From Thought Leadership to Attention Leadership

Posted on by Dana VanDen Heuvel

So, you consider yourself a thought leader. You’ve got research, you’ve got whitepapers, you’re speaking and presenting and your blog traffic is up over last year. That’s great, but you know deep down that it’s not enough. You know that in spite of all of your great visibility, you’re still not connecting with everyone in your tribe – you’re not getting everyone’s attention.

The Attention Economy

Back in 2001, John Beck and Thomas Davenport, both from Accenture, published a landmark book in The Attention Economyand a revolution measurement tool in the “AttentionScape.” Their hypothesis was, and remains, that in this era of Continuous Partial Attention (CPA), brands need to focus on consumer attention as the ultimate currency in the marketplace.

In the Attention Economy, thought leaders must focus on gaining Share of Mind to attain the top-of-mind trusted advisor position in the marketplace. If you refer back to the Thought Leadership Marketing Equationwe published in 2009, you’ll see that this is the final component that translates your Point of View into measurable market share.

thought leadership marketing equation 500 thumb From Thought Leadership to Attention Leadership

Getting Attention

In the age of social media, getting and maintaining attention is both more challenging, but also easier, in that we have many tools at our disposal with which to connect our brand to our tribe. There are four principles – relevance, engagement, community, and convenience – that you need to build upon to succeed as a thought leader in the attention economy.


Customer needs are never static. In fact, they change daily and your content needs to reflect your recognition of those changes and challenges and reflect your knowledge of the situation. Tactics for increasing your relevance include:

  • Developing and curating content that fills current needs (keywords, trends, etc.)
  • Defining your target audience well – narrow and refine into niches
  • Frequent updates insights “in motion”
  • Empathetic engagement (showcase your listening, as well as your publishing)


While this is a loaded buzzword in social media, the best thought leaders are truly engaging. The most engaging thought leaders stick to a great narrative and interact with their tribe around that narrative, or story. Tactics for increasing your engagement include:

  • Get interactive. Listen, respond, react
  • Keep production value high – don’t skimp on content creation – high value content attracts high value attention
  • Stick to your narrative (aka point-of-view, story, etc…)


Customers in a brand community are worth more in lifetime value than customers not in community. One of the key objectives for thought leaders is building a tribe or community around your ideas. Tactics for growing your community include:

  • Allow your audience to contribute or co-own the content and ideas
  • Make your community famous – social media makes it easier to interact directly and weave your audience’s story into yours
  • Get personal with your community – events and IRL (in real life) meetups make stronger bonds than you could ever form virtually


The paradox of thought leadership is that we want to be both “viewed from afar as an expert” but as accessible as the corner market shop keeper. Making your brand accessible and convenient builds attention through “ease of use.” Tactics for increasing convenience to your audience include:

  • Remove the hurdles to access – cumbersome forms, no real faces on the website and obscuring the path to your door make it hard to do business with you
  • Be available – get on all of the social networks that your tribe frequents and open the gates
  • Minimize distractions – share valuable content consistently and you’ll be recognized as a contributor to the wellbeing of the business

While the four principles of relevance, engagement, community, and convenience are not the end of the story when it comes to gaining and keeping attention, they’re a great starting point to keep your thought leadership efforts out in front of your audience and ahead of your competition.

 From Thought Leadership to Attention Leadership
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