Great thought leadership uses your inside voice

Thought leadership has been around for ages, but it’s enjoying a bit of a resurgence lately as consumers turn to trusted brands for truthful content. Having a great thought leadership platform, along with credible spokespeople and superb content is, of course, key.

One place a lot of organizations don’t spend enough time is sharing all that lovely material with their employees. In fact, I think employees should be our first audience.

Nobody likes surprises at work, unless it’s a balloon and a slab cake on their birthday, and even that’s pushing it. Employees particularly hate looking like they’re out of the loop on something. That’s why it’s a good idea to make sure all your employees, especially the customer-facing folks, have had a sneak peek at your latest thought leadership content. Whether it’s a blog post by your CEO, a byline in an industry magazine or a new video, it’s important to make sure they know what it says, what it’s intended to do and how they can frame a conversation around it.

I worked with one organization that went even further. After we had more or less hashed out the thought leadership themes for the next couple of years, we brought some of our sales and customer support teams in for informal focus groups. Full disclosure: We ordered tons of pizza, lured them into the rooms and closed the doors. Among the questions we put out there while they munched away:

  • Does our platform feel authentic for our organization?
  • Are these the right themes for this year?
  • What are you hearing from our customers or others in our industry that nobody is addressing very well?
  • Is there content could we create to that would answer common questions?
  • Which of our planned content pieces could you use to connect to a prospect or a customer?
  • What formats of content would you like more or less of (e.g. video, podcasts, graphics, presentations, etc.)?
  • How could we evolve some of these themes in future, or go a bit deeper on the technical side?

We got great feedback and a legion of engaged employees who were eager to share our thought leadership content and events internally and externally.

Another opportunity is to help your thought leaders try out their material on internal audiences. One of the best employee roadshows I’ve seen was actually a rehearsal for a big user conference. Our executives got to practice their speeches in front of a friendly audience (or one, at least, with incentives not to throw food), and the employees, most of whom wouldn’t be at the conference, got a sense of what actually went on there. Based on the questions, we also had the opportunity to tweak the material a little.

Here are some other ideas for sharing your thought leadership with internal audiences:

  • Throw a launch party for your latest e-book or white paper, complete with an author signing.
  • Hold a trivia contest based on new content, so employees have an incentive to review it.
  • Survey employees on design concepts for an upcoming infographic.
  • Challenge employees to share your articles and events on LinkedIn, Instagram or Twitter, and recognize the people who are getting some traction. Be sure you offer some hashtags or keywords.
  • If you publish physical content, such as books or studies, consider giving every employee an advance copy.
  • Make sure all your media coverage, speaker videos and slides are quickly available on internal platforms.

When we include employees in our public conversations, we help strengthen the connection between our internal (employer) brand and our external (market) brand. Consistent conversations create consistent experiences, which further build brands through engaged, informed employees and customers.

Learn more from Elizabeth Williams in her session “Case study: Change the story and own the conversation” at the IABC World Conference, happening 3–6 June 2018. Register today

About the author

Elizabeth Williams started out as a reporter, but soon learned the hours were better in corporate communication. She was most recently head of brand and communications for ADP Canada, prior to which held senior communication and marketing roles at Rogers, Constellation, BMO, Aon, to name a few. She now runs her own consulting firm but secretly wants to be a figure skater. Her work has been recognized with IABC Gold Quill, Silver Leaf and Ovation Awards.

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