Tag Archives: Corporate Communications

Thought Leadership: Worth the Challenge to Achieve It

Thought leadership is worth it – but it’s hard to achieve, explains Aden Andruswriting in Disrupting Advertising.  He explains that thought leadership is much more than simply social shares or backlinks.  “True thought leadership”, he details, “makes people want to work with you and [it] has a huge impact on your bottom line.” “People respond best”, he explains, “when you create real value for them.”

In the case of his own efforts to generate a thought leadership position for his client company – excellent content produced significantly higher organic traffic and 32 times more organic lead volume – over a two-year period of committed thought leadership efforts.

He explains, however, that “any good blog editor knows that more organic ‘leads’ is not the same thing as more organic sales.”  Two years after his thought leadership efforts began, he noted, his company generated 64 times more revenue

“So, does thought leadership generate meaningful business results?”, he asks. “Absolutely. In fact, if you do it right, becoming a thought leader in your industry is one of the most effective ways to build your business.”

Practical Advice on How to Achieve Thought Leadership Status

Julie Schwartz writes in ITSMA blog that “marketing can’t do thought leadership alone… if it does, the output will be promotion, not thought leadership.” Marketing, she explains, “must get the buy-in, support, and commitment of executives and subject matter experts to become part of the idea-generating and dissemination process.”  She further notes that the success of any thought leadership effort “requires a deep commitment not just from marketing but from the entire company”.

Schwartz details 4 key elements for any organization to successfully achieve thought leadership status:

  1. Thought leadership efforts must connect deeply with target audiences need and goals
  2. Fact-based research is essential to establishing a more credible thought leadership
  3. Organizations must develop engines for idea development as well as dissemination (often, but not exclusively, social media based). “McKinsey and Bain have had these [initiatives] for decades, [and] more mainstream B2B companies are now making the same kind of thought leadership marketing transformation”, she noted.
  4. Concrete metrics used to judge success are required, and they are: Reputation Relationships and Revenue.

Further Considerations if You’re Contemplating Thought Leadership 

Julie Schwartz and Aden Andrus explain with precision the reasons why thought leadership works to increase revenue and can be achieved via specific steps taken by an organization (not only marketing).  They both also cite the need to measure the effort as against revenue.  I’d note that when considering who might be appointed to undertake responsibility for the editorial process of such an effort – consider appointing someone who understands the intersection of business development and content marketing.  Too, that this person has deep experience in researching and writing thought leadership publications.  And finally, that this person also understands fully the mechanisms by which inbound marketing and content production fit in the mix between outbound sales and business development.

Thought leadership, as is explained above – is not easy to achieve.  It takes time, patience, and the work of both marketing professionals, writers and subject matter experts.  Working together, however, these professionals can help an organization achieve substantial revenue growth.  Which begs the question:  If you’re not focused on building a thought leadership effort – shouldn’t you be considering it?

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Want to achieve thought leadership status? Hire a professional writer

If you work in a large business that is seeking to become an industry thought leader, the assistance of a professional writer is imperative to achieve success.

As thought leadership expert Russ Alan Prince has detailed in Forbes, competition for high-caliber clients is “becoming more intense”, and thought leadership has become a powerful way to secure new business amid a sea of “increasingly fungible” competitors.

McKinsey & Company is the example to aspire to

The bar to superior thought leadership is a high one.  The leader in thought leadership for professional services is, as Prince explains, McKinsey & Company, who first published McKinsey Quarterly in the 1960’s.  It’s effectiveness, he details, “has resulted in many other management consulting firms following suit”.

Vital for firms to consider is Prince’s prediction that: “There will be an increasing bifurcation…between the relative few [firms] that are thought leaders and the majority that are not.”  

Becoming a thought leader requires hard work

But Prince also cautions that: “More often than not the biggest obstacle to a professional services firm becoming a thought leader…is a willingness to put in the requisite hard work.” Firms aspiring to thought leadership, he explains “have to seriously commit to the endeavor, or they should avoid it altogether.”

He cites Hannah Shaw Grove, Executive Editor of Private Wealth magazine, who explains that: “‘originality and quality are the keys to lasting success as a thought leader. The barriers to entry are pretty low right now; virtually anyone can make a three-minute video or produce a six-page white paper. But if you can demonstrate depth of knowledge and bring fresh insights to areas and industries that have suffered from decades of conventional thinking you have the ability to transform the game. Nothing else will make the cut.’”

