Thought Leadership…or Thought Dealership? #1

Many organisations today... Stop. Go back. Most organisations today, are engaged in thought dealership. They believ...

July 17, 2003

Many organisations today… Stop. Go back. Most organisations today, are engaged in thought dealership.

They believe they are engaged in thought leadership.

They believe they are building their reputation.

They believe, deep down, they are building sales.

Why else would they do it?

Why indeed?

Perhaps because thought leadership is really about being human. About saying what ‘you’ really think and feel, and engaging. About building respectful relationships. Thought leadership, wierdly, is a lot about listening.

But most organisations cannot engage in thought leadership, because they cannot engage at all. They have not, and cannot ‘incorporate’ themselves, in the sense in which Chris Locke (author of Gonzo Marketing among other things) means it.

Lacking the determination to actually engage with their publics, they indulge instead in thought dealership. Reports, surveys and abstruse sponsorships are created to compete in a superficial and self-perpetuating ideas marketplace, entirely opportunistically, often at arms length from the brand and entirely disengaged form the real interests of stakeholders.

A lovely parallel for this disconnection exists in the field of social responsibility.

No less an authority than Philip Kotler (Strategic Marketing for Non-profit organisations) has said:

Social Marketing seeks to influence social behaviours, not to benefit the marketer – but to benefit the target audience and general society.”

Meanwhile, Cause-Related Marketing is described as “any effort by a corporation to increase its own sales by contributing to the objectives of one or more non-profit organisations.”

Social marketing is Thought Leadership

Cause-related marketing is Thought Dealership

My only caveat to Kotler’s definition is that social marketing enormously benefits the marketer, but the time horizon is entirely different. This is a 2, 20, 200 years exercise. Thought leadership is not about sustainability. Thought leadership is sustainability. Brand sustainability.

A few human principles apply:

1. Thought leadership is, surprisingly-enough, thought-led, not sales-led

2. Thought leadership means using your own thoughts, not copying from your neighbour

3. Thought leadership is respectful, not patronising or arrogant

4. Thoughts, words and deeds are inextricable linked. Leadership that stays as thought is a waste of an organisation’s time – and the time of its stakeholders.

5. Thought leadership is about building bridges, not towers

Some signs that your thought leadership strategy is going awry:

1. You need to advertise it

2. The PR department is in charge of it

3. It is treated as a publishing exercise, not an engagement exercise

4. Your thinking is feeding from your brand, not creating it

5. Thought leadership is separated from social responsibility

6. Thought leadership is separated from knowledge celebration (a.k.a knowledge management)

and the big one – no 7. “Your CEO cannot explain why he is engaged in thought leadership.”

MUCH more to follow…

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