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Thought Leadership from the Inside Out
 

Thought Leadership from the Inside Out

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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 ...

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. For the few companies who achieve it, thought leadership is proven to drive long-term and higher-value customer relationships and increase brand affinity and loyalty.

Stacey King Gordon of Suite Seven led a workshop during LoyaltyExpo 2014 in Orlando, Florida. The workshop explored what makes a thought leader, best practices for thought leadership, and how to develop a publishing and content strategy to help companies grow into true thought leaders — helping with everything from navigating internal politics to prioritizing resources.

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    Thought Leadership from the Inside Out Thought Leadership from the Inside Out Presentation Transcript

    • Thought Leadership From the Inside Out LoyaltyExpo 2014 Stacey King Gordon, Suite Seven @staceykgordon #loyaltyexpo #TLIO
    • 1.  Understand what thought leadership is, what it isn’t, and what it looks like when it’s right 2.  Develop an action plan for how to start (or improve) your thought leadership communications efforts 3.  Get tools to take back to your team to lay the groundwork for thought leadership communications 4.  Exercise: DIY thought leadership content strategy for a fictional software company Goals for Today
    • Who we are
    • Suite Seven is a content strategy and brand consultancy in Oakland, California.
    • Thought leadership: ??????
    • 60% consider their brands to be thought leaders 27% have some kind of thought leadership communication program in plac 69% believe their company could do a better job at communicating their thought leadership in a way that earns long-term loyalty What we heard from loyalty marketers
    • Efforts are fragmented. Different departments are doing different things. Leaders and experts aren’t involved. Executives and subject matter experts don’t have time to participate or interest in participating. No sense of what’s most important or impactful. Teams have difficulty prioritizing projects. What we heard from loyalty marketers
    • How do you define thought leadership?
    • 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
    • Thought leadership is getting a bad rap.
    • “To become a thought leader, hire a virtual assistant to blog for you twice a week” “Thought Leadership” c. 2013
    • The first rule of thought leadership is that you don’t talk about “thought leadership.”
    • It’s time for cute kid pictures.
    • We listen to the people with the best ideas, and we follow them.
    • Address the big questions ? Embrace change Establish a point of view Innovate to prepare for change Guide their community to adapt & succeed Things thought leaders do:
    • Why thought leadership matters
    • Long-term benefits of thought leadership More inbound inquiries More short listing Faster sales cycles Higher close rates Bigger deal sizes Increased customer loyalty Higher lifetime value Early stage Middle stage Later stage Source: Laura Ramos, Forrester
    • Brand value and thought leadership
    • Apple: #1 in brand value “That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” - Steve Jobs
    • Google: #2 in brand value “I think Google should be like a Swiss Army knife: clean, simple, the tool you want to take everywhere.” - Marissa Mayer
    • Coca-Cola: #3 in brand value
    • IBM: #4 in brand value
    • Microso: #5 in brand value
    • Defining thought leadership communication
    • •  Starts at the top with a commitment and belief among leaders •  Becomes an integral part of the brand •  Permeates and becomes part of the discourse Thought leadership is ingrained in the culture. It shouldn’t be: •  Something that originates in the marketing or PR department (though it might ultimately live there) •  Another lead generation or PR tactic
    • •  Invests in original, unbiased, research-driven content •  Offers authoritative insight based on experience and leadership •  Provides focused, provocative thinking on relevant issues Thought leadership offers an unique, informed perspective. It shouldn’t be: •  Exclusively repackaging ideas or information published by others
    • •  Focuses on the success of the customer or community •  Strives for long-term loyalty, retention and brand affinity •  Can be packaged to support sales conversations and marketing strategies, but should be pervasive part of brand communications Thought leadership is a long-term commitment to delivering high-value thinking and guidance. It shouldn’t be: •  Measured exclusively through page views or follows •  Dependent on short-term gains •  An occasional marketing or business development tactic
    • “With true thought leadership, there’s nothing in it for me. It’s public service. It’s doing something helpful for the client.”
