Thought leadership – the forgotten multiplier

In the pantheon of “touch point” activities for professionals, there is one very valuable activity that goes relatively underused. It shouldn’t.

Thought Leadership (TL) – i.e. spokespersoning in various ways on relevant topical client/professional issues – can come a distant second to the small collection of relationship marketing activities that tend to pre-occupy many professionals. You know – hospitality, networking, lunches….hospitality, networking, lunches…..perhaps with the odd seminar thrown in.

This is a shame. Because the rewards of a good TL campaign can be considerable, enabling time-pressed fee earners to connect regularly and authoritatively with a wider universe of existing and potential contacts and stakeholders; positioning and differentiating themselves and the firm effectively in an increasingly competitive market place. That’s why I call it the neglected multiplier. So why isn’t it more popular? Here are three of the biggest blocks to it happening and some simple solutions that firms can provide.

Block one is that, perceptually, being up-to-date with/providing added value commentary on client, industry or professional issues, and then driving it to the right media requires too much effort for many, with an excess of delayed gratification when compared with our other ‘touch point’ favourites. And it looks like a lot of time to invest not earning fees, doesn’t it? Nevertheless, those at all levels who make the effort can reap the rewards (i.e. you do not need to be a senior-level guru, just well-informed).

This is where good marketing and business development leaders earn their spurs. By getting and keeping TL on the firm’s marketing agenda and by influencing successfully for the building of the right recognition and reward to make this time investment more ‘persuasive’ for their professionals.

Then there is the strange paradox that a lot of highly intelligent, well-educated people called lawyers, accountants, attorneys, engineers or consultants should lack the confidence in a published opinion that is their own. But, in many cases, it’s true. Some of it is to do with how they are trained – to be 120% accurate and right…or else. For them, stepping a millimetre outside of what is established fact by offering “mere opinion” or speculation is not just untoward…it could be downright dangerous. In addition, the mechanics of presenting that opinion persuasively and how it is best broadcast most often lies outside their area of expertise: more barriers to action.

The onus here is on confident, knowledgeable and enthusiastic assistance/advice from the firm’s marketing, business development and PR experts, who are assigned to and work directly with individuals in their sector or practice groups to drive TL. Getting their hands dirty on the front line, so to speak. This does not always happen (well).

Finally, a key part of the work done by the on-the-ground experts described above is to apply a creative wand to the considerable knowledge and experience of their professionals, to help spot the opportunities that they can miss, and translate these into compelling, publishable ideas that they can develop and sell in. We have observed excellent practitioners in this area bring together groups or teams of professionals, facilitating expertly so that they spark off each other to generate topics, themes and ideas that might never have emerged otherwise. Facilitation – if they don’t have it, perhaps a competency and skill to be fostered in your marketing and BD teams?