In the dynamic ecosystem of today's digital landscape, establishing thought leadership is essential for organisations.
Thought leadership helps to foster trust, credibility, and visibility, providing a strategic edge in a competitive market. However, what happens when the driving force behind your thought leadership – the Thought Leader – moves on?
At our recent Social Business Exchange event, this was a key question and a common objection we hear at Tribal.
Danielle Guzman, Global Head of Social Media at Marsh McLennan, rightly said at our event, "We want to train people to be so good that competition wants to steal them!". So if and when they leave, they are an extension of your brand, like alumni when you leave Uni.
With this in mind, let's dive into building a resilient thought leadership strategy capable of weathering such changes.
The Role of a Thought Leader
In thought leadership marketing, a thought leader is a torchbearer. They are subject matter experts, influencing decision-makers and shaping the company’s brand.
The reason thought leaders are so effective is because 92% of people trust brand information shared by their friends and family, while only a fraction of those same people trust general social media posts (51%) or advertising (38%). Source: Nielsen
So by creating thought leaders from your employees, you reach their connections and utilise their relationships, benefitting from the increased trust they have already built within their network.
However, if you're concerned about building a thought leader in your industry who then leaves your company, remember that thought leadership isn't a one-person show; it's about cultivating a symphony of voices that resonate with your target audience.
Building a Collective Thought Leadership Strategy
The secret to effective thought leadership is creating a strategy that outlives any individual. Let's explore the best practices to build a successful thought leadership strategy:
- Align with Core Values: When your thought leadership aligns with your core values, it creates purposeful content and adds value. In addition, this alignment helps build trust with your audience, regardless of personnel changes.
- Leverage Employee Advocacy: An employee advocacy program is an incredibly effective marketing tool. By sharing thought leadership content, your employees become brand advocates, extending the reach of your influence.
- Invest in Training and Development: Nurturing future thought leaders is a long game. Providing opportunities for employees to expand their expertise and become internal subject matter experts sets the foundation for robust thought leadership.
- Diversify Your Thought Leaders: Encourage others within the company to become thought leaders. This diversification adds depth to your thought leadership content, ensuring a broader range of insights for your audience.
Navigating the Departure of a Thought Leader
Nearly 86% of employees involved in a formal advocacy program say it positively affected their careers. Source: Hinge Marketing
Naturally, this positivity could lead to headhunting and new opportunities for your thought leader.
However, this shouldn't prevent you from encouraging an employee to become a thought leader. In fact, it's a key selling point when you're trying to activate employees.
Of course, some employees will choose to move on, and when a thought leader departs, it can feel like a significant setback.
However, with transparency and alignment, you can navigate this change seamlessly:
- Transparent Communication: Announce the departure openly. Acknowledge the outgoing thought leader's contribution while reassuring continuity in thought leadership strategy.
- Realign and Reinforce: Realign your thought leadership content with your corporate social responsibility and business objectives. Reinforce your commitment to those values.
- Promote from Within: Show your audience your commitment to nurturing talent by promoting a new thought leader from within your ranks. This continuity maintains the trust you've built with your audience.
- An extension of your brand: Just because an employee leaves doesn't mean they can't continue to be a positive voice for your brand. For example, even after their departure, you can invite them as a speaker at your events or webinars. With their unique insights and experiences, they can continue to endorse your brand, advocate your values, and contribute to your thought leadership narrative from a new vantage point.
Build a Successful Thought Leadership Strategy That Weathers Employee Departure
A successful thought leadership strategy transcends individual personas. It's about fostering an environment where everyone, from senior executives to every employee, can share their insights and unique guidance.
While the departure of a thought leader might seem daunting, it opens up opportunities for growth and reinvention.
Remember, great thought leaders may come and go, but the impactful ideas and values they foster will continue to guide your organisation forward.
After all, thought leadership isn't about one person - it's about the tribe.
If you're looking to fortify your thought leadership strategy or need advice on navigating leadership change, let's have a conversation and find the best path forward for your organisation.