craig Badings is a director at Cannings Corporate Communications. He is the author of Brand Stand: seven steps to thought leadership and the blog Thought Leadership. You can follow him on Twitter @thoughtstrategy or join him on LinkedIn. Craig has also written a short book, downloadable as a PDF: Challenges facing thought leadership in 2012 – the views from 12 experts. Craig interviewed 12 experts in the field; the discussion on questions like “Does curation equal thought leadership?” is fascinating. Recommended.
A new regular column starts today. Our first guest is Deborah Frenkel, JWT Melbourne copywriter, blogger and Twitterer, who’ll love that she’s the “debut” poster. (Don’t worry, it will become clear at word 8.) The column? Way with Words. The whole point of it: how wonderful is the English language? If you work for an STW company and want to share your favourite words, get in touch.
1. Best unexpectedly poetic word: Pentium.
There’s poetry inside your computer. No, really. This New Yorker article/podcast takes a fascinating look at the art and science of brand and product names. One example is the Intel Pentium chip, which involved a magical conjunction of chemical suffix (-ium) with the phoneme pent, vaguely reminiscent of such authoritative symbols as the Pentagon and the Pentecost. This kind of linguistic branding, the article suggests, may also account for the success of the ‘Swiffer’; it may also be responsible for the way in which ‘Dasani’ water – well, tanked. Fascinating.
2. Best local word: Ear-bash.
Ear-bash. Ouch. It’s so evocative. Such a visual term for such an abstract concept. I never knew it was a uniquely local idiom until last year, when Barack Obama had some fun with phrase during his visit to Canberra. But it kind of makes sense that the word is an Aussie one. Only in a nation of strong, silent types could something as innocuous as talking be reframed as an act of violence.
3. Best coy word: Fudge!
Fudge makes me laugh. Not the chewy confectionery kind of fudge, but the exclamatory fudge, the emphatic fudge! that functions as a permissible ‘bad word’ when genuine expletives just won’t do. It belongs to a family of similar words-that-don’t-mean-what-they-say, that operate by implication – like darn, dang, heck, fricken, flippin, geez, and the even-fruitier flapdoodle. I love them all, for their Ned-Flanders folksiness, their playful onomatopoeia and coy refusal to (blooming-well!) say it straight.
4. Best jargon word: campaign.
Sure, campaign isn’t exactly jargon – you don’t need to work in marketing to be perfectly fluent in the language of strategy, execution, and target market. But it’s the very overtness of these military terms, the pervasiveness of the metaphor that ‘advertising-is-war,’ that makes me wonder, just idly: are we trying to influence people, or kill them? Apparently we’re all living, today, at the least violent moment, ever, in history. So it’s interesting that in business we still think of ourselves as a tribe at battle. And I wonder how that’s changing exactly what it is we create.
5. Best autocorrected word: Probes.
Over the last few weeks I’ve inadvertently assured quite a few friends of the non-existence of probes. Which is no doubt quite a relief for them. At the same time, all this accidental autocorrecting got me thinking about the weird things that the iPhone dictionary is doing to the way we communicate. You could argue it’s actually creating a new pattern of linguistic kinship, almost a new variety of rhyme, based upon the iPhone’s presumptions about what we ought to be saying. There’s even a name for this, apparently: ‘the Cupertino effect.’
6. Best colourful word: madder.
What child of the eighties didn’t grow up with Derwents? I think my 24-pencil set was meant to coax some kind of artistic talent out of me; in practice, though, I got more inspired by the colour names, printed on each barrel in little silver letters. One was particularly exciting: pink madder lake, which was a sort of dark red shade. But it always seemed that the phrase itself had a mysterious colour to it – something in the claggy ‘d’ sound, the buzzy ‘m’ – that brought to my mind a brilliant pool of lava, sulphurous and burping like something in a cartoon. (The real story, apparently, is that madder is a plant, and the ‘lake’ wasn’t a lake at all, but rather a technical term for what’s poetically known as a ‘fugitive colour.’)
