Recent figures show that C-suite leaders need more thought leadership to support their business compared to 12 months ago. It’s no surprise then that the majority (60%) of execs are consuming more than they did last year – and it’s fresh, action-oriented content they’re reaching for.
The challenge for many marketers is meeting this voracious appetite for content with the same or more restricted budgets than ever before. The consequences of falling short are clear. Roughly three quarters (73%) of leaders we surveyed said that if their own provider doesn’t produce thought leadership on their priorities, they will look to competitors to fulfil their needs.
Think fewer, bigger, better
It’s true that clients want to see content addressing their top priorities, but those priorities vary from organisation to organisation, leader to leader. While it’s tempting to try and cover as much as possible, it’s not necessarily smart. “I think there’s a false economy sometimes with trying to spread yourself too thinly,” says Will Sturgeon, Head of Content and Thought Leadership at PwC UK. “You could end up chasing your tail in trying to cover everything. The risk then is you end up doing it badly.”
Instead, you should aim to “make fewer, bigger, and better”, according to Laura Klysz, Global Head of Marketing & Communications, Simmons & Simmons. “Pick a unique angle to a big theme that provides a hook for you to cross-sell and have a wider impact.” For instance, if you select the topic of ‘the future of work’, which topped the list of topics the C-suite is interested in, as your overarching theme, find the white space and angle that not only helps you stand out and grab attention but that also gives you opportunity to explore many spin-off subjects that appeal to a broad range of audiences, from four-day weeks (culture) to in-demand skills (talent).
Sweat your assets off
Almost half (46%) of the C-suite leaders we surveyed believe thought leadership has a typical shelf life of six months, while almost a quarter (23%) think that content is out of date after three months. But this is somewhat of a red herring. “PwC did a big study last year on CMOs, what they should be doing and how they should be transforming their business. That data is probably good for a couple of years, because you don’t transform a marketing function overnight,” says Sturgeon. “Keeping that data alive is the challenge. Making sure there’s a long tail of content to promote it, and that you’re going back to it consistently.” This hits on a common behavioural pitfall amongst marketers, which is to move on too hastily to the next big thing. “There’s lots of organisations, probably ourselves included, who will launch something that’s got a 12-month shelf life and promote it for two months,” says Sturgeon.
Instead, make sure you’re “sweating” your assets for every last bit of value. Klysz says marketers should get comfortable withholding material instead of giving it all away on launch. “You can have one big global launch for example, but could you get a perspective from a different region in the next quarter? And then could you think about a roundtable discussion? That’s another great source of content that you can capture and update your campaign with.” The same goes for switching up the format of your report. You can give people the option to read, watch, or listen to your thought leadership, but you don’t have to give them all these options at once.
Know when to move on
Thought leadership should above all be agile, says Klysz. That means jumping on trending topics and keeping your finger on the pulse. “Things are happening so quickly and changing so quickly that we shouldn’t put our heads in the sand and say, ‘but we’ve spent so much money doing this [content], we can’t possibly change it.’” Your research may serve as a benchmark to track changing behaviour or attitudes, for example.
However, there inevitably comes a point when it’s time to call it quits on some content. You want to minimise the risk of spreading out-of-date facts or misinformation – especially when your content could be used to inform important business decisions. In this respect, Sturgeon says, marketers can learn from news organisations. “They’re not squeamish about letting the world move on.”
If you want to hear more advice and thoughts from Laura Klysz, Global Head of Marketing & Communications, Simmons & Simmons, and Will Sturgeon, Head of Content and Thought Leadership, PwC UK, check out our webinar which featured key findings from our Value of Thought Leadership Report.
If you want to learn more about making thought leadership go further, email Mark.Wellings@momentumitsma.com.