When speaking to the LMA Chapter in Toronto this spring, I met a very articulate, leadership-savvy PR guru named Peter Schram. He is President of Communications Unlimited, a PR consultancy focues primarily on professional service firms. He also writes a terrific blog on PR and Marketing called The Communicator. This week's entry is terrific, focusing on helping thought leaders think:
"Here are a few best practices for the design and structure of a strong thought leadership program:
- Be selective: Creating thought leadership is difficult business. It takes dedication, creative thought and long-term commitment. Unfortunately, in many organizations, ‘thought leaders’ are often nominated – not on their ability to think big thoughts – but rather based on the individual’s availability, profile and need for greater ‘learning experiences’. Consequently, professional communicators should treat their prospective thought leaders as job applicants, matching individual skills against a list of job requirements and writing samples in order to identify the best candidates.
- Formalize creativity: Once you’ve identified your best thought leaders, set a formal schedule for the team that puts the emphasis on collaboration and creativity, but also creates some rigour around deliverables, milestones and expectations. Sadly, thought leadership is often low on the priority list, so make sure that these deadlines and meetings are being kept, and that they are as effective as possible.
- Grow thought leaders: Very few professional communicators are lucky enough to get a fully-formed thought leader right out of the box. Indeed, it usually takes training, reinforcement and plenty of hand-holding to turn a fledgling ‘ideas guy’ into a full-grown thought leader. Professional communicators should always keep an eye open for raw talent within their organization, and work to find projects that can help those candidates grow and acclimatize to the process.
- Prime the pump: Ideas are usually generated incrementally. This means that the more ‘inspiration’ that a thought leader is exposed to, the more valuable and insightful their ‘Big Ideas’ will be. Professional communicators will find that by circulating related articles, news stories and competitor pieces, the quality of the insight found within their thought leadership will increase exponentially. "
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