Thought Leadership

A 10-Step Starter Kit for Kick-Starting a Start-Up Company

If you’re launching a new company, you’ll want to create a thought-leadership strategy to cement your reputation. Follow these 10 steps (and see our companion visual guide) to develop a plan that will guide you as you kick-start your start-up:

  1. Define Goals and Metrics
  2. Create Strategic Communications Plan
  3. Clean Up/Archive Content on Company’s Current Websites
  4. Review Existing Brand Materials for Consistency of Style and Voice
  5. Create a Reservoir of Provocative Blog Posts
  6. Finalize Website Content
  7. Design Launch Events
  8. Design Thought Leadership Plan for Post Launch
  9. Build/Document Internal Communications Processes
  10. Develop External Communications/Media/Branding Guidelines

Do you need help implementing any of these steps? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

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Wet Babies and Leading the Charge through Change

baby change meOne of my favorite quotations from Mark Twain is “The only one who likes change is a wet baby.”

As a thought leader, you are defining the change you want to see: in your employees, in your company, in your industry…or perhaps even in the world. Making change happen requires determination and rhetorical skill to persuade stakeholders to adopt your viewpoint. You’ll want to apply as many levers of change as you can muster to put those changes into effect and make them “stick.”

A 2012 piece by Morten Hansen, author of the book Collaboration, in Harvard Business Review online offers 10 approaches to get people to accept change. He categorizes these approaches in four buckets:

  1. Sharpen the destination
  2. Activate social processes
  3. Tweak the situation
  4. Revamp traditional HR levers

Are you pulling all of the levers and using all of the approaches you can to introduce change? Are you hesitating to do what needs to be done because some are ”crying out” in protest? Are they perhaps crying because they know they need changing? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

Photo credit: texturl on Flickr


What’s Happening? Creating your Company’s Future

view from the top illustration

To continue the theme over the last few blog entries (read related posts here and here), following are some additional thoughts about the field of competitive intelligence and thought leadership.

In business, thought leadership is about being ahead – well ahead – of your competitors. To be successful as a thought leader, you need to spot trends, pick up even weak signals in the marketplace and anticipate reactions to industry changes.

Thought leaders don’t just look at the past and present they shape the future. They don’t just react after something happens or act on something happening now – they create what’s happening.

Are you just reacting and acting or are you actually creating the future for your company and your industry? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

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What’s Your CIQ (Competitive Intelligence Quotient)?

competitor intelligence Apple Vendor by Stevenson 1934

You may understand why buyers buy, but do you have insight on why sellers sell?
Illustration: Apple Vendor by Barbara Stevenson, 1934; via Smithsonian Museum of American Art

Past columns on this Thought Leader Zone website have looked at the difference in meaning between competitive intelligence,  competitive information and market research (see here and  here). On the main site for the official Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals (, you can also find a series of humorous articles that look at the ”lighter side of CI.” (Find the links at the end of this post).

As a quick reminder, competitive information includes published or well-known facts; while competitive intelligence includes information, facts, trends, opinions or analysis that nobody else has. That’s what makes it so valuable and properly utilized, competitive intelligence can give your business a real competitive edge.

Whereas market research helps you better understand why buyers are buying, competitive intelligence and information can give you insights into why sellers are selling.

Do you as a thought leader know why buyers are buying and why sellers are selling in your industry? Do you have a clear view of your marketing landscape? What’s your CIQ? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

SCIP Articles: some articles require a site sign-in to view.

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What Competitors are Doing Now vs. Doing Next

cat and dog competitors

Can you predict what your competitors will do next?

In an earlier post I pointed out the differences between competitor and competitive intelligence and information and other combinations of those terms. At the risk of being repetitive, I’ll remind you about some distinctions.

Competitive information is the information that is published or in the public domain that focuses on a specific market or product, whereas competitive intelligence is what you know but others don’t. Similarly competitor information is published or in the public domain and competitor intelligence is unpublished but both deal with the actual competitor.

With those terms in mind, let’s apply them more closely to thought leadership; but to simplify, I’ll use the word “competitive” to include “competitor,” too.

Thought leadership means that you’re not only thinking about what your competitors are doing now, but also what they’re doing next.”

Competitive information is being aware of what has already happened; and in today’s age  of instant communication, what “just happened” could have occurred only seconds earlier.

Competitive intelligence is what’s happening now – the analysis you’re making of what only you know. It’s how you’re putting together those unique puzzle pieces about your competitor.

Thought leadership means that you’re not only thinking about what your competitors are doing now, but also what they’re doing next.

Do you know with any level of certainty what your competitors are doing now? What they’re doing next? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

Photo credit: Asaf antman on Flickr

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Sound Check for Thought Leaders

quite normal loud microphoneSound check! When you take the stage, you want to make sure the microphone is on and emanating the perfect level of sound for the audience and venue.

Do you as a thought leader have the perfect level of sound for the situation you’re in? In general, you as a thought leader should have three sound levels: quiet, normal and loud. Let me explain.

Thought leaders need time built into their schedules for contemplation, a time when they can think deeply and listen to what the silence reveals. They need to be still and quiet, not talking at all.

At other times, thought leaders need to join into discussions at a normal pitch, as if they’re just like all other members of the team. They’re equal contributors so they need to modulate their voice levels.

