Global thought leadership doesn’t have to come with an almighty bang: it doesn’t have to be launched at the same time across every single office around the world. In fact, sometimes an incremental and sustained release can actually make it work harder and bring better results.
That’s the approach law firm CMS takes with its Bridging Continents infrastructure index. Based around desktop research using an algorithm that searches existing data sources, the final report is packaged up into regional releases.
Content includes a regionalised report, social media posts and videos, and the regional business development teams are tasked with delivering it to their local audiences in a schedule that suits them.
Alex Bellinger, Head of Brand and Sector Communications at CMS UK, spoke about the firm’s approach to global thought leadership at a Grist event in London in November 2019.
The event was held to preview Grist’s third and final report of the series on how the C-Suite view and use thought leadership, this time focusing on managing global thought leadership programmes.
Alex was joined by Grist’s Co-founder and Managing Director, Andrew Rogerson – who spoke about the current state of thought leadership and shared insights from the research – and by Julie Short, Director of the Market Influence and Knowledge Group at consultancy firm BearingPoint.
You can read more about the event in our blog; here, we’ll look in more depth at how CMS UK achieved its thought leadership success.
The ‘6 Ps’ of global thought leadership
CMS UK chose to mirror its organisational structure with its approach to thought leadership: CMS is a sector-led firm, so it made sense for thought leadership to be based around those sectors.
The research is not about exploring legal issues but about gaining a better understanding of the clients’ worlds, which has the potential to deliver rich conversations with their prospects and clients.
Alex and his team use ‘6 Ps’ to guide their thought leadership programmes:
Start with project and look forward. What is it you’re trying to achieve with this thought leadership? You can’t be all things to all people so prioritise it around issues where you feel you can make a significant impact.
Persuade your internal influencers that this is the right way to go, create the plan to achieve what you want and then package up the assets once they’re ready.
Packaging is really important, says Alex, especially if you’re trying to get different jurisdictions to use the assets in the most effective way. Local offices are incredibly busy and anything you can do to make life easier for them will help get you the results you seek.
Aligned with packaging is the pitch aspect of thought leadership. It’s not just the external audience you seek to persuade with your expertise, it’s also the internal stakeholders.
CMS keeps the project team tight, getting buy-in from global and regional sector leaders and keeping partner teams intrinsically involved before extending the engagement as the programme develops.
It’s also worth noting that global campaigns do not by definition need to cover every office. “It’s very hard to do a global campaign that covers every jurisdiction effectively,” says Alex. “You need to focus to get the best results.”
‘Flagship content’, not thought leadership
CMS has found that by labelling its thought leadership as ‘flagship content’ once it’s on the website, it increases the viewing figures.
Highlight the importance of the content assets in a way that your audience will understand, using language they use on an everyday basis. ‘Thought leadership’ may not be part of the lexicon outside of marcomms teams.
Knowing how your audience will use and interact with the thought leadership is essential. Alex used the example of the recent CMS Urban Being report, produced on behalf of the real estate sector team.
The research took a slightly different tack – alongside interviewing global real estate sector leaders, CMS included consumers in their research phase. This consumer intelligence created something very valuable for CMS’s clients: insight into what their own customers are looking for in the sector.
While the flagship report and related content are going through their own promotion cycles, CMS’s partners are using that consumer research in their conversations with prospects. In fact, most of the data did not make it into the report and is being used specifically in business development outreach.
It’s given the CMS sector communications team both a new way to handle thought leadership and also a way to gain credibility with those all-important internal stakeholders who want to drive conversations and bring in new clients.
Download our latest report for more insights on planning global thought leadership campaigns.