Too often, thought leadership is quite the opposite. It is not thoughtful and it does not lead anything.
Very often it is not written by experts in the business itself, but outsourced to copy writers or communicators. So the lack of thought and the leadership void may not even reflect the business they purport to represent.
Yet businesses think they need it and so the thought leadership industry still appears to be growing hand over fist.
Very often thought leadership is the jewel in the crown of a content marketing strategy which itself may have as little to commend it. Buying words by the yard and casting opinions into the ether has all the intellectual rigour of firing grapeshot at ants.
Yet content marketing continues to grow.
This may not be because it is the marketing elixir its champions claim. It may instead be that audiences don’t really engage with click-bait content in the way those champions might wish.
It may simply be that there are now so many hungry channels to feed that they are not properly looked after. Quantity has been allowed to become far more important than quality. So growth feeds growth.
After all, if you fire enough grapeshot you are bound to hit something. Eventually.
Putting quality first would mean half the investment could easily have twice the impact.
Businesses that want to show real industry leadership should first take the trouble to understand what is distinctive about what they want or have to say. This should relate that back to the heart of their offer, and what their audience will find properly informative.
They should make sure they know who else is offering similar thoughts on the same topics, and who they are trying to reach.
They will do better if they ensure that what they talk about reinforces whatever it is that makes them distinctive. This will reflect not only what they do, but also how and why they do it.
Starting there will produce content that is distinctly theirs. It may be more than just a re-write of the same content their competitors are busily throwing down their various voracious channels.
Businesses should not be hiring consultants who don’t understand what makes their business special just to regurgitate any old thought leadership for them.
They should be hiring consultants who will help them identify and articulate their distinctive heartland. Starting there is what will make an impact.
And that way good communications might help them become the industry leaders they set out to be.