As a professional blogger with a healthy client list, I’m pretty busy. That doesn’t stop me from scanning the job ads occasionally, just in case a dream gig for a dream client comes along. (Hey, it’s happened before, so it could happen again!).
The trouble with job ads, though, is that they are full of the latest business and marketing buzzwords. You know the ones: people wanting posts that are “data driven”, writing that “pops” and, my pet peeve today, content that shows “thought leadership”. Jargon has its place, but often it’s just empty, and there’s no reason to use it. That’s the case with most uses of “thought leadership”.
Why I Dislike the Term “Thought Leadership”
The term “thought leadership” was used in a book by Joel Kurtzman in 1994, though the practice pre-dates the book by a few decades. Recently PR, marketing and branding specialists have co-opted it as a “good thing” (which is probably why it keeps turning up in job ads).
One reason I dislike the term is that, when I look at the examples often cited in the job ads, I agree with the Financial Post: “most content labeled as “thought leadership” is actually missing the elements of both “thought” and “leadership”.”
As a professional writer, I can’t get excited about producing that kind of work. It’s just so “me too”.
Can a Writer Make You a Thought Leader?
But more than that, the people looking for outsourced writers to create “thought leadership” content have no idea how big the ask is. How is someone else going to have an original thought about your business? How can any writer know your business better than you can? Short answer: they can’t.
Yes, writers can create excellent written content, but while many writers are versatile, they can’t think for you. Thought leadership is about authority, about providing a new perspective on an issue, about attempting to solve issues, about showing your passion for a subject.
Passion and expertise make people take notice. Unique viewpoints and true problem solving make people take notice. Maybe we should call it “thought provoking leadership” instead – making people think differently about an issue they might otherwise have taken for granted or ignored.
As the Financial Post says: “True thought leadership isn’t something your public relations team can create or carry.” That goes for your writer too.
How to Work with a Writer to Create Thought Provoking Content
Not everyone can be a true thought leader. If you are one of the few, then here’s how you work with a writer: let your writer into your thought process, showcase your passion for your topic and explain the direction you want the writer to take. In other words, collaborate to create something well-researched, well written and thought-provoking. Now that’s true thought leadership. [But for goodness' sake, lose the jargon and call it something else!]
This month the Word Carnival is on a jargon-busting mission. These jibber-jabber nonsense words have come to be a nuisance for legitimate businesspeople and the elixir of life for the more unscrupulous snake oil salesmen in our midst. Bye-bye double-speak, hello on-the-money advice for anyone tired of flim-flam.