PR & thought leadership

Want to be a thought leader? Poke at that nest of snakes

Sandra Stewart | May 9, 2014

If you want to be a thought leader (who doesn’t these days?), the quickest way out of the gate is to be provocative. Challenging received wisdom or jolting people out of complacency can create a buzz and show that you really are thinking. Questioning conventional approaches in your field, prodding people to reexamine assumptions and pointing out naked emperors are all ways to get people to sit up and take notice.

For example, ears in any audience perk up when New Resource Bank President and CEO Vince Siciliano asks the question, “Do you know where your money spends the night?” Most people don’t consider (or would rather not think about) what their bank does with their deposits, and even if they do, many assume they don’t have positive options. By asking this provocative question—which New Resource has also used in a campaign connected with “move your money,” in ads and on its event banner—the bank gets people to think about taking control of how their money is used.

A few tips on making this work:

  • Be sure you can support your claims.
  • Balance the negative with the positive. If you’re just a downer, you may turn people off.
  • Focus on the big stuff. Pointing out that the emperor has no clothes is a civic duty; saying his new haircut makes him look 10 years older is just petty.

Provocation for its own sake will seem like a cheap ploy. But if you have strong support for a controversial position or a good reason to blast people out of complacency, go ahead and stir up that nest of snakes. Even if people disagree or feel uncom­fortable, you’ll earn respect for making them think.

Want to know about more ways to shake up your audience? Download our Strategy>Shift guide, 9 Ways to Make a Powerful Impression.

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