Thought leadership – it’s a term that has gained a lot of traction in healthcare in recent years. But what does it really mean? Who should strive to become a thought leader, and why or how? There isn’t always a clear consensus on how to define it, but at its core, a thought leader is “the” expert that other experts look to. The best thought leaders are generally:
- Well-regarded among industry peers and colleagues
- Innovators who drive change – in how we think and/or how we act
- Effective communicators with a message that matters
The man who coined the term thought leadership (Joel Kurtzman) defined thought leaders as individuals or organizations recognized by peers and industry experts “who deeply understand the business they are in…and have distinctively original ideas, unique points of view and new insights.”
You might say someone like Kurtzman himself pretty much fits the definition – even if you’d never heard of him before today. Not all thought leadership takes place on the public stage; in fact, more often it is the community of experts in any given field who recognize true thought leadership among their peers. Thought leaders educate and improve what falls within their circles of influence.
But how do you really know who the thought leaders are? After all, there’s no definitive list of thought leaders in healthcare.
At Dobies Health Marketing, we apply this rule of thumb: We know thought leadership when we see it. We can only say that because we have decades of working closely with thought leaders in the health industry – long before thought leadership was a term people bandied about. From the biggest biotech in the world to a small rural health system that ranks among the top rural hospitals in the country, some of our clients came to us already established as thought leaders.
Others are on the way. We have a special gift for recognizing kernels of greatness in our clients who do not yet consider themselves thought leaders – and we help them breathe life into the vision of who they are becoming. We just know because we work with these organizations, whether small or large, or giants in the industry, on an everyday basis. You develop a radar over time.
Becoming a recognized thought leader can be a powerful part of your marketing strategy, but at its core, it should be based on meaning, not marketing. It also requires real investment. It’s not for everyone, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all proposition. For instance, thought leadership in physician circles – whether clinical providers or hospital leadership – will look different than thought leadership among healthcare data and technology experts, which also looks different from thought leadership from organizational or HR leadership.
You may find thought leaders where you didn’t even think to look for them. That’s not to say you should strive to make everyone in your organization a thought leader, but in talking to the people in your organization, you might be surprised to find innovative, creative thinkers who offer up unexpected solutions. Sharing the wisdom of the people in your ranks not only elevates your brand, but it is a profound way to recognize excellence in your ranks.
It all comes down to identifying and recognizing the thought leadership that may already be in play within your organization – and selectively highlighting the types of thought leadership that can help bolster your organization’s position within the market.
Whether that involves building awareness and driving leads with content marketing, establishing or building credibility, or expanding the reach and influence of your brand, it may be time to make the move. When you marry strategic marketing with genuine thought leadership, it can catapult your organization to a profound level of performance and success you might never have imagined.