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Our predictions for 2017: 3 trends in thought leadership strategy

Gareth Lofthouse

As another year beckons, members of the FT Longitude team have been placing their bets on the hot trends and topics that will define thought leadership over the next twelve months.

This time last year, we predicted the rise of leading brands adopting a more strategic approach to content planning, taking into account the current landscape to identify topics that will give them more impact and relevance in the market. We also forecast that 2016 would be the year that tech firms, as well as more traditional industries such as infrastructure and energy, would place more value on thought leadership to make their brands stand out. We’ve seen a marked rise in these trends over the past 12 months, so much so that tech firms, such as Siemens and Hitachi, now represent a significant portion of our rapidly growing client base. We’ve also seen smart organisations such as DNV GL and Lloyds Register successfully position themselves as visionaries in their sector.

With the vast majority of B2B executives recognising that good thought leadership influences their decision-making and builds trust with the brand behind it, visionary thinking has never been higher on the agenda.

Over the next two weeks we’ll be sharing our 12 predictions for 2017, starting here with three key trends in thought leadership strategy.

1. Fewer, bigger, better: marketers will focus on campaigns that drive real value

Marketing professionals are quite rightly fed up of churning out endless reports on ‘me-too’ topics. The good stuff gets drowned out by all the noise. 2017 will be a year of streamlining the thought leadership portfolio and targeting investment into campaigns that can really move the dial on revenue and reputation. The desire to do fewer campaigns better will require organisations to pick their projects carefully and approach the planning process with much more clarity and rigour.
– Gareth Lofthouse, Managing Director

2. Thought leadership will become a tool for employee engagement

Thought leadership can be as important for internal communications as it is for external stakeholder engagement. Millennials are not just motivated by pay and reward – they want to work for a firm with a vision and to understand what makes their leadership team tick. A successful thought leadership programme should capture what your leaders are thinking and how they believe the world will change. In 2017, external marketers and internal communicators will collaborate to build thought leadership platforms that underpin the organisation’s sense of purpose.
– Peter Elkins, Senior Business Editor

3. B2B companies will learn how to use content to drive sales 

Businesses need thought leadership to accelerate their sales, but there is poor understanding of how to make that work in practice. Today, there are tools they can use to build a much more systematic approach to using content to drive revenue. To succeed, B2B brands will need to integrate their sales and marketing operations around their thought leadership, and really exploit great insights in order to increase their lead generation and interactions with key accounts. They will measure success not just in terms of press coverage, clicks and downloads, but also by the number of meetings and conversations generated with their top-tier targets.
– Kate de Lima, VP, Business Development

Check back later this week for our next set of trends on research tools and editorial techniques.

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About the author: Gareth Lofthouse

Gareth manages FT Longitude’s growing commercial team as they continue to advise some of the biggest B2B companies in the world on their thought leadership strategy. He works with clients to design thought leadership that delivers maximum commercial impact, both in terms of building client relationships and improving brand visibility.

Before joining FT Longitude, he spent nine years as editorial director for EMEA at the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Gareth was instrumental in building the EIU’s thought leadership and survey business, and he has overseen hundreds of custom projects for the Economist’s clients across a range of industries and subject areas. Before that, Gareth led an editorial and creative team for a PR and marketing agency. He has also held several senior editorial positions in business and technology publishing.

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12 trends in thought leadership: Our predictions for 2017

Our predictions for 2017: Research tools and editorial techniques

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