A strong digital thought leadership presence is becoming a critical imperative to successful career advancement as the world transitions to living with COVID-19.
COVID-19 has reshaped professional and workplace interactions – fast tracking mass and interpersonal communications further into the digital realm.
Close geographical proximity became both undesirable from a health perspective, and unnecessary following the mass adoption of video conferencing and remote work systems.
While the office looks set to remain in the mix to varying levels depending on industry and job type, the importance of a strong and influential digital presence for professionals and organisations alike is set to accelerate as digitisation marches forward.
As Jesse Sostrin, Global Head of Executive Development at Salesforce writes:
“Promotions are at stake, business can be won or lost, and reputational value can all hinge on whether you’re perceived as an influencer in your field.”
Running parallel to the accelerating digitisation is a trend that’s seeing audiences becoming increasingly sceptical and distrustful of the information they read online.
While digital communication technologies and their uptake are proliferating, audiences are increasingly questioning the truth and validity of the message.
The phenomenon of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ have undermined public trust in traditional editorial methods and standards.
It’s an issue that is set to intensify as the public begins to wrestle with new and rapidly emerging technologies, such as deep fakes and algorithm bias that further distort traditional concepts of objectivity and truth.
As inventor, adviser and Wall Street analyst Tom Wolzien states, “the market will not clean up the bad material, but will shift focus and economic rewards toward the reliable.”
“Information consumers, fed up with false narratives, will increasingly shift toward more-trusted sources, resulting in revenue flowing toward those more trusted sources and away from the junk.”
These new imperatives mean organisations and business leaders will need to invest time and resources into new digital thought leadership strategies that resonate with tipping point audiences.
COVID-19 saw a deluge of thought leadership content enter the digital realm, but as many have highlighted the rush to publish resulted in quantity over quality in many cases, often resulting in lack of cut through and missteps.
At best this can be a waste of time and resources, worst case risks diminished credibility.
As Salesforce’s Jesse Sostrin says translating ‘professional experiences into valuable thought leadership can prove extremely difficult for even the most capable leader.
Especially in the virtual-first world he writes; “(When) two-dimensional tiles and mute buttons level the playing field in every interaction – it is even more challenging to be recognised for subtle insights, big impact, and ahead-of-the-curve ideas.”
Therefore, organisations and industry thought leaders must pivot away from prescriptive ‘storytelling,’ often stretched across reverse engineered brand ‘narratives’, with thinly veiled self promotional agendas.
Instead they must become ‘digitally orientated’ media and research outlets. Organisations can be upfront with their commercial standpoint, whilst contributing tangible social value, by exploring and potentially solving pertinent and impactful issues relating to their business and industry.
Global digital discourse is rapidly shifting, so too must communication strategies.
Organisations that do so, will grow audience & users, shape agendas and become recognised thought leaders within industry and wider society.