How to get your thought leadership in the spotlight at Davos in 2015

Rob Mitchell

The 2015 World Economic Forum is taking place in Davos this week – where international leaders will discuss the ‘new global context’ for decision-making brought about by the profound political, economic, social and technological transformations we are experiencing. For companies eager to make their mark, the question is: how do they make these macro-themes relevant to their clients and create something actionable?

Davos provides the perfect platform for companies to launch thought leadership projects, with the ability to reach such a high-level audience. When battling for airtime however, it’s crucial that firms have the right content and deliverance strategy to engage their target audience and stand out among many competing voices. In this post, we have identified some areas where companies are doing this well, and suggest where there may be room for improvement.

Invest and be patient

    1. PwC has launched its annual

CEO Survey

    at Davos every year since 1998. It has been very effective at grabbing profile and attention at the meeting, which is no mean feat. How have they done it? By investing and focusing their resources, and by coming back, year after year, with the same report so that the media and other audiences now expect it. Tempting as it is to jump around across various topics from one year to the next, they have stuck by their concept and been rewarded with high profile as a result.

Get granular

    When everyone at Davos is talking about megatrends, such as the future of banking or climate change, it can be challenging to say something that’s relevant to your audience. Very high-level reports are hard to get right, because business audiences find it difficult to relate them to their specific business priorities. A more granular approach may work better. For example, rather than write a 10,000 word report about the impact of climate change on business, why not break down the problem, and look at a more specific aspect of it – like how changing climates will force consumer products companies to rethink their sourcing and supply chains?

Build advocacy

    1. This year at Davos, our client EY is launching

‘Women. Fast Forward’

    , a report looking at the economic and business benefits of increasing gender parity in the workplace. There is no obvious direct commercial objective in conducting this research (FT Longitude conducted the underlying survey on behalf of EY) – it is a purely reputational approach to thought leadership that forms part of EY’s Building a Better Working World purpose-led transformation. The report is well-positioned to achieve cut-through, however, partly through its potential to build advocates from across the business and political world, thereby helping to disseminate and promote EY’s broader thought leadership capabilities.

Keep it relevant

    Over the years, we have seen many companies attempt to launch a report at Davos, even when it has no obvious link to the agenda of the forum. Shoehorning your thought leadership into the meeting may seem like a good opportunity to get it noticed by the great and the good, but it is likely to backfire. Relevance is key – and anything that tries to, for example, talk about the benefits of business process outsourcing at Davos is unlikely to go down well.

This is not a selling opportunity

    On a related point, we have seen numerous examples of companies trying to launch and promote an overly commercial piece of thought leadership at Davos. This is unlikely to work. Instead, we would advise companies to make sure their content is at the reputational end of the thought leadership spectrum, and more issues-based rather than commercial. Accenture, for example, has taken the opportunity to work alongside the World Economic Forum on its Responsible Mineral Development Initiative in the last few years. The project’s primary aim is to better understand the wider societal value that can be created by mining, and help develop practical solutions to enable responsible mineral development.

As the rest of us keenly await the unveiling of this year’s headline-grabbing stories from the forum, those with a hand in setting the agenda must give careful consideration to the guidance above in order to achieve maximum brand value.

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About the author: Rob Mitchell

Rob leads FT Longitude’s strategic planning and sets the overall vision and priorities for the business. He manages the board-level relationship with FT Longitude’s parent company, the Financial Times group, and also oversees FT Longitude’s finances, people management and administration.

Prior to co-founding FT Longitude in 2011, Rob was an independent writer and editor. Between 2007 and 2010, he was a managing editor at the Economist Intelligence Unit and prior to that he was an editor at the Financial Times, where he was responsible for the newspaper’s sponsored reports, including the Mastering Management series.

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