There are certain words and phrases I find myself using every day that I wish I didn’t have to. ‘Thought leadership’ is one. ‘Community’ is another. Even ‘social media’ sticks in my throat it has become so overladen with misinterpretation, expectation and confusion.
But use them I do as they are still the established, recognised terms of today’s digital marketer. Clients and businesses talk about thought leadership so I have to talk about thought leadership. Clients and businesses are looking for social media consultants, so unless I use the words social media, they are not going to find me.
And so there is a feedback loop where these weasel words have become necessary. They are like a form of universally understood shorthand that, on rereading, doesn’t always make as much sense as it should.
Standing my ground by using more appropriate words or phrases hurts me more than anyone else, especially when you consider keyword SEO. More people search for ‘social media’ than they do ‘digital communications’ or whatever equivalent phrase one might adopt. (I’ll explain my irritation with the phrase in a later post.) And so the loop continues, encouraging more people to use the same words and phrases while simultaneously diluting them of any real insight or power.
I started thinking more about this when I was asked the other day how else I would describe ‘thought leadership’.
— Adcorp (@Adcorp) June 13, 2012
It is almost an impossible task. The phrase has adopted meanings, inferences and interpretations far beyond what those two words would have held the first time some bright spark in marketing (or more likely PR) put them together in order to wow a client.
What is thought leadership? Is it providing opinionated and informed editorial? Is it offering free advice in your content? Is it somehow developing the perception of being a leader in your field by the sheer force of will behind hundreds of tweets, blog posts and conference lectures — regardless of quality?
And so I open the challenge up to you. What could we replace the words ‘thought leadership’ with? And should we? Go on. Be a thought leader. What’s your best comment?