Deloitte-Forbes study: 1/3 of C-Suite executives prefer reading long-form print content

A 2017 report from Forbes and Deloitte details how top executives prefer to receive business insights.   300 C-suite executives from around the world were surveyed to produce the report, entitled: Thought Leadership in Action: Strategic Content to Help CXO’s Learn and Lead.

Perhaps the most surprising result of the study reveals that despite the tendency for digital media to reduce ideas to brief “sound-bites” — more than one-third of C-Suite executives prefer to read long form content in print.

Key findings of the report include that while C-Suite executives “expect to be able to access content in multiple ways” — the majority benefit from longer formats, including presentations, books and comprehensive papers.

Research-driven content is vital

Bruce Rogers (@Brogers825), Chief Insights Officer of Forbes Media explains that C-Suite executives “want to access longer pieces, which take them from hypothesis, through case studies, to conclusion, and are based on credible data.”  Rodgers noted that “short-form content serves as a gateway to more information.”

Gina Pingitore (@GPingitorePHD), Managing Director, Deloitte Services LP, Deloitte Center for Industry Insights — explained that “thought leadership needs to present [C-suite executives] with data-based insights that are credible, relevant to their organizations and lead to business outcomes” – because “evidence-based decision making is..critical…for setting strategy.”

Print remains an important medium

While content must be designed and distributed via multiple channels – print remains an important medium.   A full half of the C-suite executives surveyed said  it is critical to read long-form business insights.  84% said they would choose offline long-form content.

Professional content producers are important

Results of the study also reflect that “professional publishing and consulting firms produce the most valuable content”.  C-suite executives, the report details, “obtain the most valuable content from organizations capable of analyzing information and then placing it in a narrative context.”

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How a blog can help your business generate more publicity

Competition for available media coverage continues to increase

Competition for available media coverage continues to increase amid a sea of press releases and publicity efforts, according to an article by Ian Felton in SEO Chat.  As a result of this competition, Felton details, it`s “harder than ever for a business to gain much needed publicity.”

“Getting someone to hear the message is half the battle”, Felton explains. “Having the members of the media consider it newsworthy is the other half. Somewhere, there must be another vehicle that can gain the attention of an already swamped news editor. Help for the publicity seeking business person has arrived in the form of the blog.”

And global public relations consultancy Burson-Marsteller has explained the increased importance of blogs to generating news stories:  “Traditional and Social media are being used in increasingly sophisticated ways to draw attention to issues and mobilize opinion; anyone can now broadcast their views instantly and broadly using the panoply of tools freely available. And with journalists and other opinion-formers using blogs, micro-blogs and other web-based media as core tools to track news and trends, seemingly anodyne issues can be amplified instantly.”

Unique features that make blogs useful for public relations efforts

Felton identifies 4 key elements of blog technology that help make it uniquely useful for amplifying your organization’s messages

  1. A blog can provide an instant pipeline directly to interested news media outlets when combined with an RSS news feed, which employs the same technology as stock market and weather forecasts.
  2. A blog is a search engine optimization vehicle requiring minimal additional effort. The regular addition of relevant and keyword rich content provides a powerful boost to your business in the search engines.
  3. Other blogs and blog-based news sites will often link to content they source for information – which increases your exposure.
  4. High-ranking sites send a message of importance to reporters.  Hence, you may well be regularly called upon as a source as a result.

Consistent, sophisticated content will make a blog a regular source of news stories

Making your blog a source of consistent, well-informed opinion will help it grow to be regarded by journalists as a must-read source of expert opinion on your industry and specializations.  But reaching that pinnacle takes very hard work — which organizations must understand and genuinely commit to before embarking upon any blogging effort with such a lofty ambition.

Felton sums up the blog`s importance with a message about authenticity:  “Blogging as a public opinion medium [leaves ‘spin’ behind] and [instead] presents a message in a conversation with the reader…In that sense…blog[s] cultivate public opinion…with increasing transparency.”

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If there’s ever been a time to build your own audience for your company…it’s now

Frank Strong, writing recently in Sword and the Script Blog, details how traditional advertising and social media have become, except for the very well-funded brands – more difficult to utilize to promote companies.

Without well-researched, trustworthy written content, Strong explains, companies without deep budgets will have a hard time building an audience.

Crowded news and information markets makes building an audience difficult

As Strong details, the ad has been replaced by sponsored content. And social media channels are crowded with numerous brands, individuals and companies all vying for attention.  

At the same time — earned media coverage – the type most commonly driven by traditional public relations efforts to court journalists to write stories which might highlight a brand — is much more difficult to secure.  Why?  Because traditional media outlets will often select promoted content over traditional stories as a means to generate revenue.  And important for companies to keep in mind — trust in traditional media is waning, which is making earned media on traditional channels less appealing.

Strong calls this set of circumstances a “perfect storm” for companies seeking to generate awareness via both traditional news outlets and increasingly crowded social media channels.

Create your own initiative to build a loyal audience

To build an organic audience Strong recommends companies consistently create and publish content that is substantially different and passionate, utilizing case studies, white papers and webinars – as readers now consider them to be the most trustworthy forms of content.  

Patience required as this is a long-term strategy

Finally, he advises patience — as content production to support corporate goals – including sales – is a long-term strategy – whose full measure must be taken over time.

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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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