In advertising, Breaking down buzzwords, corporate reputation, insights, media relations, message development

This is another installment of our multipart series “Breaking Down Buzzwords,” which seeks to explain the most common buzzwords in marketing and communications. 

LinkedIn's Reid Hoffman

LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman

Let’s be honest. The term thought leadership is a bit vague, even off putting. It conjures up the image of the self-proclaimed guru lecturing others on how they need to change.

In reality, a well-executed thought leadership strategy can be a galvanizing force for your organization.  A new study from the Economist Group shows that companies with thought leadership strategies see growth in sales and customer loyalty.

So, what exactly is thought leadership?  There are many definitions, but here is how we define it:


Using personal experience to develop and share meaningful solutions to a community challenge.

Our definition starts with personal experience.  The best advocates for an idea are the men and women who have been in the arena, whether in business, philanthropy or local civic life. Note also our emphasis on sharing. A great thought is useless if not shared with an audience that might benefit from it.  Lastly, note our emphasis on community challenge. The test of a thought leader is whether you persuade a community – whether a group of employees, elected officials or the general public – to change behavior.

Take PepsiCo. The global beverage maker knows a thing or two about using water. Over the last decade, they have refined and shared their ideas for tackling the challenge of water conservation, starting with their own business operations. Personal experience. Community challenge. Shared ideas. That’s thought leadership.

Consider Reid Hoffman. As LinkedIn’s co-founder, Hoffman knows a thing or two about talent management. He explores outdated talent management strategies across corporate America as well as possible solutions in his recent book, The Alliance.

In Baltimore, Womble Carlyle attorney Newt Fowler is a recognized thought leader on business planning and growing a vibrant economy in Maryland. Read Fowler’s columns here. He shines a light on problems and offers solutions based on his personal experience working with young companies.

Campfire has helped clients develop thought leadership strategies in a variety of fields, from banking regulations and education reform to economic development and STEM workforce development.

You can execute a thought leadership strategy in many ways: public relations, advertising, PTA meetings, town hall forums, employee gatherings, and more. What matters is building credibility by understanding the issue, the audience, and the right ways to reach them.

Think you might something to say? Let us know. We can help.