Thought leadership, populism, publicity and their amazing marketing opportunities and challenges


There have been many surprises in the past couple of years, where the world defied expectations. Canada (where I live), moved from an alt-right type government to the more Liberal, centre-left model, while the US turned in the opposite direction. There have been surprising success stories, and stunning failures, but one thing is certain — politicians who captured the public’s mood for change, often using tricks from the political playbook that go back eons, won — while others who played the systematic and structured game lost.

These experiences and observations have relevance for anyone associated with architectural, engineering and construction marketing, because they relate to creating change opportunities: Good if you are an outsider or newcomer looking in; and perhaps threatening if you are an established incumbent, normally secure in your client base and experience.

They suggest some rule-breaking shakeups may be appropriate. There are plenty of risks in these strategies, and I expect almost no one reading these ideas will go ahead an implement them, because it is much easier to maintain the status quo, and most of us lack the skills (or patience to develop them) to shatter the conventional processes.

Speak out. Speak up. Speak controversially (directly and through social media).

You have to take a stand. It can be irrational, though if you are a technical/professional person you might find it hard to win the argument if your potential clients play by the traditional rulebook. However, if it appeals to your intended market, a gutsy, risky, and amazingly aggressive stance may be successful.

Be yourself. Be true. In the end, be authentic.

You can’t plasticize/successfully mask your real character, and even if it is flawed, it often doesn’t matter, if you wear it on your public soul. If there are problems, and you try to cover them up rather than let them be visible, you will probably be caught out in the contradictions, and lose when people sense the disconnect between the public and private “you”.

Be consistent. But realize that the most effective “consistent” these days is to be consistently inconsistent.

That one will take some wrapping around — and shows the challenge of success in a world where conventional rules are turning topsy-turvy. The art of being able to catch everyone off guard, and yet doing the surprising things in ways that still ring authentic and truthful to your character, cannot be easily explained or replicated, but will still provide some powerful guidance for your success.

How do you implement changes based on these seemingly contradictory concepts? I think you can discover answers by catching the experiences and opportunities by really looking into the personalities, character and interests of your potential clients and the people within your organization.

However, defining the creative seed that will change the story is something I cannot answer easily, without going into the story of my youthful experiences in Africa, also experienced — in a more dramatic way — by Brian Tracy and Geoff Laundy.

(This video from a 1987 Brian Tracy speech has irritating music, but tells his Africa story quite well. You can see my story and discovery here.)

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