If you’ve visited Schwartz MSL’s other blogs, you’ve probably seen our “Wait a Minute” video blog series. My recent post about working with lawyers and the inherent difference in the way we’ve both been trained got me thinking about a frequent challenge I faced when working in-house at law firms. Without fail, most Mondays I would arrive at the office with a fresh list of thought leadership topics culled from various sources; the Sunday paper, the radio during my morning commute, random Internet surfing.
Professional services firms are brimming with raw materials for thought leadership. For the most part, at a general practice (law, accounting, consulting) firm you can find a way into nearly any story on the front page or the top of a Google news search. With that in mind, I’d shop around my ideas to everyone; corporate, labor and employment, life sciences and litigation usually based on what had happened and then how to prevent it from happening again. Most often, I would find willing participants, but as I made my rounds, inevitably someone would say “Why would I want to capitalize on someone else’s misfortune?”
Here’s why: because it’s not capitalizing on someone’s misfortune. It’s doing the rest of the business community a big favor.
Let me repeat: it is not capitalizing on someone’s misfortune. Let's reframe it.
Here’s what I think is one of the best things about professional services thought leadership. What lawyers, accountants, and consultants know is how to protect companies from exposure or how to maximize their competitive edge. It’s hard to explain that without pointing to a tangible example of what worked or didn’t work in a previous situation. It’s no different than an academic case study brought to real life. Without it, advising on the issues of the day seems a little esoteric.
Good thought leadership needs a few things. Topics need to be:
- Current, if not ahead of, the curve
- Full of teachable moments so readers can understand how to apply the principle to their world
- A bit provocative to keep people thinking
But it also needs to be diplomatic. It needs to be done with a respect for the entities involved in the issue of the day, and not in a way that criticizes their efforts. It can be done – it’s the art of identifying those teachable moments and then using them for the good of the business community that makes the thought leaders true experts in the industry.
Posted by Meghan Gross on August 16, 2012 at 5:13 PM