    • •  Packaged for both quick consumption and in-depth engagement •  Written/voiced in a way that speaks to audiences •  Delivered and organized in a user-focused way •  Practical enough to speak to audience’s day-to-day reality Thought leadership should be useful, relevant and accessible for targeted audiences. It shouldn’t be: •  Locked inside a dense publication •  Esoteric, inaccessible or too theoretical for busy audiences to care about •  Buried in an overstuffed resource library without a way to surface it
    • 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
    • Video commentary
    • Short summary article Slide show
    • FOCUS SUSTAINABILITY STANDARDS
    • Focus
    • Themes and topics Channels Frequency Curation What you uniquely know What your audience cares about Where You Credibly Play
    • Themes and topics Channels Curation What you uniquely know
    • 1. Define your point of view •  What does your brand stand for? •  What do you want to be known for? •  What do you and your people believe? •  What do you choose to care about? •  Where do your people have exceptional expertise? •  Where can you credibly lead the conversation? •  What perspective do you bring?
    • Your point of view creates a framework for focused content
    • “In  the  Networked  Society,  connec3vity  will  be  the  star3ng   points  for  new  ways  of  innova3ng,  collabora3ng  and   socializing.     It’s  about  crea3ng  freedom,  empowerment  and  opportunity,   transforming  industries  and  socie3es  while  helping  find   solu3ons  to  some  of  the  greatest  challenges  facing  our   planet.     We  are  on  the  brink  of  an  extraordinary  revolu3on.  A  world   connected  in  real  3me  will  place  many  new  requirements  on   all  of  us  while  opening  up  opportuni3es  beyond  our   imagina3on.”    
    • The implications on workplace culture
    • How communication technology can create more sustainable, affordable, innovative cities
    • The evolution of education and networked technology
    • Getting to the POV •  Brand positioning •  Existing content •  Company strategy •  Leaders’ vision for the future •  Competitive landscape
    • What your audience cares about
    • 2. Define your audience “personas” •  Demographics: age, gender, lifestyle, income •  Psychographics: beliefs, personality •  Motivations •  Challenges (what keeps them up at night) •  Goals •  Barriers
    • Sample Persona: IT Senior Leader David Wu Age 52 B.S. in Computer Science and MBA CIO for large ($500M/year) enterprise software company Motivation: Professional growth. He was recruited from his last company that went IPO, and was brought in to overhaul the architecture of his current company’s software platform. His day: He’s responsible for an established network of apps and may have to answer user questions. However, his strong suit is programming, not marketing or customer service. Challenges: Budget, resources, outdated infrastructure, relatively junior team, internal politics (including tension among departmental IT departments) Goals: Deliver on an aggressive plan to rewrite and deploy updated software to 10 pilot customer sites by end of fiscal year Barriers: Significant code challenges; winning support from senior leadership; finding the right vendor
    • Awareness Research Consideration Purchase Relationship WHAT THE CUSTOMER IS DOING Deciding to buy; beginning to plan Researching online; educating himself about the basics Comparing products in store to what he saw online; narrowing down choices; consulting others Making his final decision and deciding on a purchase Implementation, thinking about growing the solution CUSTOMER MINDSET Excited, anxious/nervous, overwhelmed with options, discouraged about cost Interested, engaged, tentative Hopeful, careful Satisfied, relieved, happy, proud Excited and relieved, then overwhelmed CONTENT GOALS Help consumer overcome sense of being overwhelmed or discouraged; give him a logical starting point to understand options and decisions. Help consumer explore options, understand tradeoffs and factors, embrace variety and choice Answer more advanced questions and help consumer make his final decision Help consumer make his final decision and feel good about it Bring consumer back for “what’s next” and continue to serve him through the next stage CONTENT THEMES, TOPICS, TYPES 101-level basics, answers to basic questions, checklists, primer videos, easy infographics and “maps” Basic overviews, comparison charts, decision guides, answers to basic concerns that arise during early research Answers to more advanced concerns that come up during research, tips for weighing choices Emotion-driven content (testimonials, proposal stories), confidence- building content (post- purchase issues) Guidance on processes, issues, getting most mileage out of product 3. Map your content for personas
