Every once in a great while, I get much more than I bargained for when I do an interview for this column.
Denise Brosseau provided the biggest surprise I've ever had in interviewing.
I had looked to ask her about the difference for early-stage companies between content-marketing strategies and thought leadership. I had thought that content marketing was for distinguishing between commodity products and thought leadership was for selling highly differentiated, high-ended offerings.
But Brosseau sees a larger and much more important difference: content marketing is for demonstrating competence and building trust, whereas thought leadership is for bringing about change in the world.
Thought leadership is for bringing about change in the world.
A lot of what I considered thought leadership, Brosseau categorized as Futurism, as it was looking to predict changes in the world, while thought leadership is about taking a stand and being in action to bring about change in the world.
Recently, fundamental human rights (e.g., abortion rights, gay rights, etc.) have been under attack in our country. Did Anheuser-Busch, Disney, or Apple look to increase sales when they took a stand? Was Google trying to improve employee retention? Were the sports leagues hoping to increase viewership?
While I don't know for sure, I doubt it. They were looking to improve the world, and they were willing to take a stand to make that change possible.
Thought leadership can be dangerous and requires not only courage but also preparation. It definitely looks like Anheuser-Busch was caught by surprise. Brosseau works with large corporations to make sure they aren't caught short.
Even without the large platform that a Fortune 500 company has, ordinary individuals can help accelerate change, both in society and in their own industry or field. Brosseau suggests we can start small by being more intentional in what we talk about, like, or otherwise “amplify” to focus on items of importance. By curating and sharing with our community and followers the best of the best information in our area of expertise (or in an arena that we are committed to), we help bring others along to a fresh perspective or a new way of doing things.
In my history of writing, no other interviewee has given me so much to think about. I am looking forward to starting on her book later today.