A Strategic Approach to Organizational Thought Leadership
My cornerstone service for thought leadership involves these options:
1) A diagnostic of your organization's capacity, systems & alignment for consistent, high-value thought leadership;
2) At least three options for strategic directions to address the gaps I find in the diagnostic, tailored to your organization's goals and capacities.
3) Development and deployment of the strategy, from advising to hands-on implementation.
It’s designed for CEOs, CMOs, chief scientists and other decision makers at research-driven organizations who want to develop and align their staff’s thought leadership into a durable strategic asset.
Your organization is ready for our services if two of the following signs fit your situation:
- You have a thought leadership program in place and you want an objective evaluation of all the reasons it isn’t working better and how it could be improved as quickly as possible.
- Or you aspire to create such a program, and you’re keen to build its foundation correctly the first time.
- You already have at least some sense of the benefits an effective thought leadership program can bring to your organization
- Your competitors are exploiting their thought leadership as a competitive advantage and you want to catch up.
Why isn’t your thought leadership program working better? We use a black-box evaluation of your individual subject matter experts and your thought leadership systems and culture as well as semi-structured interviews with internal and external stakeholders to assess:
- How your thought leader marketing is and isn’t intersecting with organizational strategy and goals;
- Your thought leadership output (present and potential) against your competitors’ activity;
- Your individual current thought leaders — and who on staff should be a thought leader;
- Organizational blockers — cultural, structural, leadership, other — to fostering thought leadership;
- Your staff capacity to support thought leadership development, content and marketing; and
- Your systems and platforms for distributing thought leadership content and achieving strategic goals (e.g., acquiring leads and audiences, influencing decision makers) through that distribution.
We compile our diagnostic findings into a short report that also offers you 3-4 options for developing an optimized thought leadership strategy and system tailored to support your organizational objectives:
- Our firm leads the majority of these options — but we’ll always include one option that your organization can implement without us.
- You can treat the audit as a standalone product — you can take our judgement, implement it yourself, hire someone else to implement it, or hire us.
- At least one of the strategy options may include our implementation assistance, if the diagnostic findings warrant.
The diagnostic usually takes about one month to complete.
Because thought leadership and organizational objectives vary so widely, we don’t use templates for this work. Our strategy plans are custom built for your organization — your objectives, systems, capacity, previous strategic work and target audiences.
Once you’ve chosen one of the strategy and system options offered in the diagnostic, we meet with your communications team, thought leaders, IT, development/sales and other stakeholders to road map how we will develop the plan. Road mapping is a crucial step: It acts as a secondary discovery session for any obstacles the strategic work will face; sets an inclusive dynamic for the project; and opens communication channels that will later be critical to the plan’s success.
Because thought leadership and organizational objectives vary so widely, we don’t use templates for this work. Our strategy plans are custom built for your organization — your objectives, systems, capacity, previous strategic work and target audiences. However, there are common problems these plans solve, including:
- Aligning your research thought leadership activities with your organization’s overall strategy and systems — from strategic initiatives to business systems, overall messaging to key audience touch points.
- Positioning and messaging your program-based research thought leadership within the program’s messaging and strategic objectives — while still retaining the credibility research brings to the content.
- Determining the best audiences for your collective and individual research thought leadership, using persona development, market segmentation and interviews of target audiences.
- How to develop an effective content strategy for your research thought leadership — including topics, genres, formats and vehicles and metrics for content success.
- How to best resource support for your research thought leadership: do you have to hire editorial and outreach talent, or can existing personnel suffice?
- What are the key metrics to determine whether you’ve achieved strategic thought leadership — including to measure how thought leadership is now more tightly integrated within the business strategy of your organization?
- What your thought leadership calendar should look like?
- How you can make thought leadership an internal client instead of a nice-to-do.
- Who is the ideal thought leadership team or steering committee for your organization — who are the necessary stakeholders you’re not thinking of now, from new business development to fundraising to IT to social media management?
Implementation options typically include: tailored thought leadership training to address areas of weakness; an ongoing coaching relationship with your thought leaders; and/or ongoing consulting for your communications support staff as they ramp up to facilitate your thought leadership program.
Location: Face-to-face interviews with stakeholders are critical in the diagnostic phase as well as the strategy development phase. Most of our work, however, will be done remotely.
Duration: One to four days in person for the diagnostic, plus other interviews and systems/metrics assessments. One to two months for strategy development.
Scheduling: A diagnostic can generally be scheduled within 4-12 weeks, depending on time of year.
Deliverables: 10-page diagnostic report; 20-page organizational thought leadership strategic and systems plan with no more than three to five immediate key implementation steps as well as individual annual thought leadership plans for the organization's subject matter experts.
- Diagnostic: $8,000-$16,000, depending on scope
- Strategy & implementation: Price varies depending on option chosen.
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