7. Best Done-a-total-360 word: Funky.
In real estate ads, funky is meant to be a selling point. But apparently the word started off as anything but: in the 17th century, it basically, it meant something like ‘pongy cheese.’ Around 100 years ago it took on an approving sense in jazz slang, and then by November 1954 the term was common enough for Time Magazine to refer to ‘funky, authentic, swinging blues.’ And from there, the meaning got metaphorically stretched to include anything sort of cool or desirable. Which makes it nicely ironic that the word is now a favourite of real estate agents: because as anyone fluent in property ads will know, ‘pongy cheese’ is arguably a pretty good summation of funky once again.
8. Best egotistical word: debonaire.
I like words that begin with ‘deb-‘. Debonaire, debut, even, dare I risk saying, debt. That’s not surprising, because all of them are explicitly addressing me. You might have read about the 2002 study which found that individuals named Dennis were statistically more likely to become dentists , thanks to ‘the name-letter effect’: the implicit preference and attraction of an individual to the letters belonging to his or her own name. Interestingly, this has led to some interesting theories that we are attracted to brands most linguistically similar to ourselves. Maybe it’s true, at least to some extent. I Like Deb Instant Mashed Potato on Facebook. But I’ve never yet bought a pack.
9. Best WEB word: LOL.
The funny thing about web words is that many of them come into the world as text rather than speech. And that makes things tricky when you try to figure out how to pronounce them. LOL (aka ‘laugh out loud’) is one of my favourites because the sound, when you voice the acronym, matches the sentiment so well. I love how you say it loll – a word which in its languid ‘L’ sounds and loose, slack-jawed vowel, evokes the careless, sleepy, teenage person who I imagine probably came up with the term in the first place.
10. Best word-about-words word: Etymology.
Etymology: the study of words. I like the word, and I really like the branch of knowledge it refers to. The word is a tricky one, partially because it’s so easily confused with entomology: the study of insects. And it’s a lovely parallel, no? Words are a lot like insects. They flap around, usually quite difficult to catch. They’re born, morph, mate, and often die mysteriously. Occasionally, they unflex their wings and there’s a flash of colour you’ve never seen before. You can play with them here.
Housework. Jogging. Attaining Inbox Zero. Chopping vegetables. The train ride to work.
These are all scenarios in which you should be thrilling to the sounds of a brilliant podcast: the best radio that makes make you laugh and/or cry, be fascinated and/or be more fascinating.
Rather than a Visual Diary this week, we’re listing our favourite audio, and the best ways to find it.
The best podcasts in the world, full stop.
1. WNYC Radiolab.
Radiolab believes your ears are a portal to another world. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience. Big questions are investigated, tinkered with, and encouraged to grow. Bring your curiosity, and we’ll feed it with possibility.
Get started: Words.
That first Desert Island Discs was recorded in the BBC’s bomb-damaged Maida Vale studio on 27th January 1942. It was introduced to the listening public as
…a programme in which a well-known person is asked the question, if you were to be cast away alone on a desert island, which eight gramophone records would you choose to have with you, assuming of course, that you had a gramophone and an inexhaustible supply of needles.
It’s exactly the same now except obviously sans gramophone reference. There are loads of famous writers, musicians, scientists, and eminent people – not just English ones.
Get started: Jarvis Cocker.
3. 99% invisible.
A tiny radio show about design, architecture and the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world.
A must for designers, and a joy for everyone else, this show teaches you to look more closely at the world around you.
Get started: The accidental music of imperfect escalators.
4. Here’s the thing.
In WNYC’s new podcast series, award-winning actor Alec Baldwin gives the listener unique entrée into the lives of artists, policy makers and performers. Alec sidesteps the predictable by taking listeners inside the dressing rooms, apartments, and offices of people he wants to know more about.
Alec Baldwin! His voice! What a dish. You’ll be shocked at how brilliant an interviewer the 30 Rock actor is.
Get started: Ed Rollins, political operative.
PM covers a broad spectrum of issues relevant to all sections of Australia’s geographically and culturally diverse community.
