“Thought Leadership.” What do you think of when you hear this term? If you’d asked me this a few years ago, I would have envisioned CEOs on stage at a big conference, or maybe a nice profile piece in a trade or business publication. But over the past year or two I’ve been rethinking how we define a “thought leader,” in part thanks to the work that Mitchell Levy is doing over at his Thought Leader Life blog and podcast.
So when I heard Mitchell’s voice (which I recognized because I’m a regular listener of the FIR Podcast Network) at the AMPlify conference before he got up to speak, I knew I had to connect with him. That connection turned into me co-hosting Thought Leader Life for the month of June (which stretched well into July if you’re really going to get technical).
Mitchell has argued for a long time now that everyone inside your organization can and should be a thought leader. I’ve come around to something very close to that same conclusion, and was able to put our arguments to the test through chats with four well-known thought leaders (in anyone’s book).
I was able to get some great insights on the topic from Mitchell and our four guests: Scott Monty, Paul Gillin, Emily Reichert and Ann Handley. The conversations involved mostly — but not entirely — B2B brands, and focused specifically on how to develop individual #ThoughtLeadership brands alongside the corporate brand. The primary question I wanted to answer was how organizations can strike a balance between individual and corporate brands.
In this first video, Mitchell and I set the stage for our interview series.
In this second video, you can hear our interview with Scott Monty, who argues that organizations are missing a huge opportunity by not taking advantage of the employee’s natural proclivity to be social. Companies that fail to appreciate the value of personal brands are more likely to disappear, he argues. All three of us agree that that CMOs face greater technological responsibilities than any other C-Level executive. Scott also made an interesting observation on our claim that all employees should be thought leaders: he differentiates “thought leaders” from “thought doers” and wonders aloud who will be responsible for carrying out the vision communicated by these leaders.
The third video is our interview with Paul Gillin, and we discuss why organizations need to take advantage of their employees and advocates and support their individual brands in order to advance the business. Paul argues that one of the most seemingly obvious but oft overlooked people to spread the message are employees — especially digital natives. Then the topic of money comes up. Paul explains that monetizing in the traditional sense has become very difficult, especially with interactions between the thought leader and the audience becoming more direct — see the disintermediation happening in the music industry for a prime example.
The fourth video — my personal favorite — is our interview with Greentown Labs CEO Emily Reichert, in which we delve into the tradeoffs in balancing your personal and corporate brands in depth. Emily argues that CEOs should always be thinking about how to use their personal brands to help build the corporate brand. They are two separate identities, but they must work together to grow together. Greentown Labs provides opportunities for member companies to become thought leaders in their own space. Emily also explains why she appreciates companies that actually outshine Greentown Labs in terms of marketing, because that means that Greentown has been successful in getting its member companies’ brands out.
The final video captures our conversation with renowned author and marketing content expert Ann Handley of MarketingProfs. Ann, a big fan of employee advocacy, encourages all 40 employees at MarketingProfs to build their own brand, and even provides training and content they can personally share to their own audience. In the interview, she elaborates on her recent article about establishing your “voice,” whether corporate or personal: to find your voice, think about three adjectives that best describe who you are. Her best advice for corporate CEOs is to sit down and discuss your voice and how to amplify it through your employees using social. We also chat about fear — why some corporations are fearful of letting their employees talk on social. Mitchell notes that it’s ironic how you trust employees to do work for you, and then not trust them to talk about what they do.
All in all these are five great conversations that add a lot of insight into how to succeed with both your personal brands and your corporate brands. I hope you enjoy them as much as we enjoyed putting them together for you.