Intimidated by the velocity of change? Another way to stay focused

“Most of us feel lost in the dust kicked up by the pace of change,” says Nicco Mele, a self-declared IT nerd who memorizes poetry in his spare time. He has been recognized as one of America’s ‘best and brightest’ by Esquire Magazine.

In his book The End of Big, Mr. Mele says, “We don’t yet have an adequate vocabulary to talk about what is happening.” He adds, “Our End of bigpresent-day technology collapses time, distance, and other barriers. You often hear ‘social’ used in connection with technology – social media, social business, social sharing – but the consequences of radical connectivity on institutions are anything but social: they are disruptive.”

This disruption is felt acutely in academia and more generally in the knowledge economy. A popular blogger or intelligent contributor to Wikipedia can gain significant authority regardless of his participation in the academia.

Mele says, “From a purely reputational view, the Internet may think that a Wikipedia user who goes by the name Hoppyh knows more about Abraham Lincoln than famed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.” He explains that Hoppyh has made more than 1,339 contributions to the Wikipedia page on Lincoln. Kearns Goodwin hasn’t made any. And, even if she would start adding information to the Lincoln page tomorrow, Wikipedia wouldn’t give her any special status, observes Mele.

If you are a professional Subject Matter Expert, should you now be making regular contributions to Wikipedia?

Should you join the 164 million or so bloggers who are sharing their views on the Internet?

Does it matter that your clients may have instant access to information from reputable sources that may contradict your own views?

It’s comforting to hear that smart people like Mele feel intimidated by the velocity of change.

Meantime, busy professionals may want to take comfort in the old saying: do one thing and do it well. Or, as Google would say: It’s best to do one thing really, really well. In other words, pick and choose where you will put your energy to build profile online. It may be a blog, an e-zine, Google+, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, or any other platform – but, most likely, it can’t be all of them.

Thought leadership vs content marketing: what’s the difference?

Canadian research study finds firms may not measure outcomes appropriately

Most professional services firms engage in thought leadership activities to gain and retain clients.

What used to be referred to as thought leadership has morphed into “content marketing” – an effort to build a client base by providing thoughtvaluable information. Lawyers, accountants, consultants and similar professionals now publish online a wide variety of insights, opinions, reports, research and case studies.

A small, but interesting Canadian study on thought leadership activities identifies “there is an opportunity for firms to increase the use of measurements such as referrals, client growth rates and employee satisfaction rates in evaluating their thought leadership strategies.”

Author Wendy McLean-Cobban conducted her research under the supervision of David Scholz at McMaster University’s Master of Communications Management Program. She concludes, “Digital measurements for the web are being used more frequently [to evaluate thought leadership activities], but their effectiveness in measuring success is less certain.”

In other words, it’s often relatively easy to provide basic measurements for content marketing — how many individuals visit a website, download a paper, or open the link to an e-zine. In contrast, it is often much more difficult to qualitatively measure the benefits of speaking engagements, media interviews or board directorships.

However, just because online activities are easy to track doesn’t mean, of course, they can be linked to a new piece of business gained or, more importantly, business growth over time. A small event for a narrowly targeted group of prospects may bring in a piece of valuable business; an e-book downloaded by hundreds of web visitors may generate a long mailing list but not a single referral.

What’s the take away? Ms. McLean-Cobban quotes an observant marketer who preferred to remain anonymous: “If thought leadership starts with a marketing intent in mind, it will probably not be successful. You really do need to actually be thoughtful and leading. And then you should market the hell out of it, but you don’t start from a marketing point of view.”

I say, Amen. If you want to share a new insight or research, you may wish to first distribute it quietly and in person to key prospects. Then, develop a strategy to distribute it as part of a larger content marketing approach. And, don’t forget to track feedback and business generated down the road.