A thought leader can refer to an individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded. Thought leadership is often used as a way of increasing or creating demand for a product or service. While thought leadership is not new, in our experience driven economy, where decisions about a brand are based off of who an organization is as much as what it does or sells, it has become an increasingly important vehicle to engage with both internal and external audiences. This notion is particularly true and can have exponential impact, when an organization frames its thought leadership platform around an aspirational purpose; one which aims to give back to the world as much as the bottom-line, and does so in ways that give people a reason to believe and engage.
In the era of experience, everyone, be they employee or customer, is a consumer who must be informed, entertained and delighted throughout every step of the consumer journey. Smart organizations are approaching creating these types of experiences by finding their purpose and then using it as a creative and aspirational theme with which to engage. Consequently, an approach to building + operationalizing purpose-driven thought leadership can be increasingly valuable in achieving desired business outcomes.
By using thought leadership as the touchstone of any brand, with a through line of data-driven storytelling as not just a lever of awareness, but rather a powerful business competency, leading organizations can drive competitive differentiation and increased value with both employees and customers.
With internal audiences, the idea of an aspirational purpose or thought leadership platform, can be married with internal culture to deliver best-in-class storytelling and content experiences to employees with an eye on retaining them and turning them into brand advocates. Similarly, when applying this notion to customers and consumers, a brand’s aspirational platform must be connected to the themes driving external culture to achieve the same type of optimal experience throughout the consumer funnel. Both of these scenarios only happen when thought leadership is built around aspirational purpose and then operationalized by storytelling that is data-driven and harnessed as a powerful business competency. A key to success here is by moving storytelling from the end of the supply chain, to the inception of the invention process.
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Once a brand’s aspirational purpose is identified and built into a thought leadership platform, it can be operationalized through an inside-out approach designed to place a brand’s narrative of aspirational purpose directly into engagement efforts with consumers and employees alike. This can be achieved by:
- Crafting a Living Brand for employees instills a sense of aspiration and purpose at the heart of the culture , and highlights the increasing correlation between brand and culture. The goal is to work to transform employees into brand ambassadors through winning experiences, with the goal of transforming storytelling into an empowering business competency.
- Designing a strategic overlay for day-to-day business strategy which harnesses real-time data, analytics and insights to infuse purpose-driven storytelling into direct-to-consumer/customer efforts will optimize performance. Such thinking works to make any organization as much a content brand as a leader in a given industry and creates sustainable winning experiences.
Such an approach delivers value across an organization and enables it to drive engagement inside and out to deliver desired business outcomes such as:
- Improved employee retention, productivity and engagement
- Increased employee and consumer loyalty
- Enhanced employee and consumer experiences
- Optimized performance inside and out (i.e. productivity to profits)
To build and operationalize purpose-driven thought leadership platforms to achieve these types of results it is important to be able to deconstruct what the optimal experience of each target looks like and then work backward to build your strategy to achieve desired outcomes.
By transforming purpose and storytelling from overused buzzwords into critical tools that can help shape and define business strategy, any brand can operationalize thought leadership to achieve desired outcomes. By building thought leadership that is aspirational, and placing it as a touchstone driving the organization, audiences both inside and out have reasons to believe and engage, and do so in ways that define distinction and competitive advantage.
Note: This article was first published on Billee’s Forbes blog.