Insights into how to deliver thought leadership to large companies.
An interview with Vishwas Anand about effective methods of developing, delivering, and curating thought leadership for a large organization.
Trying to get your thought leadership to the employees of your company is never an easy task but attempting to reach 250000 employees in your organization can feel like trying to climb Everest. Making the tools to climb that mountain is what today’s guest excels at.
Vishwas shares how he aided in the creation of the Infosys Insight Store — a platform people can use to access hundreds of articles, podcasts, and video. It is meticulously cataloged to make finding the right content simple without having to take a deep dive into it.
Many companies are still trying to understand how to measure the success of thought leadership. Vishwas explains why vanity metrics such as likes and shares may not be as important as many think, in fact, they can end up being more of a distraction to the brand in the long run.
If you have thought leadership content that needs to get out to your organization but struggle to make it accessible or reach those that need it most this is the perfect episode for you.
Three Key Takeaways:
- The key to making a library of thought leadership content useful is creating a system that allows users to find the content they need with speed and ease.
- When creating thought leadership for a sub-brand you need to ensure it has synergy with the parent brand to avoid confusion.
- Authenticity, Accuracy, and Agility are the three As of thought leadership.
Join the Organizational Thought Leadership Newsletter to learn more about expanding thought leadership within your organization! This monthly newsletter is full of practical information, advice, and ideas to help you reach your organization’s thought leadership goals.
And if you need help scaling organizational thought leadership, contact Thought Leadership Leverage!
Bill Sherman How do you effectively deploy thought leadership for an internal audience, especially when you have an audience of some 250000 employees? My guest today is Vishwas Anand. He’s the marketing and communications lead at the Emphasized Knowledge Institute. And in today’s episode, I’m eager to talk with him about the insights store that emphasis uses to communicate insights across its organization. I’m also here to talk with him about building alignment between the marketing, sales and product functions. How can you facilitate the flow of ideas across your organization? I’m Bill Sherman, and this is Leveraging Thought Leadership ready. Let’s begin. Welcome to the show, Vishwas.
Vishwas Anand Thank you, Bill. Glad to be here.
Bill Sherman So I’d like to start with a question of a unique challenge that you’ve had to face that enforces enforcers has two hundred and fifty thousand employees internally. And you had to find ways to share thought leadership across the organization. Let’s talk about that for a moment. Let’s talk about the project that you called the Insight store. So what challenges were you trying to address? How did it come to be?
Vishwas Anand Definitely, Bill. Thanks for asking. So a thought leadership, as you know, I mean, in the true sense, it really serves to inform and educate through influence and authority, and you cannot really build influence without putting the customer ahead. And your authenticity will also not really shine to if you don’t get your thought leadership standing date. So we face similar challenges with influence and authority. We don’t go back to put this knowledge. Institute produced a lot of content around 250 odd thought leadership assets, including articles, podcasts of boards, videos and so forth. But we didn’t really have a way to be more consumer centric in a way that can be customized for different users or personalized guided preferences. And secondly, the branding of thought leadership itself wasn’t really distinct enough to authentically serve audiences. So the search intelligence Winick forces dot com was also not tailored or built around thought leadership. As such, there was no way to distinguish influencers thought leadership from the services offering content. So insights as a dome as well is being used very loosely across our website, and the Interests Knowledge Institute needed to really have that clear and defined positioning to be known for such insights. So when you look at the stakeholders within ad sales, account managers, senior professionals, they don’t really have a way to access compelling insights across the organization before they head off to an important client meeting. So the insights to be to in the insights to the are very exclusive collections of such discussion points curated by topical interest. And this didn’t exist before, so that was the unique challenge posed to us.
Bill Sherman You were responsible in terms of that project to help build it and launch it. What did you do to personalize it? How did you make it easy for them to use?
Vishwas Anand Definitely. So as a building, as you know, I mean, with the scale of such an inside, stores would be really hard to build momentum and sustain it on voting sites, generation site and the consumption site. And both of that really requires a robust foundation and governance structure across the organization. Now it just it is one thing to really build those good quality and say it integrated, but quite another to really orchestrate connected first place with the experience. So we then went about creating such a big through Insightly, a destination curated with over 650 talking points across industries and services. And one of the very important and critical elements or components of this insights tool was the search intelligence feature, because that was clearly defined by a set of tags across topics and keywords. So when a user wants to really search across different topics, they can input their preferences to digital transformation or even go by a specific industry or service, in this case, elastic manufacturing for a more focused search query. So users will be presented with such specific insights across industries and services and even a custom set of insights by their preference so that they can really build that personalized wish list of sorts for the future reference. So that ambitious goal through this is to become the Google search engine for insights it influences.
