Thought leadership manual by Tim Prizeman

I read “Thought Leadership Manual – How to grab your clients’ attention with powerful ideas” a while ago but I’ve been so busy I didn’t get round to writing the review. And it’s an important book that many marketing, communications and business development folk will find useful.

Tim starts with a promise “This is not an academic book; it is a manual, a workbook that gives you a step-by-step process for achieving great results”. And he delivers.

What is thought leadership?

The first part of the book explores the concept of thought leadership. There is recognition that thought leadership goes beyond presenting data and research or being a technical expert: “It is about developing insights on the impact and implications of important matters affecting clients, stakeholders and opinion formers, and sharing them”. And he offers a good definition:

  • Original ideas
  • With important implications
  • Backed by evidence
  • Clearly expressed
  • Publically discussed
  • That strongly influences the opinions of others.

Those criteria should be firmly embedded in the minds of anyone who strives to be a thought leader or is involved in developing and promoting thought leadership. I enjoyed the analysis of different types of thought leader (hero entrepreneurs, role models, eyewitnesses, number crunchers, pundits, visionaries, antiheroes, celebrities, advisers to the stars and power brands). The attributes of being a thought leader included: purpose, passion, knowledge, clarity, storytelling, know the detail but concentrate on the big picture, aren’t know-it-alls, contacts and networking. There’s also a great questionnaire to help you decide whether you are an expert, a bluffer or a thought leader.

Developing a thought leadership campaign

The second part of the book takes you through all the stages to create a successful thought leadership campaign and the author has generously shared his consulting firm’s nine step methodology. There’s a lot of valuable intellectual property in those pages.

And it’s interesting that the author adopts the scientific method with the creation and testing of an hypothesis. There’s a good focus on the need for a strategy although I would have liked a little more focus on the needs of the market/clients in its development. There’s a canter through the process of creating buy-in and dealing with common objections. There’s solid advice on how best to communicate with your targets and on generating the relevant marketing infrastructure. There’s also a chapter on measuring effectiveness through inputs, outputs and outcomes. And all these topics are supported by pragmatic checklists.

Creating breakthrough ideas

The third part of the book is on creating breakthrough ideas. The creative element of thought leadership is always one of the most challenging so I admire the author for tackling the subject in the same down-to-earth way. It is also an excellent advertisement for Kelso’s Ideas Circles where the intersection of megatrends, topical events and industry or theme specific ideas need to converge by using techniques such as brainstorming and mind-mapping.

The book continues with worked examples of the creation and testing of hypotheses and guidance on conducting research, presenting results and peer reviews. Towards the end of this section there’s a reassuring chapter that thought leadership can be conducted on a limited budget. Again, everything is backed up with simple charts and checklists.

Communicating your thought leadership

The final section is not surprisingly on grabbing the attention of clients and the market. The content pyramid concept is used to explore the various approaches to content – with particular emphasis on book publishing. There’s brief but good advice on search engine marketing, media relations (how to get into FT, The Economist and HBR) and social media. The author stresses the need to repeat your message and explores the way to involve clients in thought leadership campaigns.

Of course, some might argue that many firms – in the absence of truly original thinking or research – are simply using the thought leadership approach outlined in the book as a form of content management. And I agree that there is a danger that poor quality thinking and content could lead to the power of real thought leadership being undermined but Tim’s book is an excellent guide to prevent this happening.

The focus throughout the book is on professional service firms – lawyers, accountants and IT experts. Amongst those mentioned include: Accenture, BDO, Begbies Traynor, Clifford Chance, Deloitte (Sports Business Group – Annual review of football finance), GlobalExpense, Kingston Smith, KPMG, McKinsey and PKF Littlejohn. There are some great quotes too for example: “At Clifford Chance, to do this you now need to be recognised in your sector, and a new partner is not only required to be a great lawyer, they must also be able to speak well, network well and have a recognised position as an expert in their area”

The first book on thought leadership was by my dear friend the late Laurie Young “Thought leadership – prompting businesses to think and learn” and remains valuable. However, Laurie’s book takes a broader, more academic and historical look at how thought leadership emerged as a business strategy and considers wider industrial and consumer markets. Tim’s book is focused on professional services and is a refreshingly pragmatic “how to” guide that will be welcomed by the professional services marketing community both now and in the future. His book is written in clear language, with a warm tone and accessible ideas and is elegantly designed. It was a joy to read.

There’s more information about Tim Prizeman and Kelso Communications here: