8 quick tips to make your leaders stand out from the crowd

Thought leadership is like golf— a lot of people do it and few are any good.

Tom Corfman knows an original thought when he sees one. He’s a senior consultant with RCG where he leads the Build Better Writers program, which includes executive communication.

Those two maddening communications buzzwords—thought leadership—are like golf.

A lot of people do it and few are any good.

Yet high-quality thought leadership can boost sales for business-to-business companies, according to a recent survey of 3,500 management types by public relations mega-giant Edelman and social media platform LinkedIn.

“Thought leadership that spurs business leaders to rethink their challenges is a powerful tool for stimulating demand for your business’s products and services,” they say.

How? Only by reaching this high standard: “In its purest form, thought leadership consists of genuine insight that cuts through the clutter and has a tangible, lasting impact on its audience,” consulting firm FT Longitude says.

That seldom happens. Scrolling through LinkedIn for the hashtag #thoughtleadership is an unrewarding exercise, filled with posts by people droning on and on, and consultants making canned offers to help.

We have eight quick tips to make your leaders stand out from the crowd. Thought leadership can take many forms. Smart concise social media posts can do the trick.  Videos can be very persuasive.

While our tips apply to each of those formats, we’ll focus on longer pieces, pulling three recent examples from national newspapers, where the art form is at its highest level.

1. Be active. “It’s hard to be a thought leader if your thoughts are restricted to once a month, or every once in a while,” says Jim Ylisela, Ragan Consulting Group’s co-founder and senior partner, “5 ways to boost thought leadership.”

2.  Don’t spin. This is about the audience, not you. What you say must be reliable and free from hype.

3. Bring fresh insight. “You can type in thought leadership in Google and get a dozen different articles that say the same thing,” ForbesBooks expert Kyle Wycoff, wrote last year.

4. Take a stand. Have a point of view. Make a call for action.

5. Make it personal. Share something about yourself that relates to the topic.

6. Bring emotion. Convey passion for the topic. Or wonder. Or even anger.

7. Write well. Grab your audience’s attention and hold it. Make complicated subjects easy to understand.

8. Be timely. “By framing your thoughts around current events and trends, you’re able to engage a much bigger audience,” Entrepreneur magazine recommends.

A good thought leadership piece doesn’t need to follow all these tips, but it should feature most of them. Here’s three examples:

Spot a Problem

Patent Lawsuits Are a National-Security Threat
Third parties can secretly fund litigation, take a cut of the proceeds, and hamstring key companies like Intel.
Wall Street Journal
By Joseph Matal
March 20, 2024

Third parties are increasingly funding patent litigation in the U.S. in exchange for some of the proceeds. This practice was nearly nonexistent as recently as 2010 but now appears to account for about 30% of the country’s infringement lawsuits. The government doesn’t know who pays for or controls these suits. That could allow foreign adversaries to profit from our legal system and threaten U.S. national security.

Why it works
In his opening, Matal identifies with a single statistic a trend that sounds troubling, then makes clear why we should care with the looming presence of “foreign adversaries.”

He closes with a call to action: “It’s past time for the U.S. to require disclosure of third-party litigation funding.”

Matal, “a patent lawyer, served as acting director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, 2017-18,” according to the story. In the terse way of the Journal’s brief bios, something is left out. He also has an intellectual property law advisory firm.

Simplify the Complicated

Warren Buffett Minds the GAAP
A 2018 rule change makes Berkshire’s earnings figures ‘worse than useless.’
Wall Street Journal
By Donald E. Graham
March 13, 2024

There was so much news in Warren Buffett’s annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders that his lead item got far too little attention: The accounting industry’s method for corporate accounting makes no sense.

Why it works
Graham is riding on the news of Buffett’s letter. His lede combines a well-known name with a simple but provocative claim.

Graham’s piece is written for sophisticated business readers, but he does a nice job of explaining a complicated topic.

He has a personal connection. He’s a shareholder in Buffett’s company and has a joke relevant to the topic that the billionaire investor told him on the golf course. Buffett’s usually good for a laugh.

He closes with a wry challenge to regulators: “If you believe today’s accounting rules present a clearer picture of Berkshire’s results, put it to a test. Ask Berkshire’s shareholders.”

Graham is described simply as the “chairman emeritus of Graham Holdings Co.” But savvy readers might recognize him as the former CEO of The Washington Post until he sold it to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

Tell your Story

Scams are on the rise, and they’re ruining lives. We can stop it.
The Washington Post
By William Webster and Lynda Webster
March 25, 2024

Ten years ago, we became targets of a scam involving a Jamaican crime ring that tried to defraud us of $50,000 over the phone. It was a harrowing experience, but it drove home a sobering reality — if it could happen to a former director of the FBI and CIA, it could happen to anyone.

Since that 2014 episode, we have given numerous public interviews about the need for scam awareness, especially to protect older Americans like us. But we have watched with alarm as scam attacks have nevertheless continued to grow in sophistication and consumer losses have skyrocketed.

Why it works
Talk about making it personal!

The second paragraph explains why they are writing now: The problem is soaring, despite their efforts to highlight it.

The Websters (she’s the founder and chair of an event management firm), build a convincing case with statistics that scams are growing. Then they present four steps to reduce fraud, offering the British government as an example.

The Edelman-LinkedIn report concludes: “Despite the clear power of thought leadership to drive business results, most organizations say it is under-resourced, misused, and not measured appropriately.”

Other than that it’s fine! These tips should help leaders improve their game.

Follow RCG on LinkedIn .


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