Bill Sherman And to underline your target audience for this is the internal customer, not necessarily the end external customer, right? Yes.
Vishwas Anand Yes. Bill, through the Knowledge Institute that we have developed, it’s it’s only for the internal stakeholders that we have designed this whole experience for
Bill Sherman and for them as they are preparing for a conversation with their own customer, whether it’s in a sales call or it’s in a project meeting to be able to access information quickly and have at hand the best thinking in process can bring available becomes incredibly important. But you know, they don’t want to waste a lot of time searching, which is why I find interesting the challenge of how do you create a search engine rather than just a mass of articles and insights that they won’t be able to find what they’re looking for?
Vishwas Anand Yes, yes, most certainly, as you said it, I mean, you might have white papers, articles, podcasts, different kinds of this, it is. It’s created by industries and services. But if a person is interested in a specific set of insights, rather than going through a long list of assets and rather than going deep into each of those assets to really understand what the key talking points or the nuggets of information that are valuable for their upcoming discussion, we’re making it easier to really give them and solve them those kinds of insights that are easily accessible, that are easily consumable in terms of nuggets, in terms of how well they can really personalize their discussion going forward. So it needn’t be that every insight to really personalize for them, but they can also choose which which kind of insights ideally suited for the discussion and bookmark them, use them for the future, their friends, by way of email about baby or any other mode that they see fit.
Bill Sherman So before we talk about the launch and reception, I want to ask you a question of just before launch if I was someone in sales at emphasis and I was trying to find this information. What was my experience? How was I doing it before the launch of this tool?
Vishwas Anand OK, so just to give you a background, there’s no such thought. Leadership insights across industries and services still existed at this scale and particularly with the right level of nuggets that that we could deliver it to. So it was probably available on the competitive benchmarking scale, where sales could really access what kinds of companies or competitors were using. Or it would be a little more detailed in terms of the focus areas as well. So here what we’re trying to do is to really bring it down to a level of granularity that it’s easily consumable. And yet it gives a fair idea into what the topic is about so that even if they if they want to access the whole document or the whole report to get a better understanding, they can also do so through the insights tool so it serves both purposes. One. It’s more like the McKinsey’s 550. You could read your five minute glance into it and then probably a more detailed view into the book.
Bill Sherman So where I want to then turn to is we’ve got a sense of the landscape of what the solution was and what the current state was, how was it received? And what did you do to increase use and uptake? Talk about that.
Vishwas Anand Sure, sure. So this was a one of a kind experience for thought leadership and enforces a bill. So I had conceptualized this with the user friendly experience and deploy it with curated content. And it’s ranked number one among related insights apps on the company portal onto unique visitors metric. So it’s got thousands of visitors and as it’s very tightly integrated into the sales effectiveness function within Infosys, we’re also trying to build effective pathways through thought leadership that can be accessed anytime, anywhere. And it has this enhanced experience as well built for the user, so it’s personalized around those insights for the user. So one of the contributing factors for emphasis is decent. So BDO LinkedIn social connectivity rating among sales executives compared to peers was also due to this kind of thought leadership being delivered within the app and being efficiently channeled and streamlined by topical interest.
Bill Sherman Before we leave this topic of the Insight store, not many organizations have to face the challenge of trying to get insights out to two hundred and fifty thousand employees. If you were to offer a bit of advice to someone who is responsible for getting insights out to their organization, maybe they’ve got fewer employees. Are there any generalizable lessons that you could share with them that would make their challenge a little bit easier?
Vishwas Anand Definitely. So one thing is to probably get a sense of pulse of the customer. So in this case, as well as the internal stakeholders, so in case they want to develop Thought Leadership Leverage and organizations want to develop something similar, get a sense of what? What are the current challenges they’re facing because in most cases it’s about accessing or discoverability of such insights. So the ability to easily consume such insights would be something that can be looked into and the modalities of creating such a governance structure within the organization in question as well. Because once you have the foundation in place with all the right kind of elements, be it the user experience, be it the kind of governance that that can happen. But the truth is the kind of receptiveness it can have among sales executives. I think the foundational elements are key to really get it going and sustaining enough momentum in the future.
