But to really drill down into how effective thought leadership is delivered, we asked a panel of thought leadership experts, representing a variety of industries and roles, what challenges they face when producing content for the most senior audiences.
Communicating a product offering, without mentioning the product
Contrary to popular belief, Mastercard is not in fact a credit card company, but rather a provider of the technology that supports them. This misconception presents an intriguing challenge for Christine Elliot, who directs global communications for the firm and is always on the lookout for ways to educate her audience rather than the tools to sell Mastercard’s services.
“There is a lot of content that comes out of MasterCard that is not designed to drive any specific action, and it’s that type of content that would typically come from my teams – the content that goes a little deeper.”
Christine Elliot, EVP Worldwide Communications, Mastercard
True thought leadership should go deeper into topics relevant to the audience, providing original, evidence-based points of view that allow them to have better informed conversations with their clients and partners, rather than using content to sell a brand’s products and services directly. According to Mark Pritchard, Chief Marketing Officer at P&G, product pitches are the biggest fail a brand can make: “If they’re trying to sell me on something, it turns me off.” Watch the video here.
Rather than unilaterally pushing their own messages, companies must be prepared to contribute to their industry’s conversations more broadly. This is what establishes an organisation as a Thought-Leading Brand.
Centralised thought leadership for a global business
An age-old problem for marketing leads in global firms is ensuring consistency across borders and departments. Speaking with one voice – strategically, thematically, verbally – creates a powerful cumulative impression.
This can be particularly problematic for global giants such as Accenture — especially if it comes at a time when the brand is challenging and refocusing the way it presents it’s services.
“The way we think about thought leadership is that it’s really meant to support and promote our new ideas and innovations, and how we apply those in our clients’ organizations – not in the future, not in theory, but right now.”
Marc Appel, Managing Director – Content, Accenture
Consistency of message must be tight across every client touchpoint in the sales cycle – from marketing and communications driving awareness, through to the business functions closing the deals. This is made even more challenging if each department speaks to a different set of stakeholders says Marc Appel, head of content for Accenture. There is simply no “silver bullet”.
Thought leadership at this scale is, in large part, an issue of logistics and co-ordination. The empowering of regional and sectoral teams to produce content that meets their individual needs is proving successful for Accenture. But it’s crucial these regional content plans fit within the global content strategy.
Corporate thought leadership, with a personal touch
EY’s Myles Corson approaches thought leadership from a different perspective, of a business stakeholder rather than a marketer.
For Myles, it’s all about building relationships, using thought leadership to serve clients better. The value of thought leadership lies in the ability to have a “richer conversation, rather than always leading with the new accounting standards and practices.”
“We’re obviously a B2B business, but beyond that, you have to understand that you’re selling to individuals.”
Myles Corson, Americas Market Leader, EY
Greater personalisation of thought leadership is key to audience engagement. Content that targets specific roles and sectors provides a much more relevant experience for consumers and is more likely to gain traction. This can be a challenge for some brands, unless they are clear on this objective from the outset and build the content strategy around this ambition.
The DNA of the CFO is an important success story for EY. Its CFO series was designed to promote a more personal conversation, allowing the firm to speak to its clients about the future of their role, their career plan, and their personal agenda and progression: a real example of outside-in thinking.
Podcasts: a resounding success
One thing in particular our panellists were united on was the value of podcasting.
This particular content form is making waves in the thought leadership industry, and our panellists are already on board. Marc reveals that Accenture’s podcast has been hugely successful in reaching its increasingly time-strapped audience. Christine, meanwhile, has made podcasting her “pet project” in a bid to engage audiences both internally and externally. Myles even hosts his own – listen to EY’s Better Finance podcast here.
Thought leadership has never been more important in the world of business. Our research findings and panellists both make this quite clear.
Creating thought leadership campaigns that tick all the boxes can be a challenge. But with the right audience insights to focus on – those that matter most in ensuring your carefully crafted content gets noticed and achieves results – there’s a real opportunity to make your next campaign your most successful yet.
Our regional Breakfast Briefings aren’t the only way you can learn more about how to engage the C-suite:
Register here to join our upcoming Learning from Leaders webinar, where we’ll take you through the key findings, highlight shifting trends in audience behaviour and share practical tips on how to get more engagement and value out of your content campaigns.