Sometimes you have to get meta. Undertaking research on thought leadership, with thought leaders, to have an end product which is in and of itself thought leadership is pretty fun conceptual gymnastics. That’s what we did at H+K in partnership with the Economist Group.
I have two favourite findings – one around the intent of thought leadership and the other is an assessment framework on the critical elements of thought leadership.
Intent: Thought leadership should be about mind share, not market share. I love the idea of parsing story ideas against this intent. If it feels too salesy, it probably is salesy.
Elements of Thought Leadership: The C.R.I.T.I.C.A.L. 8 Scorecard.
For each of the following 8 areas, there are a series of questions that should be asked for each element of thought leadership.

  1. Credible: Do you have data? Is this an expert opinion? Does your company have licence to speak in this area?
  2. Relevant: Is this at the core of a major issue? Is it connected to the company’s values, operations, strategy, or stakeholder community?
  3. Innovative: Is this an original thought or idea? Is there new knowledge to be shared?
  4. Transformative: Can this ignite change? Is conventional thinking being challenged?
  5. Impactful: Can this change perceptions of the company? Can we measure this impact through KPIs?
  6. Compelling: Is this relevant? Does it provide value to the intended audience? How persuasive is this idea?
  7. Accessible: Can the intended audience consume this? Can this work in multiple formats? Can visual literacy play a role?
  8. Lasting: Does the concept have legs? Is there long-term conversation potential?

Not all thought leadership will have a strong role in all 8 areas. However a piece that can meet objectives in all of the CRITICAL 8 areas is destined to perform well.
When H+K undertook this research initiative with the Economist Group on thought leadership, we weren’t sure where our 1600 global interviews would lead us.
I like these two areas as a starting point:

  1. Make sure your thought leadership is about mind share. It can’t just be about sales.
  2. Ask the CRITICAL 8 questions about all of your thought leadership ideas. It’s a great place to start.

We are in a new age of content. Thought leadership needs to return to its intent. These questions can help make sure you’re on the right track.