Some topics become so central to the conversation in a particular industry that it makes sense to have a point of view even if it does not track directly back to specific products or services. Within financial services, those topics include topics such as digital assets; AI and automation; diversity, equity, and inclusion; COVID-19; and ESG.
Thought leaders should weave such topics into their output thematically and prepare a few key talking points about them. They should also expect that audience interactions such as comments and questions will touch on those top-of-mind topics, with reasonably well-thought-out responses in mind for how to address them.
The more a topic becomes prevalent in industry conversations, the less of an excuse there is not to have anything meaningful to say about it. Coming across as out-of-touch is just not a good look.
To prevent being caught short, thought leaders can prepare themselves by doing the following:
- Keep up-to-speed with the latest trends, terminology, and potential areas of debate or controversy around a particular topic by reading occasional reports and studies from thought leaders who specialize in it
- Think through the possible connections between their areas of expertise and these dominant topics (such as the ESG dimensions of particular asset class or automation trends for a specific financial service or process)
- Integrate aspects of these topics broad topics into research and thought leadership materials
- Participate in panels, webinars, or other group settings that include people focused on these topics
- Find ways to quote or reference thought leaders who focus on such topics
- Proactively develop a clear position on the topic (which can be opinion-based as long as it demonstrates some level of thinking and rigor)
Beyond simply not getting caught short, the other aspect of these agenda-setting topics is they help you draw audiences into your thinking. People are paying attention to these topics, and you can use them as a bridge between their interests and your particular area of expertise.
Of course, you must connect to such topics with integrity rather than bait and switch. But that’s the beauty of agenda-setting topics like this. They dominate attention precisely because they have such broad implications. It’s down to your creativity to figure out how to make your thought leadership relevant. That obligation is always there. Industry agenda topics just help set some parameters for relevance.