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Building effective thought leadership in the age of engagement

|November 21, 2018
Written by

Melissa Cable-Cibula

Executive thought leadership has been a cornerstone of successful corporate reputation building for years. An overwhelming majority of business leaders acknowledge the ROI of thought leadership and its ability to strengthen corporate and individual reputation, increase profile and build trust with stakeholders.

While the fundamentals of thought leadership have remained the same over time, the strategy has evolved, as have views on how it can best be executed for lasting impact. Successful thought leadership used to be rooted in communicating an expert opinion—routed in a personal POV—and delivering it to key audiences, often through one-way communications channels.

Today, increasingly effective thought leadership focuses on an individual who has a bold vision—someone advocating for change or communicating a compelling call to action, and someone who can and will engage others along the way to help drive that change.

Driving the conversation

An example of this type of thought leadership best practice is Deloitte Canada’s executive team who issued a steady cadence of research papers—and subsequent stakeholder engagement around each—over the last two years under the umbrella initiative “Canada 175”. The research, thought leadership, and engagement around each of the four major papers were focused on sparking vital discussion among Canada’s governments, businesses, and citizens about Canada’s future.

Engagement matters

Along with the evolution of the strategy behind thought leadership came the evolution of how success is measured. Measurement has shifted to reflect not only the recognition a leader or executive is receiving, but the engagement and conversations that result. Successful execution is increasingly measured based on the quality of conversation it creates, and the ability of the individual or idea to get people to think differently about an issue or opportunity. Moving stakeholders along the engagement spectrum and creating ambassadors or champions of an idea or vision along the way has also become integral.

Appealing to internal audiences

Another significant thought leadership shift has been the inclusion of internal audiences when thinking about how best to execute and leverage. The view that it is something built for external audiences only no longer stands, as leaders are realizing the power of thought leadership to attract and retain top talent by offering an engaging vision for what’s possible and how to get there.

Ultimately, a strong thought leadership platform and execution requires a POV that changes attitudes, spurs discussion, and engages others in a meaningful way. By working with our clients to do just that, our corporate communications experts help them define and reinforce a personal brand that elevates organizational profiles and strengthens reputation with priority audiences, ultimately moving them closer to achieving their business goals.

——— Written by Melissa Cable-Cibula, former Vice-President, Corporate Communications, NATIONAL Public Relations