Bill Sherman And what you said there leads to another topic that I want to talk about with you is how thought leadership, even though it’s a relatively new function, say the last 10 years we’ve been using in the corporate level as a term and many organizations are just starting to embrace it now it’s install leadership has just emerged. How can it bring marketing and sales and product? How can you bring those teams in alignment? How is it the connective tissue?
Vishwas Anand It’s a great question. So I mean, some marketing is generally measured by demand generation as you’re seeing that there are very different goals, but each of these functions are really defined and what they’re trying to achieve. So marketing for one is defined by or measured by global demand generation sales by the number of deals, closed products and services teams, by the ability to really grow their client business portfolio. And without this common language and alignment to a customer centric approach, we generally see that the perceived value of thought leadership may not be clearly in line with each function schools. So when a number of companies would focus on demand conversion, I feel there’s a greater purpose to really aligning with models that use thought leadership to manage demand creation performance across the functions of cross marketing, product and sales function so that the revenue functions can just focus on creating demand rather than just converting it. So for this, I think it’s very important to cultivate dual mindset, one that really takes persistence to nurture the existing accounts and in order to really build new relationships from scratch. And I certain companies of today to do it by being closer to the customer, the to bring about innovation through corporate innovation labs to activate the innovation ecosystem, for instance, prototyping ideas with clients and really taking them to market. So I feel Touch Labs can really activate the development of such new solutions to their clients and prospects.
Bill Sherman Let’s talk again about. Your world, where are your touch points and how does that work as you’re working, because you’re in the infamous Knowledge Institute icon? How are you working with the more broad marketing team sales and product? What does your day look like and where your touch points?
Vishwas Anand Definitely. So my touchpoints, I mean, X’s across the distribution side of things. Bill more on the go to market side of things. So I look at those elements and also in publishing, I’ve been very interested in understanding the whole value chain within the publishing lifecycle. So I really believe in bringing about an agile framework to publishing, which hasn’t really happened before. So you would see brands probably purchasing that one off writing tool or that plagiarism software or the CMS so that have been in their CO2, but they’re not really heavily invested in the internet publishing workflow. So I try to look at the whole user journey and map different elements within the publishing lifecycle. So looking at that from that perspective, how different steps can be really obviated, manual steps can be obviated across the journey and one that would bring in more agility to the whole workflow so that brands can really control the whole end to end publishing workflow and lifecycle. And this will do your job.
Bill Sherman Let me interrupt you for a second here. You say publishing, you’re not talking, book publishing, you’re talking digital content publishing. Is that correct to just say, OK, that’s OK. That’s right. So please continue.
Vishwas Anand Sure, sure. So the whole publishing Lightroom, the creation of an idea itself to really underscore conceptualization of that idea to really taking it through the whole modalities of viewing coauthoring, the viewing, designing and then finally, the distribution level. So each of these involves various stakeholders, so it could be the designer at the design level. It could be the reviewer, it could be the co-creator of such an asset. So each of these, I mean, there can be multiple manual steps within large organizations, and all of them follow a sequential waterfall approach. Traditionally, because did a very different or disconnected systems working in silos in order to get each of these things done. So that to my previous point on integrating the whole agile lifecycle into this journey, not many tons of really thought about it, and I have spent time or effort to really curate such a model. So when I was given this opportunity to reimagine the whole waterfall publishing model and build this agile, collaborative model with the victims, of course, with the designers, of course, and presented it, I was given the opportunity to present it to our co-founder and chairman, Mr. Nandan Nilekani. So that was very well appreciated. It was well-received and it went about as a project, and it’s scaling it up to the to the large agencies dot com as well.
