How To Make Your Next Thought Leadership Program a Success

In the late Nineties, I searched the web (sure, it existed) to determine what folks meant by the comparatively new idea of thought management linked to company branding.

Since then, I’ve developed thought management campaigns for a lot of world manufacturers. And, immediately, practically each B2B marketer makes use of thought management of their content material advertising and marketing technique.

But regardless of its effectiveness and endurance, the idea nonetheless isn’t effectively understood – neither is it used to its potential.

What is assumed management actually?

Business leaders and entrepreneurs slap the “thought leadership” label onto a lot of selling actions. Some narrowly outline it. Others, as Forrester principal analyst Lisa Gately did at Content Marketing World, outline it as  “an intentional exercise of knowledge, skills, and expertise to increase awareness, elevate perception, and drive preference related to key issues that an audience cares about.”

To me, thought management shouldn’t be outlined too narrowly or too expansively. Thought management is the strategic and well-planned coming collectively of authentic analysis and compelling, purpose-built advertising and marketing content material to interact a outlined viewers.

Some use my definition extra particularly for “industry thought leadership” as a result of it captures macro tendencies affecting enterprise and works for present and potential purchasers.

#ThoughtLeadership is the well-planned coming together of original research and compelling marketing #content for a defined audience, says @JanieJaniehulse via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

But the purpose stays the identical: to place your organization as an authority on a subject by offering helpful insights impartial of your model’s services and products.

In different phrases, don’t strategy thought management as a commodity, decreasing it to listicles or unsubstantiated infographics, as fellow author Jonathan Crossfield warns. Thought management is just not a single interview with a CEO, a webinar about new options, or a weblog article about a product.

Thought management in content material advertising and marketing depends on authentic or novel analysis. It combines the rigor of an impartial educational examine with the sizzle of a focused advert marketing campaign. It’s troublesome to tug off and sometimes takes a village of researchers, analysts, writers, editors, UX specialists, digital designers, videographers, IT managers, undertaking managers, and media strategists.

Example: Oral well being model Haleon supported a incredible thought management piece – the Health Inclusivity Index (registration required) produced by The Economist Group. It brings collectively professionals from all over the world to construct a program that mixes each substance and sizzle. It combines knowledge, case research, and a number of content material codecs to create a go-to thought management useful resource on the subject.

Boost your credibility and be helpful

Regardless of the means, well-planned and executed thought management campaigns educate the target market on broader macro tendencies and related implications for his or her enterprise. But let’s face it; executives are busy folks in search of methods to propel their companies ahead and bolster their very own data financial institution and experience. They don’t want a very prescriptive narrative; they need easy-to-understand thought management with useful key takeaways.

Executives don’t need overly prescriptive narratives. They want easy-to-understand #ThoughtLeadership with helpful takeaways, says @JanieJaniehulse via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Example: The 53-page report, Opportunity 2030: The Standard Chartered SDG Investment Map, serves this objective for the British multinational financial institution (Standard Chartered) and is supported by Oxford Analytica analysis. It crystalizes and visualizes the analysis findings associated to UN Sustainable Development Goals. It even supplies figures for personal sector funding alternatives in 15 international locations in Asia and Africa.

Tether thought management to enterprise outcomes

The extra focused, substantive, and helpful the thought management, the extra apt the content material can generate leads. LinkedIn’s B2B Institute recommends a practically even price range cut up between lead technology and model constructing in advertising and marketing. Thought management packages may also help obtain each objectives. They can earn model consideration from new corporations or companies venturing into new areas. Thought management packages can also set the stage for the gross sales course of, particularly given nearly three-fourths of B2B buyers in a 2020 study interact with a minimum of three items of content material earlier than ever speaking with a salesperson. Plus, a new thought management piece is a good cause for the gross sales crew to contact previous purchasers and new prospects to share it.

#ThoughtLeadership helps a marketing budget in two ways – awareness and lead generation, says @JanieJaniehulse via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Example: Well-designed thought management packages garner extra consideration by media distribution and awareness-building occasions whereas producing related enterprise leads. Insurer Willis Watson Towers does each with its annual Political Risk Index. Visitors can peruse a content material hub that includes a abstract of the analysis, entry a visually impactful e-book, and register to obtain the total report, which was gated to seize leads.

