Thought Leadership: What is it and Why is it so Important?

Thought Leader Word Cloud

A recent PR News poll confirmed what many in the industry suspected. That is, thought leadership, is currently the most overused phrase in Public Relations. So what exactly is thought leadership and why is it so important to the industry?

Thought leadership is essentially the equivalence of the term opinion leaders in communication. Thought leaders of the industry, like opinion leaders, are individuals and/or firms that are widely regarded as experts in their particular field. Denise Brosseau, author of “Ready to be a Thought Leader?” adds that thought leaders “are trusted sources who move and inspire people with innovative ideas, turn ideas into reality and know and show how to replicate their success.”

So why is thought leadership so important within the public relations industry that it has become such a ubiquitous term? Well, I believe there are a few key reasons:

  1. As the old expression states, “if you know better, you do better.” Thought leaders, as experts in their field, provide others in the industry with a greater depth of knowledge and understanding of a particular topic, issue, field, etc. And that knowledge and understanding allows for practitioners to do a much better and more effective job.
  1. Thought leaders, as experts in their particular field, add credibility to the work done by practitioners and the firms who engage with them. For example, CSR strategic efforts by practitioners and firms are likely to be far more effective and well received with the use of thought leaders who are experts in whatever particular environmental, economic or social issue the efforts aim to address.
  1. The use of thought leaders helps the industry to grow, innovate and be more creative because the former, as noted by Brosseau, helps provide new ideas and fresh approaches to some long standing issues.
  1. Finally, as noted above, “if you know better, you do better” and a greater depth of knowledge, combined with new ideas and avenue for growth and innovation, increases the likelihood of better quality of service by firms for their clients. And better quality also means an increased likelihood of greater success which makes not just the clients happy but the industry as well.
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