Siddhartha Mukherjee: Thought Leadership: A Game Changer

10 Dec,2020

By Siddhartha Mukherjee


This is the territory of the Public Relations and Corporate Communications world. Proficient board members and brand owners understand the value of corporate brand thought leadership. More so, these stakeholders also realize that advertising or other communication tools have little ability to construct it. This specialization is brought in from the house of PR & CorpComm.

If you study the Organisations that managed to sail through vs those which struggled during past eight months of Covid, a litmus test will suggest that health of their Thought Leadership was a key factor.

Brand Thought Leadership is all about a positive and contextual recall of a brand at the right time and place across all stakeholders so that business relationship gets stronger and business transactions keep increasing.

Over the years, public relations as a tool and corporate communication as a function have been trying to showcase the art & science of achieving it to the top management. However, over the years, some key dynamics have changed:

1. Management of the 2 Rs: Brand owners are increasingly understanding that their ability to orchestrate their organization’s thought leadership is key towards the success of managing the 2 Rs – reputation and risks. Reputation management and risk mitigation requires a healthy intervention of thought leadership.


2. Not just competition set: There was a time when thought leadership was created and sustained with respect to the competition set. Today, mere competition set is a misleading.  In today’s VUCA scenario, a telecom brand’s stakeholder can get influenced from an fmcg brand, an automobile, or even an IT brand…or vice versa. Hence, corporates today are hand picking the peer group of competition brands from across sectors and then constructing the desired thought leadership.


3. Thought is about Message Engagement: For a brand to invoke a thought is a game of key message matrix. Messaging is not about putting together a few sentences. It requires the science of analysis and art of emotion to construct it.


4. CEO and the army: Spokesperson’s role in key! CEOs are leading their armies from behind. CEO’s are not the whole and sole face of the organization. It is increasingly being observed that in PR/Corporate Communications warfare, CEOs are letting their sergeants – other CXOs, HR heads, vertical heads, product heads, etc. – take charge of creating and sustaining the brand’s thought leadership & reputation management across stakeholders. Though few but a trend has started where CXOs and brand owners are leaning on the corporate communications function to master the art of designing and sustaining Thought Leadership through the year.


5. Editorial Formats: Irrespective of normal or new normal scenarios media owners go through, every media platform does try to create more than one editorial or content format or style. Authored article is no longer the only way to build thought leadership. There are various formats a media title offers. Understanding the anatomy of the media title is all the effort that is required.


6. Thought Leadership across reputation pillars: Management needs to work towards building thought leadership in not just one but across all the brand reputation pillars. Finance, marketing, products and services, CSR and Sustainability, HR, Government, Technology and Innovation, etc. are some of the many areas that management is keen to build thought leadership in.


7. Advent of Analytics: Till recently, adoption of data and analytics was slow within our industry. Hesitation was largely due to insecurity or probably the lack of knowledge of what data & analytics means and how it can benefit the various corridors. However, thanks to various awards platforms that have cropped up, the (claim to) use of data and analytics towards PR & CorpComm planning, especially in the area of Thought Leadership is increasing.


The health of an organisation’s balance sheet is directly linked with the state of that organisation’s thought leadership. The faster and stronger it is tastefully built and sustained, the longer becomes of the life of that organization.



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