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Cultivating thought leaders

February 19, 2014

Just ran across an interview that really resonated with me. First, in the interest of full disclosure, because I worked with both Laura Mackey (the interviewee) and Michael Procopio (one of the interviewers) in my previous role as an influencer outreach manager. Second, because in my new role as communications manager for an IT services company, thought leadership (and how to create thought leaders) is an important strategic topic for me. Laura talks about several elements of her programs, including measurement, listening tools, and both online and offline tactics. A few things stood out for me:

  • Qualities of a thought leader: They’re reputable, influential, and recognized as an expert. I absolutely agree with Laura that not everyone is cut out to be a thought leader. Or maybe it’s more that I would rather expend my organization’s efforts on cultivating an existing potential rather than forcing the role on someone who demonstrates neither natural affinity nor interest.
  • Engagement as an element of influence: Having a ton of followers isn’t the only thing that dictates influence for Laura’s team. How the person uses that influence and engages with their audience is also important. So a person with 40,000 followers who only broadcasts their content may not be as interesting as someone with 10,000 followers who routinely has genuine conversations with their audience.
  • Writing as part of the exercise: Laura asks her thought leaders to personally write down what they want to talk about. She sees that as an important part of the exercise. This act of putting their thoughts into their own words helps build and flex their expertise. AND, if he’s written it, he’s much more likely to remember it. I think that’s an interesting approach. But, as with anything in your marketing toolkit, one size doesn’t fit all.

As always, I appreciate the focus on authenticity. Nothing bugs me more as a marketer or consumer than “ghost” personalities.

Watch the whole interview here:

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