Thought Leadership Tensions - Part 4: Setting out to keep going

By Steve Blundell - Head of Acritas Advisors

We’ve been looking at six key challenges facing the creators of thought leadership content:

  1. Picking a topic
  2. Focus and speed to market
  3. Getting value from “old” ideas
  4. Collaboration
  5. Channel issues
  6. Internal engagement

So, this time we get to the fourth topic: collaboration.

The “thwak” factor

There was a time before social media came along, that professional firms judged the impressiveness of their thought leadership by the weight of the report at the end of it – what we used to call the “thwak” factor as it hit the table. It was a comforting sound. It suggested seriousness, hard work and most importantly the authoritative last word on the topic. A press release would follow, and we’d move on to the next one.

These days, the KPIs are different. With social media tracking, no one wants to see their thought leadership peak in interest the disappear off the edge a week or two later.

Keeping it going

Social media may be the window on keeping it going. But our experience, and the evidence from our BrainBox evaluation tool, is that a more profound mind shift is needed if the creators of thought leadership content are to succeed in creating something that keeps going.

The comfort of the “report” is that the firm could take a stance be “the” authority on the subject. But to succeed in the new paradigm, the firm needs to position itself as a contributor to a debate. If it’s lucky, it may be able to create a role as ringmaster of the debate – but it needs to accept that it will inevitable loose some control. Like all conversations, it can be steered in a direction, but it may go off in unpredictable directions.

Being prepared for the conversation

Having undergone a mind-shift change, the authors of the content may now see a number of dimensions of this conversation opening up. Once the report or content is released, there will be social media channels and comments on the web or microsite which invite a response. It is surprising how often this is missed by firms who fail to take up the conversation and keep it going. Doing so offers a chance to showcase the firm’s expertise, but it obviously needs choreographing internally to make sure the relevant experts are on hand to comment.

This external conversation can be enriched by the firm proactively socialising the content through events, round tables etc. The key here is to make sure that the firm’s key points and narrative are reinforced as often as possible during and after such events. It should be said that a good quality media relations agency or in-house team can make a real contribution here.

The firm may also choose to invite commentary from other parties rather than wait until these conversations happen by chance. If the third parties are chosen well, their voice will add more to the sustained impact of the project. Depending on the topic and content, those third parties could include clients of the firm – giving them a platform as a result.

It important also that the conversation be kept up internally. Firms frequently miss this. Many will hold a workshop to decide on the content of the initial piece, but there is much to be said for re-convening this group periodically to review where the conversation has got to and what the firm’s next steps and position should be.


So to conclude: If you are planning a project and find yourself talking mainly about “the report” at the end, do a check-in with yourself: Are you positioning your project to be the last word, or giving it a chance to take flight as a longer running conversation? 


You can read more of Steve's blogs here >>

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