Six reasons your thought leadership fails




James Ralph

Ever struggled with getting your thought leadership out of the starting blocks? Here’s the top six reasons why your thought leadership is failing.

Last week we held the first of our thought leadership masterclasses, a chance to discuss the execution of thought leadership campaigns in detail. The five assembled comms leads, from charities to energy providers, shared not only their successes, but also a common list of challenges. Here are their top six reasons why most thought leadership never gets out of the starting blocks.

Of course intelligence is not the only factor that comes into play in shaping ideas that are able to advance commercial agendas. The ability to step outside of your preconceptions is also important, and here intelligent people may well be at a disadvantage.

1.      “We don’t know what to discuss, or can’t decide which area to focus on” – This is a common challenge, and many fall into the pitfall of trying to pull topical subjects into their business rather than extrapolating out an authentic area of interest. Approach it as you would a wine list, I know about Pino Grigio so let’s explore those first.

2.      “We don’t see ourselves as credible, or don’t think people would be interested” – A lack of confidence is common, occurring both amongst your technical team for whom talking about the humdrum might feel like hubris, and amongst the executive who worry about giving away the family silver. As Dr Seuss would say, “Try it, you might like it.”

3.      “It doesn’t fit with the company structure or brand ecosystem” – Your marketing and operations team have worked hard at a creating clarity across your organisation, and suddenly you’re asking to bring in something new. Experience tells us that authentic, bottom up thought leadership rarely clashes with long-term corporate strategy.

4.      “It fails to provide a platform for corporate leaders” – Particularly in technical organisations, the leadership can be isolated from the innovation at the coal-face, and have worries over their depth of technical knowledge. Thought leadership and thought leaders are not the same thing, the former can exist within organisations without the latter.

5.      “We’ve tried but struggled to deliver a long-term strategy” – It’s been tried in the past and failed. Just because it looked like a duck, quacked like a duck and walked like a duck, it doesn’t mean your previous thought leadership programme wasn’t a goose.

6.      “It fails to keep pace with business change” – This is a big issue, the pace of innovation can see previously tried and tested thought leadership platforms become obsolete. It’s crucial to constantly assess whether yesterday’s views are still aligned to tomorrow.

If any of the above sound familiar and you’ve a story to share about how you overcame the challenge, please do get in touch.

Join our LinkedIn group, visit our website, or if you would like to attend the next Masterclass or one of our events, contact Holly on

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James Ralph

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