Executive Branding: Cisco Pioneers Total Company Commitment to Thought Leadership

  Computer networking equipment maker Cisco Systems is a testament to a total commitment to thought leadership marketing. Cisco’s entire senior management team is organized around the goal of promoting Cisco as a thought leader in the technology field, which is led by CEO John Chambers, who actively evangelizes visionary business concepts in speeches, articles, webcasts and countless direct engagements with customers and others in the technology industry “ecosystem.” As Cisco thought leadership is about earning credibility by creating information that places company objectives second to the goal of educating prospects. “When you look at thought leadership you can break it out into a number of different areas. It must be visionary. It looks at the future. It must be provocative, and it must put our customer’s needs first,” says Mark Peshoff, senior director of Cisco’s Executive Thought Leadership. Many CEOs articulate visions for their own organizations. Cisco stresses the goal of articulating a future vision for Cisco’s customers. In one example, Chambers recently rallied on of its key markets, the telecommunications industry, around the idea of transitioning from voice to data as a key opportunity facing the telecommunications industry. Chambers demands that every Cisco executive establish and nurture his or her own reputation for thought leadership, through blogging, public speaking, and writing articles. Cisco has an area on its website devoted to executive thought leadership, with links to research reports, papers, podcasts, interviews and other content, much of it from Cisco executives. The company publishes a newsletter, Executive Thought Leadership Quarterly, to which CEO Chambers is a leading contributor. And it posts an online resource called ExecNet that offers videos featuring Cisco senior executives discussing how Internet technologies and solutions impact all aspects of business. Recent videos include company How Can Companies Grow Profits In Today’s Competitive World? By Gary Bridge Senior Vice President of Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group, and Chambers talking about, Interactions: The Next Productivity Horizon. Cisco also hosts thought leadership events, including a series of Executive Summits that bring together academia with Cisco executives to address very specific topics related to business and technology. Recent executives summits have tackled technology challenges facing small-businesses in China, the linkages between IT and business strategy and others. The company also produces a series of podcasts available through the Cisco website that feature company executives discussing issues of the day. A recent example had Paul Mountford, President of the Emerging Markets Theatre, deliver Net Impact: Latin America. Once thought leadership is established, the rest of the industry, the media, academia, government policymakers and the broader business community turn to that company for ideas and for insights into where things are going. According to Cisco, that is where their thought leadership efforts pay off. “The credibility we gain through thought leadership contributes to a sustainable market leadership position,” says Peshoff. “Cisco’s status in the technology field, and the business world, and its dedication to thought leadership are inseparable.”

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