Expand past the PDF format

Marketers typically anchor thought management packages in a longer-form report underpinned by new analysis. But the distribution of these findings doesn’t need to be restricted to that report (typically within the type of a PDF). They might be shared at occasions massive and small. Your model’s speaker may incorporate them in a presentation at a convention, or your organization may host in-person or digital occasions with prospects and purchasers to alternate the worth and let your reps construct relationships and strike up conversations.

Your thought management program ought to dwell on the corporate’s web site or its personal touchdown web page hosted by a third-party publishing accomplice so as to add validation and publicity. It might be chopped into visually participating short-form content material property to share and devour on social media simply. The analysis findings can inform by-product multimedia content material items like movies, movies, or podcasts. Doing so means that you can meet the viewers the place they’re with content material codecs they wish to devour.

I actually like Rob Mitchel’s VARK acronym to make sure your thought management appeals to all studying types:

  • Visual – infographics, animations, knowledge visualization
  • Aural – podcasts, audio interviews
  • Read/write – long-form experiences, short-form content material, written opinion items, case research
  • Kinesthetic – webinars, consumer occasions, conferences, workshops

Example: I labored on a program for the Project Management Institute’s Brightline Initiative to carry thought management to the stage throughout the World Economic Forum at Davos in 2018 and 2019. The ensuing panel dialogue Humans 2.0: Designing and implementing a future-proof technique, hosted by The Economist Events, came about dwell on the occasion.

Then, the crew advanced the in-person presentation into three content material items for the Brightline Initative web site  (as you possibly can see within the screenshot under):

  • A video of the total panel dialogue
  • A shorter video exhibiting the highlights
  • Video commentary that includes the Brightline Initiative’s government director.

Find your secret to profitable thought management

What’s the key to conjuring content material that doesn’t get dismissed within the cacophony? Before you start, contemplate your goals, your viewers, and the way you need the viewers to react to the insights shared. With that understanding, you possibly can carry collectively a sensible crew to contemplate the best model positioning, related trending themes, and potential analysis hypotheses worthy of exploration.

In different phrases, do some model soul-searching and discover the white house you possibly can fill. Consider the white house as your playground. Shaping it takes a bit of labor. Happily, that effort often is simply a search away. Systematically Google key phrases associated to your undertaking and to see what pops up. Track the outcomes to see gamers and patterns emerge. Then, yow will discover the place your distinctive viewpoint matches inside the protection. That distinctive level grounds your white house.

Don’t cease quick

The Edelman Trust Barometer is the gold customary for thought management packages, given its longevity and influence. For greater than 20 years, Edelman has put ahead annual analysis on the affect of belief throughout society — authorities, media, enterprise, and non-government organizations. In doing so, the corporate has led the dialog and pushed outcomes for its enterprise.

You don’t have to put in 20 years to provide well-founded authentic concepts, however it’s essential to make investments for the lengthy haul.

The most profitable thought management campaigns I’ve labored on had been long-term, multi-year engagements. The entrepreneurs approached publishing companions 12 to 18 months earlier than launch. These bigger tasks typically require longer upfront conversations to outline and refine the theme and analysis hypotheses. That’s to not say you possibly can’t whip up a robust thought management engagement in 5 to seven months, however that often occurs after the upfront model and theme work exists.

When you’re taking the time to determine your subject areas, conduct the analysis, and produce a number of content material property, the thought management you produce will probably be extra more likely to entice consideration. It could have a higher alternative to realize consciousness amongst an government viewers.

Executives spend a median of two hours each week on thought management content material, in keeping with a 2021 IBM survey. Given that thought management informs 80% of CEO shopping for selections, in keeping with the identical survey, your program additionally will place your model for high quality leads.

Thought management packages have labored effectively for many years, however understanding what they actually contain and the way they will work in your model – and, extra importantly, your target market – will enable your content material to face out in a sea of misunderstood, misused, and unhelpful thought management.

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Cover picture by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institut