The third level of sound for thought leaders is loud, but not necessarily in volume. They don’t need to shout to be the voice of reason in heated exchanges or debates. They just need to be loud as in commanding and authoritative, perhaps even lowering the pitch of their voices to their deeper ranges to get attention.

Do you have ”perfect pitch” when you communicate as a thought leader? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

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Three Steps to Becoming an e-Commerce Thought Leader

3 steps to lead in e-commerceBecoming a thought leader in the B2B, B2C or C2C arenas will require focus on improving the overall e-commerce experience in three ways. You must, step-by-step, strive to become:

  1. The best people to shop with
  2. The best people to do business with
  3. The best people to work for

To be successful at the first two steps, you must make sure that your employees truly believe that you have achieved the third step. Companies have permeable walls through which such internal messages seep to the outside world. Any mismatch between your internal and external reputation as an e-commerce thought leader will destroy credibility.

Countless articles on this website address the fact that ”thought leadership begins at home.” If your own team members don’t believe that you and your company are

Your employees are also ”message multipliers” who take your viewpoints into the world.
thought leaders who excel in a given field, then you certainly won’t be able to convince external stakeholders you are.

Your employees are also ”message multipliers” who take your viewpoints into the world…the virtual or the real world. But you’ll need to remember to simplify the messages so that your staff can amplify the e-commerce messages you want to deliver.

Does your e-commerce thought-leadership approach need a refresh? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

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Resistance and Renaissance: A Metaphor for Managing Change

Renaissance Resistance West Zurich

Renaissance or resistance? Diverging views on change may stall or stop important initiatives. Photo:

In the trendy western part of Zurich is the Renaissance building, a tall hotel-apartment complex that has continued since its conception to draw the ire of some vocal Swiss opponents who object to the placement, size and scale of the ”skyscraper” with 15 stories. Local residents have staged a form of permanent protest by attaching a sign to an older, more traditional building in the neighborhood. That sign, in the same font and style as the Renaissance one nearby, declares the owners’ point of view: Resistance.

The juxtaposition of the two buildings presents a metaphor for cultural change in the world of business. How often do you, as a leader, try to regenerate your company and meet with reluctance to change? Are you looking to promote a rebirth or renewal of your firm for the future only to find that some employees are still holding tight to the past?

How can you effectively achieve that Renaissance and mitigate any Resistance you might be facing? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

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Three Ways to Electrify Your Organization

Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Air 1816 Painting Benjamin West Philadelphia Museum of Art

Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Sky 1816 – Benjamin West (Public domain) via Wikimedia Commons

As a thought leader, you may find it more difficult to build your reputation internally than externally. Think, for example, about the saying that ”Genius is never recognized on its own soil.” Your communications team can and should help you build your professional brand internally while they work on developing your reputation in the industry.

My husband trained as an engineer and uses a great metaphor about electricity when he coaches team leaders. Applied to communications, these message-multiplier teams can help to electrify your organization in three ways. At the least, communications teams are transistors or transformers. At their best, they are transducers of the energy inside their organization.

Transistor teams simply send out messages like radio signals, rather than acting like radar, which also listens for responses. This is the least effective of the three ways to communicate internally.

A transformer communications team takes the same energy inside the organization and

At the least, communications teams are transistors or transformers. At their best, they are transducers of the energy inside their organization.
boosts it up or steps it down as appropriate to the situation. When false rumors are floating around inside an organization, for instance, a transformer team might communicate hard facts to take the energy out of the watercooler discussions. Or when a new sales campaign is launched, the transformer team might energize their employees with an electrifying communications campaign.

The third, most effective way to electrify your organization is by establishing a transducer communications team that will create a different form of energy within your company. Transducers will convert the strategic energy that exists at the top of the organization and the operational energy and dedication of the employees into a new energy source to drive the company.

Do you have transistor, transformer or transducer communications teams to help electrify your organization? Ask, assess then act. We’re here to help!

See related post: Sending the right and wrong signals

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Creating Crowd-ed Sidewalks

As a college student decades ago, I learned an important lesson about crowd-sourcing ideas that still applies to the world of business today.

Construction was ongoing at the time throughout the campus of my small university in the U.S. Midwest, Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Missouri. Joplin is today best known for the unfortunate reason of being the place where the deadliest tornado in America struck on May 22 two years ago.

maps shows sidewalks following students natural paths

Well before concrete sidewalks were installed, students found and developed the natural path between buildings.
(View full map)

The part of the university campus I’m referring to here was not badly damaged in the tornado, so this map shows approximately where two buildings (numbers 14 and 17) were built in the 1970s and how the sidewalk connects them.

What happened when the buildings and sidewalk were built shows an early understanding of the value of crowd-sourcing an idea and channeling the wisdom of the masses.

Both of the buildings were built on a horseshoe-shaped commons area on campus. Rather than pouring concrete sidewalks between the facilities, the university let the students first make a footpath across the commons.

The students naturally found the shortest way to get from one place to another and over time wore a muddy path between the buildings. Then the university paved the sidewalk on top of the route that the students were already using. The unofficial shortcut then became the established direction for foot traffic.

Getting input from the end users of your ideas — by crowd-sourcing or cloud-sourcing the concepts — is an effective way to develop ”sticky” ideas before they are set in hard concrete.

Are you using the wisdom of crowds and clouds and stakeholders to find the best, most effective path forward? Ask, assess, then ask. We’re here to help!

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