Thought Leadership begins when you put the public interest ahead of your own

30May, 2018

A New Zealand power company said that they needed content to help them with their winter bill shock problem. Essentially, their switchboard is inundated with calls when winter begins because power bills increase sharply.

Their objective was to produce content that addresses many of the questions that customers have when they get a big power bill. The problem with that approach is that it is addressing the company’s problem (how to reduce caller numbers), but not the customer’s problem.

And the customer’s problem isn’t why he or she has a big power bill – although they may think it was – the problem is what caused that big power bill in the first place…

Content that uses some real, in-depth expertise in how to mitigate too much energy consumption is thought leadership because it addresses the core of the problem. That’s where good content starts, at the core of the problem.

You may be familiar with the story about the elderly man who walks into a hardware and says he wants to buy a drill. The salesperson begins by asking him what surface wants to drill e.g. concrete, steel or wood?

What the salesman didn’t address was the customer’s problem, which is ‘what did he want to make a hole for?’ It turns out the man wanted to hang a photo of his grandchildren on the wall. A hammer and nail would do the job. A power drill over hammer and nails is a nice sale, but is it really serving your customer? Is it an action based on integrity?

Thought leadership begins when you put the public interest ahead of your own, but it really comes into its own when you begin anticipating problems and issues from the customer’s worldview and addressing them ahead of time.

Ask yourself:

  • What’s topical?
  • What’s trending?
  • What’s changing?
  • What problems will those changes cause?
  • How do we help people solve those problems?

In the journalism business, we would have what we call diary meetings in the morning. We would look at what was going on around us, and discuss possible angles – most what the problem was, who caused it and how it could be solved.

A useful tool for this is the PESTLE analysis (it’s about scanning the environment for threats and opportunities on behalf of our audience):

  • What’s happening politically that might impact your customer? For example, Labour Government working groups and the possible implications for SME businesses.
  • What’s happening economically that might impact your customer? e.g. slowing house market.
  • What’s happening socially that might impact your customer e.g. gender equality.
  • What’s happening technologically that might impact your customer? e.g. marketing automation.
  • What’s happening on the legal front that might impact your customer? e.g. responsible lending code
  • What’s happening environmentally that may impact your customers e.g. sea lice outbreak?

Stand in your customer’s shoes and address the world from their point of view if you want your content to make an impact. It’s the start of thought leadership.

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