Building thought leadership at Startups

Startups do some great work. But there’s usually a gap between who they are in reality and how they talk about themselves on their leadership handles or sometimes with the media.

This is because leaders don’t invest enough time or energy in original thought leadership. They outsource the thinking and expect it to work. This creates generic answers and lacks dept and it simply doesn’t cut it with today’s audience.

Here’s how I like to frame this problem: If you go to a general practitioner, and they know it’s a fever, they’d prescribe a Dolo and send you packing within a few minutes with something as generic as “Sab theek ho jayega!”

Now, if you go to a cancer specialist, they will sit you down. Ask you a whole lot of questions, pull out some test results, show you an x-ray, a biopsy report, and so on, and then tell you what is a line of treatment, how it has worked in the past, and what are the different possibilities. They may offer a point of view based on their past experience but they may not even commit to a sure-shot cure.

In leadership communications, startup founders need to take the cancer doctor’s approach. This is how you gain respect, mind share, and thought leadership.

What’s the solution? If you’re a startup founder or an executive, start thinking deeply about topics that are relevant to you and try to come up with a point of view. This will not only help you understand your domain better but also help you create original thought leadership.

The writing in itself can be outsourced but the thought needs to come from the leaders. Better yet, write the first draft yourself and get a good editor to help you. Storytelling is something you need to invest in.