At a recent business reception I struck up a conversation with an attendee. When we exchanged cards, I discovered I had been talking to a Vice President of Thought Leadership for a major corporation. The title is interesting to contemplate—it makes one wonder if the man is in charge of all corporate thinking—but increasingly the business world has embraced the thought leadership concept and is using its thought leaders to help enhance brands and influence the purchase of products and services.
What Is Thought Leadership?
How do we get our arms around the concept and how do companies use thought leaders? Wikipedia calls the term thought leader “business jargon for an entity that is recognized by peers for having innovative ideas. Thought leaders often publish articles and blog posts on trends and topics influencing a industry.”
With that definition in mind, the MetLife Mature Market Institute easily fits into this category. Staffed by gerontologists, we conduct a range of research studies on aging- and retirement-related subjects, which we release to the public with full media campaigns. We write and publish consumer information and make presentations to our sales force as well as to influential external audiences. Over the years, reporters and opinion makers have come to regard us as highly credible, and an expert resource on retirement-related topics.
Why Is Thought Leadership Useful?
Companies and other organizations have come to realize that selling people on the attributes of their products often doesn't work. Consumers are bombarded with ads from competing companies, and it becomes harder and harder to tell one product from the other.
Thought leadership, when done well—whether a survey released to the press, a column in the local newspaper or a speech at a conference—provides consumers with impartial, contextual information that helps them see the bigger picture. And it enables a company or an organization to cut through the clutter and differentiate themselves from competitors. The electronic and printed materials thought leaders produce can also serve as a tool to shine a light on the company and to direct consumers to the company website.
Things to Consider when Setting Up a Thought Leadership Program
All in all, thought leadership can be an important part of the mix to enable a company or organization to stand out. When done right, it can help to attract customers and, at the same time, provide useful information to a broader public.
Sandra Timmerman, EdD, is Vice President, MetLife, and Director, MetLife Mature Market Institute. Timmerman has been very active in ASA and is both a former member of ASA’s Board of Directors as well as a past Chair of the Business Forum on Aging Council.
This article was brought to you by the editorial committee of ASA’s Business Forum on Aging (BFA).
While research shows that offering free support and activities, such as nutrition classes or walking clubs, can help workers make healthy... Read More
A new study explores what doctors and legislators are tweeting about and what it means for Alzheimer's Disease research and funding. Read More