    • The “status quo shift” — prospects begin to become aware that something needs to change. They become more aware of the challenges they have and begin to explore how they might go about solving those problems Prospects begin to research their options for solving their issues. They talk to others, look for trusted guidance, read, compare directions, and put together an exploratory committee or RFP to begin investigating options. Once they’ve narrowed down which path to take, prospects begin to weigh who to work with on their solution, how to design the solution they need, how much they want to spend, timing, requirements and other organizational considerations. They also make decisions about what not to do and who not to work with — so overcoming objections becomes a hurdle for sales at this stage.   Prospects decide on a solution, negotiate pricing, create schedules, design implementation plans, choose features, and make other purchase decisions. They may need to get committee buy-in and go through a careful consideration process. Once the deal is signed, they kick off the project or begin adopting, training on, implementing the solution. The vendor and customer begin putting the structure in place for a long-term, successful relationship.   The vendor and customer engage in a relationship through marketing communications, sales representatives or account managers. The relationship is focused on retaining the customer, maintaining satisfaction, and promoting incremental sales over time. The customer relationship lifecycle Content can support the customer relationship from the very first moment prospects become aware of your brand through long-term retention and loyalty. We like to think about what our target personas need at different stages in this lifecycle. The stages include: Confiden3al-­‐For  Internal  Use  Only   63  
    • What you uniquely know What your audience cares about Where You Credibly Play
    • Our playground for today: Digher Straights Tech
    • About the company •  Digher Straights Tech (DST) is a software company, established in 2003, that creates products for wealth management professionals. •  Still run by one of the two original founders, Matt Knowles; the other founder left to start a competing company, which was later acquired by a large enterprise company. •  Matt is well-known in the industry, mostly because he has aligned himself with regional associations and conferences for independent wealth managers. He speaks frequently at conferences, mostly about business practices, business ethics, and new standards for technology in the industry. He is good friends with many other industry leaders and a visible personality at industry conferences. •  The company is on the NASDAQ and is growing steadily year over year, but is focused on driving new revenue by moving into new markets
    • About the products •  Products are geared toward the wealth management profession. Their two best-known products include: •  Money4Nothing: Financial planning software •  Swing Sultan: Hedge fund software •  They also offer an integrated suite of software packages that are newer on the market and not as well known. •  They’ve pioneered moving wealth management software into the cloud, and believe their products are the easiest to use and most accessible for self-employed wealth management professionals and small firms. •  They want to extend into being able to serve larger firms as they grow or get acquired, and to cater to more mid-market customers.
    • About the market DST’s biggest competitors have always been two other software firms focused on small wealth management customers: •  WealthSoft is a long-established company that got acquired by a large enterprise company but still operates as a subsidiary. They are more corporate in their communications, and have a big presence at trade shows and conferences, but don’t publish much beyond some occasional white papers about their products. •  FutureMind is a more recent startup. They are a SaaS product; they have a blog and use social media a lot, and are trying to reach out to a new generation of wealth managers who want something fun to use and easy. They tend to publish commentary on news stories about what’s happening in the financial world and trends in the market.