Bill Sherman If you are enjoying this episode of Leveraging Thought Leadership, please make sure to subscribe. If you’d like to help spread the word about the podcast, please leave a five star review and share it with your friends. We are available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and all major platforms, as well as at LeveragingThoughtLeadership.com. So let me ask you this question. I agree with you that there’s a tradition of the waterfall methodology for thought leadership. We’re going to do deep thinking. Then we’ll write this white paper right? And then we’ll put it out there. How does an agile approach to thought leadership work? Are you thinking in terms of sprints and story points? Are you using a JIRA board? Let’s talk a little bit about that because I think this is a topic where your training as an engineer really sort of influences how you’re approaching thought leadership, but I’d love to dig in more.
Vishwas Anand Definitely. So if you look at traditionally how the life cycle works is be one stakeholder. We come up with an idea and then the ideas bounced off a few other stakeholders and then you get some kind of a buy in. In most cases, it’s with the senior leadership who’s owning that agenda. So all this, all this happens and then the co-creation of content doesn’t really happen. As such, it’s probably one person drafting of the content and then sending it out for review and then that that person passing on the feedback. Then it goes to the second person for review. And then the third person and then the fourth person, the Sambisa involved multiple other stakeholders. Now the problem with that approach is that it’s very traditional in the sense there’s no chance but in before the one has to lead to another in order for the for the previous stage to be successful. But it doesn’t have to be the case. It can be a stage where people are coauthoring on a given document that any given point of time and busts on feedbacks of that time is not spending, but. Really understanding the understanding the perspectives of the authors in question at the point very late in the whole journey, although it can happen at the earliest stage possible to understand the ideas, the deep thinking as you see that can really be of the brainstorming or the idea can happen seamlessly to one interface that multiple people are working seamlessly and handing off from one to another. So different stages and of also happen very seamlessly. So the automation, the integration, the ability to really think on the go, move or draft from an edition level to the final publication level can really happen at different stages, which can be more agile to really improve the time to market. It can build efficiencies within the whole structure and governance. Standardization can also have been very effectively within the whole workflow, so that is which I feel the digital model is the way forward.
Bill Sherman Well, and what’s underlying this is a look at how can technology eliminate obstacles in the creation and deployment of thought leadership, right? So how can more people contribute in parallel rather than in sequence, right? Ta ta ta. And I think. You talk about governance, right? Sometimes collaboration, you know, sparks great insights, and sometimes you get too many people collaborating at the same time. And it turns into chaos. So how are you managing that?
Vishwas Anand That’s a very good point. So I think it’s up to the person in question who’s leading the program or leading the project to really manage that. So we don’t really know it’s flexible to that extent. I mean, it’s up to that person to really bring in stakeholders as and when required to take them off as and when required. So everyone’s inputs that that needs to be that can be there at a given point of time, at the point where it’s really required. And then the agile model can really take care of the rest of the technologies, integrations and other stuff that’s happening at the back to make it more efficient.
Bill Sherman I’m going to ask you a challenge here and see if you can do it. I would guess that most of our listeners do not have training in agile, right? So if you were to sort of break down a key insight about agile and agile software methodology that would be relevant to someone who is practicing thought leadership, how do you break that down? So do the translation, if you will, from the world of software and engineering into thought leadership.
Vishwas Anand Yeah, that’s a that’s a wonderful question. I think there are challenges with people process and technology, which can be handled by agile. And that’s how I’d like to take it up. So in terms of properly people, it could be one stakeholder after the next that we were trying to take down that approach. So we’re trying to see that multiple people can collaborate on a given project. So in terms of processes, it doesn’t have to be one process after another because when you’re looking at the waterfall model, you could probably use it to elect somebody at a stage when the draft is fully covered. But that process doesn’t have to happen at that time. It can happen on the go. It can happen seamlessly within the same interface. So the automation can also happen in terms of processes. In terms of technologies, you can you can probably have an SEO tool that is available for you and you try to get the right kind of insights, usually at the beginning of the job creation level. But you have the topic at hand if in that part of the technology or in the sea of mist, the distribution angle of it. So the chemist doesn’t have to be at the last stage or at the very first stage and no stage in between. So it can happen very seamlessly that the handoffs from between people process and technology. Once that is integrated very seamlessly into an architecture, I think agility will be able to make the right strides forward for publishing.
