Once you consider what thought leadership means at your company, you’ll need to develop a strategy. After all good thought leadership is neither haphazard nor a series of one-off campaigns. It’s deliberate and strategic. There are (at least) two ways to think about your strategy.
|Key Questions||Example: Pitney Bowes|
|What is our company good at?||Employee wellness programs|
|What is our unique perspective?||The debate is not about health care; it is about health. Employee wellness programs boost productivity, enhance employee well-being, and save money.|
|What do we want to be known for?||As a progressive company that is contributing proven ideas to address the spiraling cost of health care in America.|
|Key Questions||Example: Shell Oil Company|
|What are the key issues being debated publicly that will affect our company?||At the start of 2010, Shell looked at the key issues up for public debate and honed in on the three that would affect the company most: climate change policy, natural gas, and offshore exploration.|
|How do stakeholders think about our company on these issues?||Shell realized that its stakeholders perceive Shell as only an oil company, hampering the company’s ability to lead discussion about natural gas topics.|
|What do we want stakeholders to think about our company on these issues?||Shell would like to be seen as providing hi-tech, innovative energy solutions.|
Regardless of how you think about your strategy, make sure you and your team ask yourself these three key questions:
1. Which person should be the face of the company on this issue?
Don’t automatically default to the CEO. Think about and/or find the person within your company who is:
- Passionate about the given issue
- Able to give of their time
- A good storyteller
Not sure where to start looking? Invite VPs to join a Speakers Bureau. Scan LinkedIn to see if employees are part of associations.
2. How do we get leaders bought-in and make them feel comfortable with taking a thought leadership role?
People are naturally afraid of speaking in public; however, speaking at events and responding to difficult questions is often a critical element of any thought leadership program. Communications can help train leaders in public speaking and storytelling to boost their confidence. At Shell Oil Company, formerly hesitant leaders now relish the chance to meet with fellow thought leaders and exchange ideas. Some heads of the business are even requiring that their business unit heads take on thought leadership roles as a development requirement.
3. Where do our key stakeholders get their information?
Spend some time figuring out where your stakeholders get their information. Don’t assume that an article in the Times is the best way to earn attention. CEC members, visit our web site to learn how Monsanto monitors social media from the stakeholders’ perspective to understand how the different sources consumed by stakeholders influence their opinion formation.
This is the second in a 3-part series. Last week we asked, “What is thought leadership?” Next up, we’ll conclude by asking ourselves, “What is Communications role in thought leadership?” Hint: Get tight with your executive team.