Getting approval from the C-suite is imperative to the success of your thought leadership programme – but you mustn’t forget the rest of your company. Your internal audience, whether they’re across the office or across the world from you, can help ensure your survey-driven programme is top-notch through sharing their expertise and their networks. But how do you get them to buy-in?
Step one: get the management team excited for kick-off
We all know a thought leadership campaign is unlikely to get off the ground without your senior management’s say-so. The importance of getting them bought-in to your objectives and plans cannot be underestimated.
But it’s not just about getting them to hand over more budget or approve resource allocation; the management team will be essential throughout all stages of production and distribution. The power of being able to say ’this comes from the top’ will open so many doors for you that might otherwise remain closed.
To get them there, talk their language. Show them examples from others in similar fields, show them how it relates to your business strategy, show them how it will bring in prospects and help nurture leads. The biggest and best way to get a senior management team excited for a project is to relate it to the bottom line – profit, business growth and hitting targets.
With a management team fully bought-in to your plans, and ready to help get you what you need to get over the line, you’ll be able to move to step two with the heavy-hitters behind you.
Read: How to sell in thought leadership to the board
Step two: harness your internal experts for production
Your thought leadership will fail if it isn’t tied to your business somehow, and your internal experts are the ones who’ll keep that in check. Your senior executives may want to be involved in ideation, or they may delegate that to someone in their team, but at any rate you should embrace the internal expert’s involvement with open arms.
Thought leadership is all about showing off the expertise within your business to help build credibility and trustworthiness. To get those with the expertise involved, though, you may need some help. If the “it’s come from the top” line doesn’t work, try playing to their egos. Show that by helping you, they’re actually boosting their personal brand and helping their own career – or helping their clients, which will help them hit their targets.
After all, 96% of B2B buyers want content with more input from industry thought leaders and subject matter experts, so you need to harness those internal experts for ideation, as a sense-check throughout the production process, and for ultimate sign-off. To do so, though, you’ll need to be strict about the time you have with them; keep it tight, targeted, and allow time for them to feed back. Remember, they’re doing this in addition to their already-demanding day job, so cut them some slack, give them plenty of warning, and put deadlines in their diaries to keep them focused.
Step three: mobilise your employees for distribution
If no one reads your thought leadership, does it really exist? You’ve spent so much time and resource in getting to survey results and developing content to feed a thought leadership programme – now you have to get it out there. And while you have your corporate channels to maximise – that content will be all over your company LinkedIn, Twitter and newsletters for months to come – those are only part of the battle. You want to get your employees excited about the content, and get them to distribute it, too.
Employee advocacy programmes actively encourage staff to share updates on their own accounts, be it social media, email or in conversations with prospects. Remember that recommendations from peers are still seen as more trustworthy and credible than those direct from brands, so it’s worth putting in the work to get employees distributing content.
It’s tough, though, so make it easy for them: share (via the intranet or email) suggested posts or lines to take when explaining the thought leadership. Perhaps even gamify the experience – offer prizes to the most-liked posts, or to the staff member who brings in the most leads through the content. And with your thought leadership programme here for the long-term, not a one-off, you’ll need to remind those employees on a regular basis, and especially each time you put out a new iteration or slice from the data.
For more tips and advice on how to sell-in thought leadership download our new guide 'How to get buy-in from the board for thought leadership'.