The Do's and Don'ts of Thought Leadership Marketing

Posted on December 24, 2020 by Joseph Lamport

Thought leadership is one of those extremely alluring phrases that has wormed its way into everyday usage in the marketing business, becoming an official part of our professional jargon. In legal marketing it has acquired a particularly powerful appeal, in large part thanks to the Code of Professional Responsibility, which makes lawyers squeamish about branding themselves as experts or specialists, in the absence of any objective basis for doing so. But anyone can be a thought leader really -- all you need is few blog posts and a certificate from the Matchbook School of Thought Leadership Marketing.

No doubt for many of us, thought leadership will figure prominently in our resolutions and marketing plans for the coming year - either that we may become one ourselves or maybe just better help others to do so. So we are pleased to devote this special Holiday Season edition of the Marketing Brief to point out a few newly-emergent and essential rules of thought leadership marketing.


  • Rule Number One. The first rule of thought leadership marketing is simple and axiomatic, much like the first rule of Fight Club. Never, ever refer to yourself as a thought leader. And never, ever let your marketing department put out a press release that trumpets your recognition as a thought leader, as demonstrated by this cringeworthy example from the Cadwalader law firm. In fact, I would suggest if some legal publication ever offers you or someone you know recognition as a "Go-To Thought Leader" in your practice area, the only sensible thing to do is to immediately turn them down. Thought leadership is a form of promotion that ought never dare speak its own name and is almost equally dangerous in the mouth of others!


  • Rule Number Two. The path to authenticity lies somewhere between two extremes. This essential truth was best expressed by Rabbi Bunim of Peshischa, who was also known as the Rebbe of Rebbes among 19th century Hasidim. Talk about thought leadership! But Rabbi Bunim's advice is that we should always have two slips of paper with us - keeping one in each pocket. When you're feeling lowdown and depressed, reach in the right pocket and read the first slip which says "all the world was created for me." And when you're feeling high and mighty, reach in the left pocket and read the reminder "I am but dust and ashes." Put in parlance that the marketing department might be more familiar with, we all suffer from imposter syndrome just as we are all capable of great thought leadership. A trusted advisor (or a trusted person for that matter) is someone who acknowledges both tendencies, while steering for a middle course.


  • Rule Number Three. Being a thought leader with tens of thousands of followers just ain't all that it was once cracked up to be. Not long ago, it seemed, thought leadership stood as a great prize for any ambitious member of the professional class, like a merit badge in our digital world, which only comes within reach once you amass a sufficient number of followers. But as the currency of social media followers has been severely debased, it turns out that the merit badge of thought leadership has likewise become tarnished. Thought leaders have become a dime a dozen, really. And you don't have to take just my word for it, but look here at what Jay Harrington says. Jay has been one of the real thought leaders in thought leadership marketing -- sort of like a Rabbi Bunim for the digital age. And as he explains in a recent blogposts, it's no less important for you to be inner directed as outer directed when building your marketing platform; you should focus more on your own "zone of genius". In other words, true thought leadership is measured far more by the depth of your conviction than it is by the number of your followers.


So there you have it - three new rules of thought leadership marketing to guide your marketing efforts into 2021 and beyond. Don't be fooled by the numbers. Some think, others lead. Only rarely do the two coincide. Happy holidays everyone!


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Posted on December 9, 2020 by J. David Harvey

Remember the saying “Content is King,” originally coined by Bill Gates? Never has that been more true than in 2020. But there is a paradox: more and more content is being created by firms large and small, but how much of it is connecting with would-be buyers of your services? The answer to that no longer needs to be a guessing game, as that data is now being captured. The real question is whether or not it is being analyzed.

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Posted on August 25, 2020 by J. David Harvey

As if defending a marketing budget within the law firm was not already hard enough, now CMOs are doing it within a time of unprecedented uncertainty. How do you move forward with putting together a marketing budget — and defending it — in the current environment? It certainly will not be easy, but there are steps that you, as the head of marketing and business development, can take to answer the challenges of the triple whammy of the pandemic, recession, and financial uncertainty.

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Posted on August 17, 2020 by Jay Harrington

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The Power of Long-Term Thinking 

Posted on August 12, 2020 by Jay Harrington

If I was to offer you $100 today or $120 a week from now, which would you choose? While thought experiments aren’t the same as real-world experiences, if you’re like most people you’d choose the hundred bucks now. That’s the conclusion of a classic study which found that, when it comes to making decisions, most of us opt for immediate gratification.

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Posted on July 27, 2020 by J. David Harvey

What does diversity and inclusion have to do with marketing and business development?  Quite a bit, as Dave Harvey of LawVision explains in this week's blogpost.  Clients have been driving the process of raising awareness about the critical importance of diversity and inclusion. And law firms that are successful in addressing these issues will be better prepared to meet the increasing demands of clients in this arena.

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Posted on May 19, 2020 by Joseph Lamport

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Most Popular Articles of 2019 

Posted on January 7, 2020 by Joseph Lamport

As part of a time-honored publishing tradition and service to our readers, here is a list of the most read stories that were featured in the Law Firm Marketing Brief in 2019.  What do you suppose it says about our readers and the state of the legal market in general that the top story was about what marketing leaders can do to help foster law firm innovation?

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Posted on October 30, 2019 by Joseph Lamport

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Posted on May 15, 2019 by Joseph Lamport

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Posted on May 1, 2019 by Joseph Lamport

There are only a handful of brief and shining moments in life when the slipcovers get removed and we are permitted to see and sit upon the real fabric with which the universe has been upholstered.  In this week’s blogpost I’m going to write about just such a moment that occurred for me as a young man, in fact, only about a decade out of law school, when as luck would have it, I had a chance to attend (in a semi-official capacity as a fly-on-the-wall) a meeting among three titans in the business world.

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Posted on April 17, 2019 by Joseph Lamport

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Posted on March 27, 2019 by Joseph Lamport

Why is brand activation so damn important for law firms?  That’s the question I have set out to answer with this series of blogposts.  In the first installment I discussed how, for the most part, law firms have paid next to no attention to brand activation as part of their branding strategy.  In this second installment I’m going to explain why that’s such a mistake.  Brand activation is a huge overlooked opportunity that can deliver enormous benefits in improving the strength of your law firm brand.

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Posted on March 6, 2019 by Joseph Lamport

 It’s an oxymoron to speak of something as being on the cutting edge of the legal market.  I mean, the legal market tends to be backward leaning to say the least – the cutting edge to us generally looks like what people in many other markets were thinking about 10 to 15 years ago.  Case and point being how we are only now waking up to the importance of data-driven marketing, the lifetime value of a client and client-lifecycle management – concepts that were already well in vogue several decades ago in other markets and industries.

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Posted on February 21, 2019 by Joseph Lamport

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