Think, Write, Grow
A book review of Think Write Grow: How to become a thought leader by Grant Butler.
Thought leadership is a great term that captures a key element of effective marketing communication. It is about standing out from the crowd, developing a leadership position. In this book, Butler provides a basic and highly practical approach to becoming a thought leader. Butler is an ex-journalist with the Australian Financial Review and runs his own corporate writing firm.
He starts the book by exploring the nature of thought leadership. He says thought leaders are "people who lead with ideas, rather than being in a structured leadership position such as CEO". This reminds us that anyone can be a thought leader.
Butler then explores the relationship of thought leadership to marketing. Thought leadership is useful for organisations who want to stand out in a competitive market where everyone is seen to be equally good. However, it is also useful for individuals who want to build their "personal brand" and advance their careers. While he does not discuss it, I would also argue it is useful for community leaders and others who wish to energize their members.
Butler outlines a number of rules for marketing with thought leadership, including:
Advocate an idea
Solve a problem or reveal an opportunity
Don't sell a product or service directly
Be rigorous and transparent
According to Butler, thought leaders are intelligent; see things in new ways (novel); credible in their chosen topic; passionate; honest; extroverted; constructive, courageous; often work alone (solitary); and comfortable with exposure.
The first step in the thought leadership process is to "find your sweet spot" as Butler describes it. A key to this is knowing what you know and what you are passionate about. You then need to find the intersection of your spot with market needs or something that resonates with your audience. Butler also warns to be careful about confusing anger with passion, which may just turn people away.
In moving to the writing stage, Butler recommends creating a short definition of your idea before starting to compose thought leadership materials. The audience needs to be defined, including understanding what they already know and what is likely to inspire them. You should also have a clear production program knowing your budget/timeline, what formats and channels you will use, as well as any risks involved including any intellectual property considerations. It’s particularly important to have a fact checker to ensure the thought leadership position is supported and defensible.