The advantages of early stakeholder engagement in thought leadership projects

Joe Dalton

As Benjamin Franklin’s adage goes: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” When planning a thought leadership strategy and subsequent projects, we at FT Longitude feel that this rings especially true in relation to engaging internal stakeholders at the right time.

It is no secret that executing a thought leadership campaign requires the buy-in of senior stakeholders across the organisation. But the questions that often arise are: when is the ideal moment to bring key stakeholders into the fold? And how do I engage them effectively?

Getting these points right can ultimately determine the success or failure of a project. To assist marketers with these important decisions, we have outlined some of the advantages of engaging key stakeholders early in the process, and provided some tips on how to do this more effectively.

Crystallising the organisation’s message

At the heart of good thought leadership campaigns lies a clear understanding of what the organisation has to add to the debate through its internal expertise. In large organisations, where communication between senior business unit leaders and the marketing team can sometimes be sporadic, meeting with these stakeholders to talk through the campaign’s goals can make the difference between a message that stands out and one that fails to differentiate itself. This input is often vital in framing the direction of survey and interview research too.

Smoothing the production process (and delivering on time!)

If senior internal stakeholders are engaged too late in the process, marketing teams will be hard pushed to deliver the project within the original timeframe. If the project needs their sign-off, it is hugely beneficial to engage them early on to bring them on board and make them advocates for the campaign. Early input also minimises the risk that stakeholders will flag significant issues with the content, averting the risk of a major editing job at the eleventh hour.

Galvanising the organisation

The most successful thought leadership campaigns are those that secure both internal and external adoption. Quality thought leadership should get to the core of what makes an organisation successful – providing a springboard for marketing leaders to spark new internal conversations with senior executives and business unit leaders. Engaging internal stakeholders at the early stages of the project allows them to follow its progress, develop a sense of shared ownership, and will build momentum that pulls others in as the campaign comes to fruition.

Five tips for effective engagement

We understand that getting the buy-in of senior internal stakeholders is not always easy. Here are five quick tips for managing this:

  1. Take a personal approach

Describe what the project will do for senior stakeholders and how it could help serve their personal agenda within the organisation.

2. Visualise the outputs

Help executives to understand what the different content outputs will be and how they could use them on a practical level.

3.Value their time

Be very clear that you intend to do the legwork and their key role will be to impart expertise.

4. Reassure them of risks

Explain there is a tried and tested process in place to minimise any risks associated with the project.

5. Outline opportunities for profile building

The benefits of getting behind a successful thought leadership programme are bountiful – be sure to play up the PR and media coverage they will enjoy.

If you’re struggling to get your internal stakeholders to buy into a project, hopefully, this provides a few ideas to ease the process. We’d love to discuss this further if you’d like to learn more.

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About the author: Joe Dalton

Joe is our lead editor for the financial services sector, working with key clients across banking, insurance and asset management. He supports our financial services clients on all aspects of their thought leadership programmes — from creating content ideas to researching and executing them. Joe is also heavily involved in FT Longitude’s development of digital-friendly content, such as benchmarking tools, infographics and interactive reports.

Before joining FT Longitude, Joe was a journalist in the B2B sector, and held the post of tax disputes editor for Euromoney’s ‘International Tax Review’ magazine, where he produced specialist online and print content for tax executives at multinational companies.

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