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Outside of industry jargon, no phrase is thrown around as lightly as “thought leadership” in the technology sector.

monkey-scratching-headIn my work developing content for technology companies, the topic of “thought leadership” comes up often. The discussion usually goes like this: “We want to develop a thought-leadership white paper.” When I ask what innovative or visionary ideas the company wants to share, I’m often met with silence. Or am pointed to the insights and visions of others and told to reference those.

The concept of “thought leadership” continues to be controversial, namely for reasons such as these – companies misunderstand or misuse the term and in doing so, degrade its intrinsic value.

Someone commented on a blog post that he believes companies are actually saying they want to generate awareness when they say they want to develop a “thought-leadership” paper, which may very well be the case. The fact is, not every company can be a thought leader – and that’s okay.

I’m not saying I have all the answers. But I can point you to posts exploring the issue:

Now that we’ve beaten thought leadership down, here are suggestions on how to develop true thought leadership:

  • This post by Britton Manasco defines thought leadership, as does this one by Michael Brenner.
  • Both Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute and Doug Kessler of Velocity Partners debunk the myth that you’re “giving it all away” by sharing your insights.
  • Want a 4-step framework for B2B marketing and thought leadership, and examples of B2B marketers that have mastered the science of thought leadership marketing?
  • For ideas on how to gain real traction with thought leadership, read my interview with Chris Koch.
  • Wondering if your content is supporting or sinking your thought-leadership efforts? Read this post by Kevin Cain of OpenView Venture Partners, which outlines criteria for judging the thought-leadership worthiness of your content.
  • Want to discuss this topic with others? Join these LinkedIn groups: Thought Leadership Salon and The Thought Leadership Marketing Mastermind Group.