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Who Ya Gonna Call? Ghost Writer!

hire a ghost writerIf the only thing holding you back from being a more active thought leader is time to write, Thought Leader Zone can offer you an effective solution.

Maybe you need a ghost writer …or a ghost blogger or a ghost tweeter. Managing your online presence can be challenging while you’re also trying to maintain high visibility as a spokesperson or a speechmaker or author of technical-, trade- or business-related articles.

During peak times, you may need a writing service to keep up the momentum necessary to maintain your virtual and your real presence as a thought leader. Ghost writers can support you with extra pairs of hands and ghost thinkers can help you clarify thought and meaning.

Do you need to multiply the output and the impact of your thought leadership strategy?Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

Photo: Carney Lentz

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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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Five Steps for Rolling out Employee Survey Results

graph comparing actual versus normal

How will you translate aggregated employee survey results into authentic, meaningful communications?

Your employee survey results have just landed on your desk. Remain calm.

Here are five steps to follow when you as a leader communicate the results internally, and even externally:

  1. Categorize the results into a four-square grid with ”urgent” on the x axis and ”important” on the y axis.
  2. Work with your communications team to develop a message architecture that provides clear context, consistent messages and careful action plans for rolling out the results.
  3. In these communications, ask for leaders and employees in different levels or roles inside the organization to volunteer to guide the change program based on the survey results.
  4. Set up a ”rapid roundtable” work session with those volunteers to determine the specific issues underlying the worst scores in the urgent/important grid, to identify the impact of those prioritized issues and to offer ideas for amelioration.
  5. Ask the volunteer work group to identify interesting, noteworthy results that might attract media attention, if appropriate, and then task the communications team to create an external communications plan.

Internal and external audiences alike demand ”authentic” communication pieces that celebrate the successes revealed by the data but still recognize the shortcomings your company needs to improve.

Do you need help rolling out the results of your latest employee survey? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

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What’s in a Name?

alphorn playersOn Swiss National Day, 1 August, villages put on events with food and drink, music and dancing. Affoltern, our village near Zurich, sponsored a small festival with Alphorns and a local steel drum band. One of their songs, they announced in English and then explained in thick Swiss German, was called ”No Name Song.”

So what’s in a name? More than you might expect, according to Nobel Prize winning economist Daniel Kahneman in his highly respected book, Thinking Fast and Slow. Swiss researchers found that companies with easy to pronounce names, like Emmi or Swissfirst, fare better in the stock market than those with names like Ypsomed.

Another publication, this time a recent Financial Times article by business humorist Lucy Kellaway, pokes fun at the nomenclature of an organization’s top leaders.

For an example, she points out that the Bank of England no longer has only a governor and deputy governors, but it now has appointed a chief operating officer. She goes on to decry the hyperinflation and ”creativity” of titles like chief agility officer or chief visionary officer and calls it a fad.

But what isn’t a fad is the fact that the head of an organization, whether called a CEO or President or Managing Director or head honcho, must exhibit leadership characteristics, have a high emotional intelligence and demonstrate mastery of the skills that fall under the umbrella of social capital.

Those core capabilities are often misleadingly labeled as soft skills, but the hard fact is that they are critical to a leader’s success. Despite the sound of their name, they are basic competencies associated with the term ”felt leadership.”

Would you name your thought leadership style ”felt leadership”? 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 (www.scip.org), 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.

SCIP Article #1

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SCIP article #3

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SCIP article #8

SCIP article #9

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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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Does the ROI of Internal Communications in Business Differ from Academia?

statistic high cost of communication barriers in organizations

As a business leader, how do you measure the impact of your internal communications? Does it differ from the way an educational leader measures the impact of internal communications in schools? I was asked to address this question in a presentation to a progressive international school in Germany earlier this year, so I’d appreciate your insights on the comparisons.

On the business side, a group called People Driven Performance conducted research on the costs of poor internal communications in 2009 that still has applicability today. They report that good internal communications has a positive impact and poor internal communications has a negative impact on five elements of a company’s ROI:

  1. Engagement
    Every employee that crosses over from being disengaged to engaged adds an incremental $13,000 to the bottom line each year
  2. Direct Cost of Miscommunication
    $26,041 is the cumulative cost per worker per year due to productivity losses resulting from communications barriers
  3. Opportunity Cost
    A business with 100 employees spends an average downtime of 17 hours a week clarifying communication, which translates to an annual cost of $528,443
  4. Safety
    The average cost of a safety incident for an engaged employee is $63, compared with $392 average cost of a safety incident for an unengaged employee
  5. Turnover
    Employees with the highest level of commitment perform 20% better & are 87% less likely to leave the organization

If you’re in education or academia, what is your impression? Does poor internal communication in schools have a similarly negative impact?

Whether you’re an educator or business leader, contact us if you’re interested in improving your internal communications impact and your organization’s ROI along with it. Ask, assess then act. We’re here to help!

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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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