What executives want from thought leadership: 5 lessons from FTSE 350

“How do we get our content campaigns to reach busy readers and potential buyers?” That was one of the topics of discussion at a full day’s thought leadership workshop I moderated for PSMG back in November.

A new survey, taking opinions from C-suite at FTSE 350 organisations, heralds five potential answers.

First, C-suite audiences will spend time with your content if they believe the investment of time will provide value. 66% of FTSE 350 executives polled say they look to thought leadership to keep on top of market trends, while 60% say they want insights that will support better decision-making. It is clear, then, that what C-suite readers want is practical, directional and evidence-based information.

Second, the biggest turn-off for C-suite is output that is too generic and not relevant. 63% cite lack of personalisation as a major failure in the delivery of thought leadership. Compelling content will miss the mark if it is presented and shared in a way that doesn’t speak directly to the concerns of its target audience using their language.

Third, a multichannel strategy in which content is repurposed across different platforms has the greatest potential to land with its audience. Short-form content has risen to the top of the wish list: 63% of the senior decision-makers polled say short articles of 800 words is their preferred type of output. This poses a major challenge to firms: how best to convey a depth of insight, and the nuance of complex ideas and issues, in short-form content, without producing superficial content?

Fourth, direct and face-to-face contact remains critical, even in an age dominated by technology-driven communications. Dispelling a myth that all content is found and consumed via social media or through search engines, the research shows that personal content, whether through a known contact at a firm, or at events are the sources that senior executives rely on most. In my experience roundtable discussions are particularly effective.

Fifth, the next wave of genuine thought leadership innovation is co-creation. I have already seen this work particularly effectively in a number of firms, who work directly with clients to shape their content strategy. 80% of FTSE 350 C-suite say the trend they would most like to see in future is shaping thought leadership content with their peers. This is significantly ahead of innovation in digital delivery of thought leadership.

So what does this research mean in practice for marketers tasked with developing content campaigns?

If nothing else, it reconfirms to me that effective thought planning is critical for any campaign, big or small. In my experience firms who dive in without a proper plan wonder later on why their content fails to connect.

  1. When planning your next campaign challenge yourself with these questions:
  2. What value will this really add to our desired audience?
  3. How will we make the insights as relevant and personalised as possible?
  4. How will we package up insights into shorter digestible material without creating superficial clichés?
  5. Who will champion the face-to-face delivery of content with clients and prospects at events, roundtables and BD meetings?
  6. What opportunities do we have to use friendly clients to develop the direction of the project?

By Alastair Beddow