ABC’s PM program goes to air every night after work. It’s hosted by Mark Colvin, a brilliant journalist who’s lately become the boss of Twitter (@colvinius) and exhibits the most astonishingly encyclopaedic recall of all current affairs stories. If you only have time for one news program, this is it.
Get started: ASAP!
6. All in the mind.
From dreaming to depression, addiction to artificial intelligence, consciousness to coma, psychoanalysis to psychopathy, free will to forgetting – All in the Mind explores the human condition through the mind’s eye.
A program about the mind, brain and behaviour presented by inimitable Natasha Mitchell.
Get started: Loneliness.
Bonus! How to find and listen to great audio.
- Audiofiles. Share and discover great radio. Like a #longreads for the best radio, you can subscribe to its RSS or search stories based on type or – even better – mood.
- Stitcher. You’ll never run out of things to listen to on the tram with this app in your pocket. So long as you have your 3G connection or wifi you can access radio, podcasts and live radio all in one app. Save your favourites as a channel to access them easily. It’s free.
- This American Life app. Everyone knows This American Life, the Ira Glass-headed radio show that’s redefined storytelling. But did you know you can stream every show since 1995 using this app? It costs AUD$2.99. When you think of all the creative work, sweat and tears that went into producing these stories, paying so little almost makes you feel guilty. If the guilt overwhelms you, donate here.
Did we miss out any shows you love? Tweet us @STWnextness.
“I’m thinking of doing a Masters.” “It’s not too late to do post-grad Law.” “A Grad Dip in Writing and Editing will change my life.”
All this used to be staple chat for 20-somethings, sick of jobs with Assistant in the title and unsure about the next step in their careers. If you needed a status boost – and who doesn’t in their 20s, with Facebook telling you your friends are doing so well – “doing a Masters” was an arduous, expensive, but guaranteed way to get it. And if, like most people, you found yourself in the wrong industry after graduating the first time round, post-grad study was the best way to change career track.
But not anymore.
Side projects are the new post-grad degrees.
Why go to university to study writing when you could just write your first novel? Why take two years off to study photography when you could put out your own zine as a passion project? You can teach yourself Final Cut Pro while you edit your first movie. Why wait?
Of course, you could always persist in private with practising a new past time. The difference now is that, first, you don’t have to do it alone. You can form a community of peers online. And second, with free blogs, personal websites and portfolio sites you actually can prove – to the world, your Facebook friends, your parents and employers – that you know what you’re doing by publishing your work.
If you want to do something, just do it. You don’t need a degree as a permission slip to be creative.
Serious self-directed learning.
It’s not just the humanities and creative subjects that lend themselves to non-institutional study. If you have the self-discipline, the internet has what you need.
Khan Academy has library of over 2,700 videos covering everything from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history and 276 practice exercises to “help you learn what you want, when you want, at your own pace.”
Of course, there’s still the problem of proof. How do you display this knowledge and self-discipline to potential employers?
One route is through old-school certification. Mozilla, for example, has started the Open Badges project “helping learners everywhere display 21st century skills, unlock career and educational opportunities, and level up in their life and work.”
Another is plain good story storytelling. The resume is dead, and the bio is king. “Embrace the holy-grail of storytelling: tell a story that people can identify with as their own – and the need to persuade, convince, or sell them on anything disappears.”
Say I’m Google, and I need to hire an engineer. My job ad requirement says “BS in Computer Science or equivalent.” I get two applicants. The first has a BS in Computer Science from XYZ State College. The second has certificates of successful completion for open courses in data structures and algorithms, artificial intelligence, and machine learning from Stanford and MITx. Do you think I’ll seriously consider candidate two? You bet I will.
To learn is to live.
Ultimately though the point of learning is not to get a new job or an ego boost.
Everyone has something they want to learn and something they can teach to others. Skillshare is a community marketplace to learn anything from anyone. Their platform “helps make the exchange of knowledge easy, enriching, and fun.”
The title of this post comes from their beautiful new video.
Take a look. What will you commit to learning this year?