Planning a global thought leadership campaign can be daunting. It’s not just about the research – though exactly who to survey on a global level is a big question – or the ultimate report that comes out based on that research.
One of the biggest challenges when delivering thought leadership on a global level can actually centre around the question of who needs to be involved.
Some organisations opt to devolve thought leadership to ensure the local offices and local players can make it work on their own level, while others believe that centralising efforts is the only way to ensure consistency in output – that the road to the highest quality content starts in head office.
Julie Short, Director of the Market Influence and Knowledge Group at consultancy firm BearingPoint, spoke about how the firm takes a knowledge-based approach to global thought leadership at a Grist event in London in November.
The event was held to preview Grist’s third and final report in the series on how the C-Suite view and use thought leadership, this time focusing on planning global campaigns.
Julie 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 Alex Bellinger, Head of Brand and Sector Communications at law firm CMS UK.
You can read more about the event in our blog; here, we’ll look in more depth at how BearingPoint achieved success with its thought leadership.
The winning formula for thought leadership
BearingPoint works to a tried-and-tested formula for getting its thought leadership programmes off the ground:
- Find an executive sponsor
- Build a supportive culture around the programme
- Decide the themes
- Develop the positions you want to test with research
It’s about being methodical, starting small and building on it. It’s essential to have someone at the top sponsoring the thought leadership programme and then to build a culture around the programme one partner at a time. “Appealing to the consultants’ knowledge of the markets, industries and clients is a good approach to getting that all-important buy-in from partners and senior executives,” Julie says.
Developing the position to take on the topic and themes is key, says Julie. Look at who else has written about it, what you’re basing your opinion on and what you have to say that is new and provocative.
“Be original, be unique, be daring – but don’t be boring,” she adds. “That’s what thought leadership is: it’s original thought.”
Yet the biggest challenge, and the place to start before all others, is with the internal definition of the term ‘thought leadership’. Those two words can mean so many different things to different people, so Julie made sure there was a BearingPoint definition that she could point to when beginning any new project.
Lead with the editorial, not the campaign
While it might ultimately result in generating leads for the business, thought leadership planning must help to develop a position, which differentiates you from competitors but also helps the audience to better understand an industry trend.
This is why BearingPoint doesn’t always approach research from a campaign perspective, instead looking at things more from an editorial agenda. Julie comes from a research background – her last role was with research firm Gartner – where she was a thought leadership writer, not in a marketing or content-based role.
BearingPoint’s approach values the writing, the position and the engagement. And it doesn’t try to put everything in one report – it looks at an extended conversation that drip feeds insight across a period of time to create a full picture.
Taking this editorial approach also helps to control the budget. Julie thinks in terms of creating a storyline – with each new release taking new angles and going deeper, thus creating a loyal readership. It comes down to keeping the personas front of mind and creating actionable recommendations throughout the development lifecycle.
That doesn’t mean BearingPoint’s thought leadership is created with a wall between sales and content – far from it. The team is very selective about the topics it tackles because it wants to ensure the resulting content assets will drive sales conversations. It needs to create interest in the audience – otherwise we shouldn’t be writing about it, explains Julie.
She adds: “Our head of firm wide marketing is also part of the BearingPoint Institute editorial community.”
The thought leadership team brings in the relevant internal stakeholders and ensures the sales and marketing teams are ready to activate the content once it’s produced. In that way they ensure high editorial quality while also making it actionable enough to gain traction with the audience.
Download our latest report for more insights on planning global thought leadership campaigns.