2 Min Read | Strategy

Should everyone have a voice in your Thought Leadership?

Letting all the leads in your organization weigh in on your thought leadership is the prudent thing to do, right? Well, only if you want your report titled, “How to Navigate Economic Headwinds” to slowly and painfully morph into, “An Open Letter to CEOs: 12 Lessons My Cat Named SAP S/4HANA Cloud Taught Me About Navigating Economic Headwinds (#7 Will Surprise You)!”

While allowing for a diversity of opinions sounds reasonable (and perhaps a political necessity), the old adage plays out: Too many cooks spoil the broth. When you let everyone in the company add in their own ingredients, the quality plummets and the main message is watered down.

At SJR, part of our job as consultative creators is to smooth over edits and reconcile conflicting feedback from a company’s internal review. But we’ve seen how the process can quickly become counterproductive: Let’s say we work closely with the lead marketer to get the report in top shape after many others have weighed in, nailed down the concepts, and settled wording/terminology disputes. But then a “final” reviewer, who has no idea of the history that led the draft to where it is now, does some rearranging and inserts her own messaging. And then when someone else looks at that draft, they make “changes to the changes” that send the piece even further afield from its supposedly “final” state.

For a report to engage your audience, a distinctive voice and clear argument must flow into the readers’ minds. A patchwork piece is inherently not as convincing because the reader will sense the disjointedness.

Beyond the bad aesthetics, delays, and costs that heavily edited docs incur is a more serious problem: If everyone is shoehorning their own takes into a report, it means there is not enough internal consensus on what the core messages are.

The goal of thought leadership is to demonstrate your company’s expertise and your leadership’s original ideas. CEOs and other C-suite leaders are able to see the big picture, while department leads and other team members are highly specialized and can contribute insights that bring real value to more niche audiences.

Converging the two—all in service of sharing a clear value proposition—should happen before anyone starts to write. Once the key players agree, the marketing lead can engage an editorial and creative team to blend the top-down and bottom-up inputs into a real story, packaged in the most compelling way possible.

Feedback in the conceptual phase is critical…but for thought leadership to sing, the final piece needs to express the voice of your organization.