Bill Sherman And so it becomes a set of parallel work streams where all of the things that need to happen do happen, but they’re not as structured time bound. Right. And so you can free up as you’re working on things so that one does the waterfall doesn’t get jammed in. Yes. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Two, two two. Let’s talk about your personal journey for a little bit, as we’ve sort of discussed. You started as an engineer. Do you have an MBA? You’ve moved into marketing. How did you land in the world of thought leadership? Because I’m pretty certain that when you went to school, you didn’t think you were going to be practicing thought leadership. So how did you get here?
Vishwas Anand That’s a very interesting question. And yeah, so I mean, so after doing my engineering degree, I then got into a software job so that I was a software developer for a couple of years. I frankly didn’t like coding, although, I mean, it taught me a lot of nice things along the way, including VHI look through just, of course. So the agile software development approach. But then I had to do an MBA in order to get into marketing, which was my best interior. I did my MBA and soon after that I got into this midsize firm space systems, which I was mainly handling services marketing for a couple of years. And then all of a sudden I I just had this meeting with the CEO. Then he was very approachable and one of the board meetings and mentioned to him in passing that look, I would love to take up content creation writing for the company because I understand delivery executives don’t really have the time and what they produce is entirely up to the mark. So having a team like that would really make a difference to the company. Then the CEO was kind enough to give me a tool to help set up thought leadership marketing for to admit society, form Aspire Systems, build a team from the ground up. So we had added only 10 people reporting that I had research analysts. We were handling the PhD vertical and horizontal across the company. And we really saw the difference. The thought leadership could make or we produced it on my team, produced it on 700 thought leadership visits and my previous film two articles the white papers, you name it, and also collaborated with the gardeners and foresters of the world. Julie had those briefings develop frameworks such as the Digital Transformation Framework, Omni Channel 3.0. All this has had given me the right kind of expertise and knowledge to really take me into a full fledged schedule into thought leadership. So and then emphasis was very interestingly, starting a new Thought Leadership Leverage. So it was Mr Milliken is being challenged achievements being told to have this interest, this knowledge institute and Jeff Gavino was leading it. So I was one of the first members hired, in fact the first from India to be hired externally into the Infosys Knowledge Institute. And it’s been a great journey, interesting journey of learning since then. So in 2019 was when my journey that Infosys started, and it’s been a wonderful journey so far.
Bill Sherman So do you see yourself as an engineer who moved into marketing, or are you a marketer who moved into thought leadership? When you’re doing your day job and you’re working on the challenges that the Knowledge Institute throws your way? What lens are you using and what sort of framework are you using? How are you thinking about problems?
Vishwas Anand Sure, sure. Sure. And I think I go back to that publishing model example. OK, so yeah. So I think that that whole exercise of that whole project and initiative helped me really acquire that problem finding mindset. So rather than just a problem solving one, so I think problem finding is bad, it tells me so. The engineering background has also helped me decode problems along the way. But then this is, I feel, thought leadership. Marketing is more about understanding where the pain points out even before the customers face such big points. So being able to do that in a multi-stakeholder environment, get the required buy in. I think those are certainly challenges that both on the people side and on the on the expertise side was required to really try even to stall. So I would say that that’s the kind of lens it would use on a daily basis.
Bill Sherman And so you talk about problem finding, and I think that’s one of the responsibilities of thought leadership is that ability to look around the corner into the future, see three or five years ahead and say this is a problem that’s coming. Let’s create a solution today and let’s bring people along with us. And so I love how you’re pulling the tools that you’ve used from engineering training into that problem. Finding, I think, is something that a lot of our listeners could build as a skill. So you’ve now been a couple of years at Infosys. What are some of the lessons that you’ve learned that might be relevant to our audience?
Vishwas Anand Definitely, definitely. So I think building the school of thought leadership marketing function added forces has been a great learning for me, especially because this this is a thought leadership subject. So we have to look at certain examples like the McKinsey Global Institute, etc. So it and some of the lessons that I’ve learned is that it needs to really build synergies with the parent brand in order to be successful. Because when you have a disconnect, it’s often positioning. It will not only detail to supplant, but also create confusion about the parent brand’s larger purpose. And once you have that positioning clear, that’s when a B to be decision makers would be able to relate with the brand a lot more. And then the insights and independent brands within this world for the larger business opportunities, because I strongly believe that thought, leadership and brand rankings go hand in hand, that there’s a very strong correlation between that. Although we haven’t really reached that stage of maturity yet, I feel when we get there, we’ll be able to really strongly coordinate between thought leadership, drinking and the brand done stoneking in the future as well.