    • DST persona: Decision-maker at mid-sized wealth management firm Sheila Jones Age 50 B.S. in Economics, Certified Financial Planner (CFP) COO for $10M wealth management/investment firm in Hartford, CT Motivation: Watching the company grow; solving clients’ problems; work- life balance; running a streamlined practice with good people Her day: She spends about 30% of her day on client service and account management, and the rest on HR, systems and processes, operational infrastructure, and growth strategy for the firm Challenges: Finding good people; working efficiently; profitability; staying abreast of technology and the latest practices in the field Goals: Grow the firm 10% year over year; become a visible and reputable brand for wealth management in the Hartford region Barriers: Outdated and cumbersome technology; poor recordkeeping; legacy staff with low productivity
    • Exercise: 1.  Write a point of view statement for Digher Straights Tech’s thought leadership efforts 2.  Map the kinds of content DST’s target persona might want and need as she aims to solve for goals and challenges
    • Standards
    • Relevance Structure Credibility Accuracy & Timeliness Clarity, Readability & Focus Findability & Organization Tone & Style Overall Experience & Effectiveness The quality umbrella
    • Relevance Structure Credibility Accuracy & Timeliness Clarity, Readability & Focus Findability & Organization Tone & Style Overall Experience & Effectiveness The quality umbrella •  Image •  Professionalism •  Clarity •  Effectiveness
    • Setting standards helps you meet your goals •  Set business goals for what your thought leadership content should help you accomplish •  Defines what quality means to your brand •  Gives you a set of guidelines to use as your efforts expand and more people get involved •  Provides a benchmark for evaluating and measuring success
    • Sample content goals Build loyalty and trust Give consumers an informative, accessible, pressure-free way to learn about your product, helping to reduce anxiety and build confidence in a way that will support customer loyalty to your brand. Provide information in the way customers want to consume it Create a mix of written, visual and video content, and package information in a clear way, with the right balance of emotion and detail. Give consumers an easy place to start — and the ability to go deeper Content will be architected in a way that allows users to start with basic questions and information, then will lead them to more in-depth information as they move deeper into the sales funnel.
    • Sample voice guidelines Trusted We’re here to help, not sell; give advice, not a pitch. Human Language is conversational, friendly and encouraging. We speak in the second person (“you”) and use plain English. Business and industry jargon is OUT. Genuine We don’t use unauthentic slang to sound trendy. Smart We’re informal but informed, intelligent but not overly clever. Empathetic We know this purchase is a big deal. Our positive, descriptive language shows it.
    • Sample content quality standards Credible   Accurate, impartial, high-quality and authoritative Valuable   Supports customers’ decision-making: educates, inspires, enhances their shopping experience   User- Friendly   Clear, easy to find, easy to consume   Relevant   Matters to jewelry consumers, gives them the right amount of information relevant to what they need to make decisions
    • Checklists Style Guides
    • Sustainability
    • Thought leadership publishing is a commitment. You have to prepare for it to be hard. It takes awhile to settle into the groove. There’s a lot of trial and error involved. If you stick with it, you’ll start to see results.
    • Boiling the ocean
    • Hamster’s nest
    • Content graveyards
    • Lean teams Limited time Little to no budget
    • Sustaining thought leadership success Ownership & Communication Publishing Strategy & Prioritization Processes & Planning Organization & Lifecycle
    • Ownership & communication •  Roles •  Responsibilities •  Ownership •  How we communicate
    • Roles in a sample governance model Editorial management Who owns the process and makes the final call Content owners Who own the content or topic Contributors Subject matter experts, writers, interviewees Reviewers Who needs to weigh in or sign off (including Legal) Editorial/steering committee Who can guide the strategic direction of the efforts
    • Publishing strategy & prioritization •  What goes where and when •  Frequency •  Resource allocation •  Responsibilities
    • Sample: Three Tiers of Content Premium/Proprietary Content Best Practices/Solution Content Current Awareness/Expertise
    • Sample: content priorities/production guidelines Tier 1: 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 Tier 2: Current Events / Awareness Content 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
