Insight & Knowledge

From scattered to strategic thought leadership

Many companies are aware of the benefits of thought leadership. However, many companies fail to establish a useful framework and instead end up falling short on delivery

The following article has, by the blessing of its author Kristoffer Kej, been translated from Danish to English, adjusted and some places been re-written to fit our blog. To read the original Danish article, please visit RelationsPeople.

From scattered to strategic thought leadership

We recently co-hosted an event with Kvadrant for business leaders in Copenhagen, on the topic was B2B Marketing, Communication and Sales. It became clear through the discussions we had that many companies are aware of the benefits of thought leadership. However, many companies fail to establish a useful framework and instead end up falling short on delivery. Based on those discussions, here are a few tips on how to build thought leadership that doesn’t fall short of its potential.

Rewind to the purpose

Many thought leadership efforts begin with companies spotting potential in positioning an expert, or by using a report or similar to develop exciting content or as a way of receiving press coverage. This is quite a common approach and by no means a bad one. The challenge, however, is simply that these efforts quite often become situational, and one-off pieces of content, rather than focused and close-to-business content with a long-term objective.

Through this short term approach, it becomes difficult to create sustained support and focused efforts in the organisation, because there is lacking a clear strategy and framework.

Any thought leadership efforts should be based on a clear purpose: what do we intend to achieve for the business? It almost sounds too simple, right?

But when creating a thought leadership strategy, it is important that it not only contains purpose and goals but also decides on themes, target groups, types of content, formats, channels, etc. This ensures a clear framework and a good foundation for the efforts to be created. Our experience, at RelationsPeople, is that this is rarely the scenario inside of the average B2B company.

If you don’t have enough knowledge or data, acquire it!

Only a few companies have an inexhaustible source of knowledge, new insights, and experts with opinions and ideas.

It is most likely only larger consulting firms that consistently produce enough knowledge and data, which can be used as thought leadership content, without having to put in the extra effort.

For most companies, it is a different story.

Most other companies need to consider how to complement their existing assets (experts and knowledge) with annual analysis, professional events, research collaborations, or anything else that can strengthen their position and give more opportunities to communicate externally.

For example, when VELUX, the Danish window manufacturer, has managed to establish thought leadership concerning indoor climate, it is not because they as a window producer already had a lot of knowledge on the topic. On the contrary, they built it thoroughly over several years through analyses and focused activities.

Recognize that your spokesperson isn’t self-driven

The perhaps most important reason why many thought leadership efforts fall short of their potential is that the spokesperson doesn’t deliver. Skilled experts or managers are busy people, and in addition, they often lack both the desire and the ability to contribute to articles, blog posts, or ideas for content.

Currently, many companies are running internal programs that train spokespersons, and this kind of education is essential. Our experience, however, is that in most cases, there is a need for more than just an internal program. Most often, spokespersons need concrete help to identify interesting angles and to translate knowledge into captivating stories. In many cases, it is even necessary to ghostwrite for them – naturally in cooperation to assure both content and tonality.

If your company rely on self-driven spokespeople, who say they’d happily begin producing content consistently, there is a great chance that those initiatives will fall short without the proper strategy and support.

Slice the turkey in more than one way

Some of the discussions at our morning event revealed that many companies get too little out of their content. With the right planning, there are great possibilities for versioning content for different channels and in different formats – by slicing the turkey, as they say. Unfortunately, the notion was that the majority get very little content out of the knowledge they have.

The most interesting data/knowledge might end up as a press story, but why not also a blog post, an infographic for social media, a presentation at a conference, and so on?
It requires hard, purposeful work to succeed with thought leadership. It doesn’t come without effort – no matter how talented experts and unique insights your company holds.

About the author
Picture of Brian Andersen
Brian Andersen
Brian is an expert in B2B sales & marketing and digital transformation. His focus in Kvadrant is on all aspects of revenue marketing, close collaboration with sales, and building digitally competent organisations.