Bill Sherman One of the things I was going to say is you and I have had an ongoing conversation about metrics, right? And how do you measure? And I don’t think we should close this conversation without at least touching on metrics. So my question to you, because you look at it from the thought leadership, marketing perspective, the content marketing perspective, what metrics are you following and which ones have you found are useful either at a global end user consumer level? So your and clients or your internal customers?
Vishwas Anand Yes, that’s a wonderful question, Bill, I know there’s been a lot of talk around this specific it’s a tough one. Yeah, it’s a tough one, of course. I mean, a lot of companies are still decoding it and figuring it out. So, yeah, so I feel I mean, personally, as I was seeing, I mean the strong correlation between a thought leadership banking in the brand ranking. So once we had that in mind, I feel the differentiation that happens should not be basis certain vanity metrics like likes, impressions and so forth. But rather it’s because those will just distract from the desired thought leadership positioning of the firm, and it will hit the brand in the long run. So I feel branch of the leadership from an operational to a more strategic mindset, and this is where I’d like to propose a model like device to create content. So it’s called the authenticity accuracy. And so, so authenticity is about just building that human connection with the desired branding and storytelling. Accuracy is building that what establishing the credibility with the research back and say agility is the way you really look at an idea in terms of how well it’s able to anticipate trends and supplant other ideas that a boss to sell by date. So one interesting aspect I’d like to point out here is that if you look at certain trending topics, look at Google Trends, for instance, popular topics like 5G or blockchain. You would see how difficult it is to really get a differentiated perspective on such a topic because content saturation has really hit those topics. So there’s a low probability to really create something compelling in those areas despite the higher viewership you can get. So if there’s an
Bill Sherman inverse relationship between the number of results on Google versus your ability to say something new,
Vishwas Anand yeah, yes. Yes, yes. And when you compare it to an emerging topic like sustainability as well. So I feel we need to really first need to take a balanced approach between such niche topics for targeted consumers and attending ones to increase reach because the niche ones are as important, if not more important as the awful part picking ideas in the field, and they may not really get the desired reach for the start. Just to give you an example, when IDC first came up with the term omnichannel retail, so this was in the September 2010 report, the tone wasn’t very popular then it was only in 2013 that it became really a buzzword for marketers. So the search terms like Sustainability Omnichannel detailed a few examples of what I call creative wisdom, and that is the true test of digital storytelling to really anticipate the market share of voice probably will talk about what’s existing and what’s trending and how competitors fared. But I feel that this is something I’ve just coined or shared of wisdom as a way to really lead to a true test for thought, leadership storytelling and being able to predict or anticipate the whole market and return on innovation.
Bill Sherman So you touched on something that I’ve talked about for years, but in a slightly different way that ability to coin a phrase and be able to insert it into standard business lexicon. When you coined the term and other people start using it, they’re starting to see the world through your lens, right? And so that doesn’t it doesn’t matter whether you’re an individual or an organization. One of the ways now it’s a historical and a retrospective is to look at that, like you say from a wisdom perspective, did you start using a term that you know, people are using 15, 20 years later? Is the long term true metric of did you shape the discussion? But if you’re looking to try and fill a sales channel, you know, for the monitor the quarter, that’s a tough metric, right? And so this balancing between shaping a conversation long term versus influencing the world today within the time span that a business cares about. That’s a tough challenge.
Vishwas Anand It is. It is. I think it’s a challenge every thought leadership marketer faces. Well, that’s what I pointed out between the short term and the long term.
Bill Sherman Continually so, Vishwas, you and I could continue this conversation for another hour or two, but I think this is a great place to leave it there, perched on the balance between focusing on today and thinking about the long-term future. Thank you very much for joining me with this conversation.
Vishwas Anand Thank you so much for having me on your show. It was wonderful talking to you.
Bill Sherman If you’re interested in organizational thought leadership, then I invite you to subscribe to the OrgTL Newsletter. Each month we talk about the people who create, curate and deploy thought leadership on behalf of their organizations. Go to the website orgtl.com and choose Join our newsletter. I’ll leave a link to the website as well as my LinkedIn profile in the show notes. Thanks for listening, and I look forward to hearing what you thought of the show.