    • Sample: content guidelines by channel BLOG EBOOKS/GUIDES WHITE PAPERS / BRIEFING PAPERS VIDEOS WEBINARS IN PURPOSE Become central repository for all content relevant to our audiences Add value with credible, relevant content Add value with credible, relevant content that's more specific and educates about product Engage and entertain, add credibility Engage, educate, add credibility E en cr GOALS Become a customer- focused small business resource melding business, technology and culture relevant to personas; serve both customers and prospects Generate and nurture leads and add value for existing customers by offering valuable, helpful, educational content packaged for a specific audience. Help prospects feel confident. Generate and nurture leads and add value by offering specific, timely and detailed information. Help prospects and customers feel confident. Show how software works with other experts on the pulse. Generate and nurture leads and add value to existing customers with inspirational, informative, thought- provoking videos Generate and nurture leads and add value to existing customers with informative, educational webinars that offer different voices/points of view on specific topics D m in so CONTENT Good mix of product vs. business, basic (making the case, 101 education) vs. advanced (playbooks and detailed advice from experts and peers. Focused on a topic that personas really care about; answers common questions; should be issue-focused instead of product-focused; writing at basic to intermediate level. Like a issue paper or longer article vs. an ebook; topics can be more specific and written for more targeted audiences. Technical product information more appropriate here. Briefs showcasing data, research, case studies by external experts. Writing at intermediate to advanced level. Interviews with customers, panels, use cases (how Desk is used to solve for specific issues), meet the team/internal expertise (helps with community-building) Customer panels, guest speakers, Desk experts speaking on customer service and experience topics, some product- specific content Q in re su w pr th “I it DISTRIBUTION AND PROMOTION Open; ability to sign up for RSS and email updates; promoted through email newsletter, Twitter, Sent with offer (lead gen/nurture), form required to download; later posted in online library as free (no sign-up) content and Sent with offer (lead gen/nurture), form required to download; later posted in online library as free (no sign-up) content and On the blog and on YouTube (need a tagging system for SEO); could be sent with offers / short Sent with offer (lead gen/nurture), form required to register; later posted in online library but form O Tw w fo
    • Processes & planning a.k.a. how to get ’er done •  Setting expectations •  Accountability •  Regular cadence •  Planning the content mix •  Getting the most mileage out of efforts
    • Sample: editorial calendar
    • Sample: process definition eBook: 5 week process Topic   genera3on   Vet  with   content   review  board   (op3onal)   Research   and  wri3ng   First     review   Second     draS   Director   review   Final     draS   Design   and   publish   Blog: 2 week process Managing   editor  assigns   topics   Write  draS   posts   First  round   edits/back  to   writer  if   needed   Editor  edits/ finalizes     Director   approval   Publish   3  days            2  weeks          2  days          3  days                    2  days                  2  days                    1  week     1  week    3  days                                2  days                                    2  days                                  1  day    
    • Sample: content mileage decision tree ebook blog posts, white paper Webinar Video Email offer Infographic Twitter, FB Create other content if: •  Appeals to multiple audiences •  Can be useful at different levels of expertise •  Can be broken down into multiple topics •  Can create a case study •  Can create a video interview •  Can create slides •  Can get an expert to speak
    • Organization & lifecycle •  Where content is stored •  How content is categorized and tagged •  How content is made search-ready •  How content can be leveraged across departments/roles •  Cross-referencing related content •  Regularly auditing content for freshness and accuracy •  Archiving policy, processes and timing
    • Measuring success
    • Benchmark where you are today Engagement •  Website visits, bounce rate, time on site, user paths •  Email opens and click-through rate •  Downloads (of documents) or views (of videos) •  Social engagement Relevance •  Feedback from customers (surveys, sales conversations, etc.) •  Syndication, shares, inbound links Quality •  Evaluate existing content against goals and standards •  Use scorecards to quantify the quality of content against these standards Brand Perception •  Voice of the Customer (VOC) research •  Surveys •  Social listening, media coverage
    • Define goals S M A R T pecific easurable ttainable elevant ime-bound
    • NO: We want to foster 30% more repeat business among existing customers in the next 2 years. YES: NO: YES: S M A R T We want to grow brand awareness. We want to grow our online followers by 50% this year. We want to increase sales.
    • Start small and stay focused •  Choose 3-5 KPIs related to goals •  Focus on long-term, brand-level results •  Software and processes in place to measure regularly •  Make a commitment for the long haul
    • Resources Thought leadership tools, templates, articles and more: http://info.suiteseven.com/TLIO Slides at: http://www.slideshare.net/staceykinggordon
    • Thanks! Stacey King Gordon Suite Seven stacey@suiteseven.com #loyaltyexpo #TLIO