Pushing Through The Fog: Agency Leaders Weigh In On Thought Leadership

An ongoing LinkedIn series featuring marketing thought leaders

November 25, 2014

Thought leadership: Another one of those highbrow terms we know we want to have.  But what does it exactly mean and how does it actually drive business?

These are the types of questions our lead LinkedIn Content Marketer, Jason Miller, sought the answers to before publishing his latest ebook, The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Thought Leadership.

After interviewing countless content marketing, thought leadership and marketing professionals, he concludes that thought leadership is really about “sharing insights and ideas – and unique points of view – that provoke new ways of thinking, spark discussions and debates, and inspire action.”  In many ways, this definition makes LinkedIn the ideal platform for thought leadership to occur.  It is the only social network where people come as their best professional selves to invest time in sharing compelling content, and to engage in worthwhile, global dialogues around subject matters that spark new ideas and put them on transformational career trajectories.

We thought our agency partners, as brand stewards of some of the biggest and most interesting companies in the world, may have a point of view on this subject.  To start us off, see what Alexander Jutkowitz of Group SJR has to say below - and subscribe to the LinkedIn Marketing blog to keep up with more thought leader interviews ahead.

Ask An Expert: Alexander Jutkowitz, Managing Partner, Group SJR

LinkedIn: How do you define thought leadership?

Alexander: Everyone talks about eureka moments, but I don’t think big ideas really happen that way. Rather, the things we observe in our professional lives constantly group themselves into patterns, whether we are conscious of it or not. Those patterns are often too hazy to make much sense at first, but if we push through the fog, a game-changing insight often starts to take shape. Thought leadership is about wrestling with the big ideas that hover in the horizon – the big strategy questions we promise ourselves we'll get to once today's to-do list is done.

LinkedIn: How important do you think thought leadership is to brands today?

Alexander: In a world where knowledge is currency, every brand has to be thinking about thought leadership. People don’t just want to know what a brand makes or does – they want reassurance that the people behind the brand are smart and savvy. In essence, consumers and investors want a clear articulation of how brands view themselves, the marketplace, and the world, and they would prefer to hear it directly from someone in a position of authority.

LinkedIn: Is thought leadership the right strategy for every brand?

Alexander: I think it has to be a component of every brand’s strategy, but not every brand should have the same approach. Copycatting is counterproductive in this space. Beth Comstock is fascinated with innovation, and her thought leadership has really helped to position GE as an enormous industrial company with the heart and soul of a startup. So, now she owns that idea, and all the other large industrial companies need to do some soul-searching to figure out a different big idea. And they have to come up with something authentic – audiences can tell when the conceit is forced.

LinkedIn: What most surprised you about your thought leadership efforts on LinkedIn?

Alexander: The number of motivated professionals who want to have in-depth conversations about what’s going on in their industries is really staggering. People are so passionate about getting better at their careers that they’re actually seeking out information and ideas on their free time.

LinkedIn: What is an agency’s role in shaping thought leadership strategies on behalf of clients?

Alexander: An agency’s role is, first and foremost, to figure out what the client wants to say. Many times, clients come to us with a very broad sense that they want to say something, but the specific idea is still a little opaque to them. Our job is to ask a lot of questions that can help distill and clarify their thoughts into a provocative insight.

To be completely honest, it also sometimes falls to us to convince clients to be brave. The best thought leadership – the kind that actually gets read – speaks bluntly and requires a level of transparency that many executives have been taught to avoid at all costs. We often have to work against that fear together.


Establish yourself and your company as a thought leader. Download the The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Thought Leadership today to get started with more expert tips to help you succeed.