The Content Strategy of Thought Leadership

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Many companies today strive to be “thought leaders,” but only a select few truly live up to that aspiration. Thought leadership requires a unique point of view, the ability to provide valuable information, and a layered approach to disseminating that information. This presentation explores what makes a thought leader, best practices for thought leadership, and why a content strategy is essential to help companies grow and sustain their thought leadership — helping with everything from navigating internal politics to prioritizing resources.

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  • I really like your overall approach to this topic. Just like you said, 'thought leadership' has become one of the most popular business and corporate slangs to help characterize a person. Eventually it will be seen as nothing but a label to put on a resume. To truly understand the concept of thought leadership, we need to internalize holistically the actions and change an individual can have on a group of people. This, in turn, will identify 'thought leadership' from other corporate phrases and words like management, philanthropist, game changer, etc.
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The Content Strategy of Thought Leadership

  1. The Content Strategy of Thought Leadership CSForum 2013, Helsinki Stacey King Gordon, Suite Seven Inc. @staceykgordon
  2. Suite Seven is a content strategy and brand consultancy in Oakland, California.
  3. The Bold Italic / Design by Skinny Ships www.thebolditalic.com
  4. What is thought leadership, exactly?
  5. MY HIGHLY SCIENTIFIC FACEBOOK POLL: Do you know what I mean by “thought leadership”? Huh? I’ve heard it, but I’m not sure what it means. I know what it means and how to define it! 45% 11% 49%
  6. MY HIGHLY SCIENTIFIC FACEBOOK & FRIENDS POLL: Do you know what I mean by “thought leadership”?
  7. MY HIGHLY SCIENTIFIC FACEBOOK & FRIENDS POLL: Do you know what I mean by “thought leadership”?
  8. MY HIGHLY SCIENTIFIC FACEBOOK & FRIENDS POLL: Do you know what I mean by “thought leadership”?
  9. My reasons for selecting the people who appear here were straightforward. In each instance, I was looking for an individual who was addressing the big questions with which today’s most senior executives are wrestling. These questions relate to issues of business strategy, growth, and human resources, as well as the new social contract that is taking shape among companies, employees, and shareholders, and the ways in which society itself is changing. “Thought Leadership” c. 1994
  10. Source: Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs
  11. “To become a thought leader, hire a virtual assistant to blog for you twice a week” “Thought Leadership” c. 2013
  12. “Comment on other peoples’ blog posts.” “Thought Leadership” c. 2013
  13. Thought Leadership Content Marketing Personal Branding Branded Content
  14. OPQ Company is a trusted global leader in technology solutions for businesses around the world …
  15. The first rule of thought leadership is that you don’t talk about “thought leadership.”
  16. SHOW, DON’T TELL 1.  Innovate in product development 2.  Lead the way in new business models 3.  Share expertise, insight and analysis
  17. SHOW, DON’T TELL 1.  Innovate in product development 2.  Lead the way in new business models 3.  Share expertise, insight and analysis
  18. Thought leadership essential #1 Unique, informed perspective •  Authority on industry issues •  Immersed in an industry and takes a guiding role •  Experienced professionals sharing their insights •  Focused, provocative thinking
  19. Thought leadership essential #2 Useful and relevant to audiences •  Written and packaged for easy consumption •  Applicable and usable •  Speaks to audiences’ day-to-day reality
  20. Content Marketing vs. Thought Leadership
  21. Content Marketing •  Starts in the marketing department •  Is one of many lead- generation tactics (check the box) •  Is sometimes packaged as “thought leadership” ORGANIZATIONAL SUPPORT AND VISIBILITY
  22. Thought Leadership •  Starts at the top and works its way down •  Becomes an integral part of the brand •  Permeates and becomes part of the discourse Content Marketing •  Starts in the marketing department •  Is one of many lead- generation tactics (check the box) •  Is sometimes packaged as “thought leadership” ORGANIZATIONAL SUPPORT AND VISIBILITY
  23. Source: Harvard Business Review
  24. Content Marketing Investing in regular or semi-regular development of content that is: •  Repackaged •  Influenced by product marketing/messaging •  Created from secondary sources •  Business-led •  One-dimensional CONTENT STANDARDS
  25. “Thoughts are a prerequisite for thought leadership.” Neal Bruce Head of Product Management at Lumesse
  26. Content Marketing Investing in regular or semi-regular development of content that is: •  Repackaged •  Influenced by product marketing/messaging •  Created from secondary sources •  Business-led •  One-dimensional Thought Leadership Investing in regular development of content that is: •  Original •  Unbiased •  Research-driven •  Audience-led •  Layered CONTENT STANDARDS
