In “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” by David Meerman Scott, he talks about Online Thought Leadership. As I understand it, the idea is that your Web content needs to promote thought leadership not just carry advertising and product promotions. Thought leadership is about seeing the world through your customer’s eyes. Knowing their problems and then creating content to help them with solutions. The content ca be created in any form: video, white paper, eBook or a wiki. It’s not a commercial peddling products. It’s instruction, advice, and information. You are helping the customer solve their problems. When they do need something your company sells, chances are they will already think of you as a trusted resource because they already read your blogs and watch your videos. The loyalty is there. And it’s genuine.
Ask anyone who’s ever bought from Zappos.com. They will tell you that customer services treats them like a friend not a nameless customer. This can’t be faked either. People online can smell trickery from miles away. The Internet is great for digging up information quickly including your company’s contradictions. The blogs your company sponsors need to be written by employees who care about the customer’s problems. Your content is useful and there’s no ulterior motive lurking underneath. Sure, you work for a company, but let’s talk about what relevant information I can share with you. Maybe someday your problem can be solved with my product/service but maybe not. It doesn’t matter. Does thought leadership work in Public Affairs? I’m not sure government is really ready for it. I do see greater transparency, but the traditional desire to control the message and the reluctance to hold online conversations keeps it from happening. I do personally feel that with the ever increasing use of CitJ by companies like CNN, the public will continue to be vocal about the issue they care about. It’s a voice the government can’t ignore. Maybe David Meerman Scott will start speaking to governmental agencies at some point and show them how thought leadership can be translated into community leadership.