Monthly Archives: March 2017

Digital engagement seen as key to expanding the influence of Think Tanks

Digital engagement is seen as increasingly important to the success of public policy think tanks — according to industry experts.

Writing recently on LinkedIn PulseDermot Finch (@dermotfinch) of Great Britain’s Prince’s Trust and a founder of Centre for Cities think tank — see’s successful think tank’s now “engag[ing] directly with voters.  Sitting on a think tank panel in Whitehall or a party conference doesn’t really cut it any more. So the demand for think tank platforms has diminished somewhat”, he explains.  Successful think tanks, he writes, are increasingly demonstrating a deeper, nonpartisan expertise.

Digital engagement seen taking two forms

Recent political campaigns in the UK and US have highlighted the importance of digital engagement and the success it might bring those seeking to influence the public policy landscape, according to Aidan Muller, Founder & CEO of Daimon Communications, writing in Public Affairs News.  

Muller identifies digital campaigning and digital intelligence as they two key pillars of digital engagement required for modern public affairs campaigning success.  Digital campaigning, he writes, is characterized by “leveraging third-party channels” — which has the effect of taking messages far beyond your immediate community.  Online influencer engagement, media partnerships, paid promotions on blogs, content discovery platforms or social media platforms are all a part of digital campaigning.  Digital intelligence is an often overlooked tool, according to Muller.  Digital data, he details, “is probably the area which is changing public affairs the most.  Each social media post, each share, each search leaves a digital footprint.”  And this data — Muller explains — “is there to be harvested and analysed”.

How one prominent think tank has used social media

While social media engagement is just one component of a holistic digital strategy, the experience of the Brookings Institution is one example of how seriously some in think tanks are taking digital engagement.

Barbara Ray of HiredPenInc interviewed the Brookings Institution’s David Jackson (@davidvjackson) in 2011 — about “how [Brookings is] using social media to get their research findings out to policymakers, journalists, and the public.”  Jackson is now Communications Director for the National Association of Counties.

Jackson told Ray that while “media gatekeepers still exist…[with social media] there are [now] many more ways into an issue or an audience you’re engaging with…[beyond] the traditional press release and follow-up.”  A good blog and an active Twitter account have helped make op-ed’s no longer necessary.

At the time of the interview, Brookings was maintaining both personal and institutional Twitter accounts.  They were also doing video conferences and podcasts.  Engagement of individual scholars was vital to the amplification of their messages, Jackson explained, as “social media is about individual voices”.  “The personal brand has become even more import than the organizational brand”, he said.  Brookings at the time was staffing their social media monitoring with 10 staff members.

Think Tank social media “a work in progress”

Jackson told Ray that: “Overall, though, we’re still carving out how to do this. It’s a work in progress. Anyone who claims to be a social media expert or guru is a little bit ahead of themselves. I don’t think anyone is an expert on something that is evolving so quickly. There’s no one-stop rainmaker who can tell you, ‘If you these three things, you’ll be successful.” There is no “one size fits all” in this realm.  

No matter what strategy you decide on for social media, remember that it’s part of everyone’s job. It is an organizational commitment. You have to constantly feed the beast. That’s the hardest part.”

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Thought leadership’s importance to management consulting growth

In a recent Forbes article, Russ Alan Prince details how competitive pressures among management consultants has made thought leadership an effective way to secure new clients.

And Braden Kelly explained in a recent article how these competitive pressures are as a result of an abundance of information online.  This abundant online information has created a buyers market for management consulting services. Buyers of management consulting services, he writes, are now seeking out thought leadership to inform their buying decisions.

Russ Allen Prince highlighted how McKinsey & Co pioneered industry thought leadership with McKinsey Quartely, a highly successful journal “replete with descriptions of the firm’s successes”.  The Management Consultancies Association (MCA), the representative body for management consultancy firms in the UK, showcased other leading examples of leading industry thought leadership from firms including PwC, KPMG and Deloitte — at their 2016 MCA Awards.

Challenges to thought leadership development

Braden Kelly detailed how “consulting firms are struggling to identify and provide the content necessary to help them maintain (and possibly extend) their success in this new [competitive] environment.”

Firms are struggling, according to Kelly, because they “tend to under-invest in thought leadership and as a consequence…find themselves vulnerable to new entrants.”

Thought leadership is often not the primary focus inside some consultancies.  Firm partners, focused first on new revenue generation — have limited time for thought leadership, particularly novel initiatives that support “expansionary growth” Kelly explained.  This lack of focus can keep firms treading water or losing ground on new business generation via a sustained thought leadership campaign.

Another challenge to thought leadership development is the importance of social media visibility — in addition to excellent thought leadership content creation.

Looking forward

Well-developed thought leadership can support successful new business generation efforts by management consulting firms, according to Kelly.  But these efforts require a commitment of time and resources to realize their full potential.  

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Long form content leads to high search engine rankings

In a crowded, competitive market for the attention of customers and clients online, long-form content has become a key differentiator for the strategically sophisticated business, as a number of industry experts have detailed. In particular:

Long form content leads to higher search engine rankings, according to a recent article by Robert Mening (@RobMening) in Search Engine Watch.  Kissmetrics Blog details how long form content creates “more proof of your authority and industry expertise”.  And Jayson DeMers (@jaysondemers) explains in Forbes how long form content is helping businesses “stand out in an ever-more-saturated and competitive market”.  

Long form content helps small businesses compete

Mening explained when smaller companies are seeking to compete with larger, more well-funded competitors – blogging can be an equalizer.  He explained how Google prefers “rich and informative content” — which gives the blogger an advantage over a product or service website page.  

Longer content is vital

Longer content of above 1,000 words ranks better as a means by which to capture higher search engine rankings.  Mening cites a study by serpIQ which details how content comprising a minimum of 2,000 words is required to rank in the top 10 positions in Google search.

What is evergreen content – and why is it important?

Companies that blog need more than just lengthy content – they also need comprehensive evergreen content to most effectively impact search engine rankings.  As Mening explains, evergreen content “works over a longer period of time…deliver[ing] traffic, leads, social shares, and can occupy valuable positions in the search rankings for months or even years after [it’s] publish[ed]”.  

Well-written content is key

Mening emphasized that in order to be relevant to users, content must be well written and address the needs of its intended audience.  Kissmetrics blog also explained the importance of excellent writing to the success of long form content:  “Whether you do it in-house or hire a freelancer, quality will make your content shine. That top quality might come at a high price….but readable, expert content is the difference between content that flies and content that flops.”

Higher rankings, more traffic and more social shares

The benefits to publishing longer, more comprehensive content include higher rankings on Google, more traffic, more social shares and links — and a higher recognition as a trusted authority in your niche.  Businesses seeking an advantage in a crowded market would, therefore, be wise to integrate long-form content into their online marketing strategy.

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