  27. Layered Content DO: •  Provide a succinct summary with the ability to dig deeper •  Provide layers that people can extract, digest and share •  Get maximum mileage with complementary content DON’T: •  Publish a link to a dense, 40-page PDF report •  Publish the exact same content in umpteen different formats
  28. Short summary article Slide show
  29. Video commentary
  30. Thought Leadership “Value exchange” focused on audience success (and long-term results for the organization) Content Marketing ROI measured through leads generated, conversions, and other sales-focused metrics GOALS AND MEASUREMENT
  31. Do Good to Do Well “With true thought leadership, there’s nothing in it for me. It’s public service. It’s doing something helpful for the client.”
  32. Early stage (reach) More inbound inquiries and short listing Middle stage (depth) Faster sales cycles, higher close rates, and bigger deal sizes Later stage (relationship) Increased customer loyalty and higher lifetime value Source: Laura Ramos, Forrester Benefits of Thought Leadership
  33. Content strategy of thought leadership: A case study
  34. Client: A Business Bank •  Founded to finance startup companies •  Offices around the world •  First forays into “content marketing” in early 2000s •  Unique position in startup community, evolving into serving mature companies
  35. Challenges •  Lack of agreement about purpose and goals of thought leadership
  36. Challenges •  Lack of agreement about purpose and goals of thought leadership •  Limited resources and great demand
  37. Challenges •  Lack of agreement about purpose and goals of thought leadership •  Limited resources and great demand •  Quality consistency
  38. Challenges •  Lack of agreement about purpose and goals of thought leadership •  Limited resources and great demand •  Quality consistency •  Organization vs. individual
  39. Goals of the Content Strategy 1.  Support bank’s positioning and add value to client relationship throughout lifecycle 2.  Establish a publishing model to prioritize content 3.  Set standards for content quality
  40. Stakeholder Interviews “A lot of our thought leadership is in our one-on- one relationships, in how we help our clients be successful. CEO conversations on how they can move forward effectively is just as much thought leadership as a published piece.” “Thought leadership takes many forms. The medium is maybe the least interesting piece. The what and to whom will answer the question of how it’s best to deliver it.” “Thought leadership isn’t always about us producing it, but about us enabling it. Putting all the real thought experts in a room and facilitating it happening.”
  41. POINT OF VIEW Putting the clients at the center of everything Tapping in to unparalleled client relationships to inform expertise, insights and practical advice to help clients succeed
  42. CONTENT FRAMEWORK Thought leadership across the client lifecycle •  Deep sector expertise •  Strong C-level relationships and strategic insights •  Cultivating peer-to-peer conversations and information sharing
  43. CONTENT GOALS •  Educate •  Inspire •  Provoke thought •  Foster networking and engagement
  44. INDIVIDUAL VS. BRAND •  Individual thought leaders should cultivate unique perspective, expertise and voice. •  Bank maintains the higher branding, with all thought leadership content focused on delivering value to the audience.
  45. Three Tiers of Content Premium/Proprietary Content Best Practices/Solution Content Current Awareness/Expertise
  46. Three Tiers of Content Premium/Proprietary Content Criteria Original research, first-time publication, data-driven but with a narrative, fostering external credibility Tone Educational, more formal, smart and incisive, upbeat Frequency Quarterly/semi-annual Creators Professional writers/marketing, or subject matter experts with support of professional editors Extending the Value Complementary content to support sharing at every level: social content, video, PPT decks, infographics, blog posts
  47. Three Tiers of Content Best Practices/Solutions Content Criteria Value-added guidance to deepen conversations, unique POV but citing secondary sources, informative Tone Educational, technical/data-driven, smart and incisive, upbeat Frequency Several times a year, as issues or trends emerge Creators Professional writers/marketing, or subject matter experts with support of professional editors Extending the Value Promote on social, turn larger pieces into several short pieces (blog posts), create sales collateral out of content
  48. Three Tiers of Content Current Awareness/Expertise Criteria Smaller bites of thought-provoking content, highlighting individual expertise, conveys unique POV, timely Tone Smart, conversational, upbeat, succinct, humorous (when appropriate) Frequency Regularly (a few times a week) Creators Subject matter experts, salespeople, marketing Extending the Value Sharing on social channels, curating and packaging “best of” content into more premium publications
  49. RESULTS •  More focus to thought leadership projects •  Internal alignment on goals, ownership, process •  Support for people throughout the company’s ranks to participate and contribute •  More mileage out of efforts
  50. Questions?
  51. THANK YOU! www.suiteseven.com/csforum13

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