The Power Of The Written Word – Why Thought Leadership Needs Books

Despite the death knell having been tolled, the ‘old fashioned’ hard copy book continues to play a valuable role in thought leadership. But sometimes the obsession with technology can mask the considerable opportunities.

You only have to take a look around the daily commute to see that books still command people’s attention and sales figures for books, including business books, are growing.

This is doubtless helped by the current emphasis placed on reading and ideas by business leaders, especially tech entrepreneurs. Apparently the best leaders read for 20 minutes a day, there are always lists of what every successful business person should read available along with ideas for reading routines and suggestions for making you a more effective person, which including reading more.

Many places of work still have a library both for professional reasons but also to help foster creativity. In some places, they encourage people to donate relevant books so that they can be shared with colleagues.

But why focus on a book rather than other outlets to develop your thought leadership?

  • it may seem obvious but a book allows an idea to be explored in more detail. Blogs work for 500 words, 1,000 words and some longer form but nothing approaching what a book allows you to do. Across 70,000 words, you can explore concepts, professions, best practice, working practices, whatever you like;
  • books have a permanence that an online version alone lacks and that is especially true when dealing with images;
  • a book can be used as a, cost effective, permanent creds document. Used creatively, a book is a calling card by which you can demonstrate your expertise.  People find comfort in the printed word.  If you are fortunate enough to have a book printed then to many audiences it shows that you know what you are talking about;
  • blogs are great but few people are going to trawl through hundreds of them but they will browse a book and pick out the best ideas or look at the most relevant aspects; and
  • it is not a case of on or off-line. Instead writing a book offers better opportunities that can be supported through online and social media activities.

A book does require more time, attention, and research in their creation. They cannot be simply ‘knocked out’ which shorter form content can sometimes be. But that is part of its inherent attraction and power. They take commitment to write and that impresses.

Books can offer thought leadership opportunities to individuals but also for organisations as well. An edited book with chapters from individuals across an organisation could be attractive. ‘History’ books offer a good way of showing how practices have changed and how heritage informs how it behaves now.  A book is a form of collective memory for organisations that can otherwise be lost.  Sending copies to employees or offering them as part of induction training can help develop commitment to the organisation.

Books offer the prospect of visibility in the marketplace and, if part of a campaign, can be used to develop contacts.


I am biased, of course. Having written a number of books, I always find it heartening when someone mentions that they have read one of them (even better if they bought it!).  I am pleased to have contributed, at least in some part, to the continued professionalisation of public affairs.

But they are part of my ‘brand’ and are my calling card so that I can show I know what I am talking about, so much so that I am prepared to share it with others.  What I have really useful is having a publisher that is prepared to challenge me.  So if you are tempted to write a book then get a good team around you.

Now how do I get on Richard and Judy or Oprah’s book club lists…?

Photo by Syd Wachs on Unsplash

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Stuart is a public affairs and communications specialist with BDB Pitmans advising clients on all elements of their public affairs strategies including political and corporate communications and reputation management. His work also includes consultation and planning communications and he has advised on a number of high profile media relations and crisis communications programmes. Stuart is an honorary research fellow at the University of Aberdeen and is the author of several books including ‘New Activism and the Corporate Response‘ (heralded as a book that “every aspiring business leader should read” by MIS Asia), ‘Public Affairs in Practice’ and ‘The Dictionary of Labour Quotations‘. His most recently published book, ‘Public Affairs: A Global Perspective’ has been called ‘an absolute treasure-trove’ and is a recommended read by the Government Communication Service (GCS). Stuart regularly writes and lectures on a range of business and political issues and as well as blogging for BDB Pitmans he contributes to the Huffington Post and has written for the CBI, (former) UKTI, Total Politics and LabourList. He is also an adviser to the Entrepreneurs Network (TEN) and a regular speaker and chair at conferences. He has appeared on Sky News, BBC 5 Live, BBC World, the Today programme and on Ukrainian TV and has been a judge for the Public Affairs News, PR Week, Public Affairs and the European Public Affairs awards. Stuart is a CIPR trainer leading the 'Practical Public Affairs' course.

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