Why a professional writer is helpful

Any large organization seeking to become a thought leader requires a professional writer.  As Maria Wood explains on McGuire Editorial Blog, corporate CEO’s under tight time constraints regularly utilize the services of ghost-writers to help them craft “thought-provoking articles that build their personal brand and show their companies as cutting edge pioneers in their respective industry.”

Addressing corporate content marketing managers specifically, she explains her reasoning for the need to hire ghost writers capable of producing thought leadership pieces: “You know that your company’s leadership and other individual experts in your organization hold a lot of valuable insights in their heads, but you’ll never get them to sit down and write a “big idea” piece.”  “But”, she continues, “you’re hesitant to do thought leadership writing for several reasons: Writing isn’t your CEO’s forte (as it isn’t for many executives and entrepreneurs), and the process would take precious time away from his or her real job of building and growing the business. Fortunately, working with a ghostwriter provides the perfect answer to those challenges.”

“A great ghostwriter”, she explains, “elicits expertise and enthusiasm during… interviews [with corporate leaders]”. A ghostwriter then helps put into writing a CEO’s “big ideas and point of view”. She concludes by explaining how: “A packed schedule shouldn’t prevent your leadership from [publishing thought leadership]. If they don’t have the time to craft a stellar article personally, hire a ghostwriter.”

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How to write blog posts that generate new client leads

The ultimate goal of any content marketing initiative is to generate new potential client leads.  

Julie Neidlinger, writing in Single Grain, explains that: “There’s a general misunderstanding among most bloggers: you think that simply getting people to read what you’ve written is the point.  In an ideal world, they just read your blog post and immediately (and happily) sign up for your newsletter, download your “ultimate guide,” and head on over to your online store. Your amazing content leads to conversions which translates to cold hard cash in the bank. It’s as simple as that, right? Yes, that is what can happen. That is what should happen. But as long as you hold on to that initial misunderstanding, that isn’t what will happen. The truth is, readers don’t automatically become customers. They tend to stay readers unless you make a concerted effort to convert them into a customer.” [emphasis added]

How to generate leads from blog posts

Strong Social has detailed what is required to avoid the pitfall Julie Neidlinger details above — and create successful, lead-generating blog posts.  Their recommendations include:

  • Be clear and concise — “Clarity is the key to mutual understanding between you and your customers.” This requires removing excessive language in blogposts.
  • Ensure your blog posts are client-centric.
  • Break the blogpost up into subheadings and bullet points –  They cite a Nielsen Norman Group study which “found that 79% of readers skim, while only 16% read every word on a page. Breaking up your page with subheads and bullets will make it easier for those 79% to digest the copy—and ultimately take a desired action—on your website.”
  • Avoid buzzwords and industry jargon which can reduce the clarity of your message.
  • Include a compelling call to action — The call to action (CTA) is one of the most important aspects of web copywriting. Ensure the reader knows what to do next. This is perhaps the most important element of a good blogpost, as well as perhaps the most overlooked.
  • Be aware of the web copy your direct competitors are using as a means to keep fully up-to-date with the market.
  • Know your audience — Understand their needs and address them in your blogposts. “Figure out why people buy your product or service, how they buy it, what they use it for, and what really matters to them.”

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Harold Evans explains “why writing well matters”

Former editor of Britain’s Sunday Times and Editor at Large for Reuters Sir Harold Evans explained why he’s driven crazy by a lot of the “increasingly incomprehensible” business language today in a recent interview with Charlie Rose.  “What Orwell predicted would happen has happened” he told Rose, in introducing his recent book entitled “Do I Make Myself Clear?: Why Writing Well Matters.”  The book is now a New York Times Bestseller which The Financial Times calls: “practical advice for those seeking to improve their writing skills.”

Evans explained the increasing incomprehensibility, citing the example of a friend who got a call from someone who wanted to help him sell a company.  The caller, Evans detailed, identified the sale as a “liquidation event” instead of referring to it in more simple terms.

He says he wrote the book “because euphemisms are used more than they should be” — and that  “with the arrival of digital – the velocity of information is speeding up.  To find the real message [it] takes longer than it should ‘because there’s so much verbiage’”.

Evans identifies 10 ways to make writing clearer:

  1. Get moving – use the active voice.  Passive voice creates more words and is harder to understand.
  2. Be specific – all great writing focuses on simple, concrete terms – not abstractions
  3. Ration adjectives and raise adverbs
  4. Cut the fat – check the figures
  5. Organize for clarity — sentences should be short because they’re easier to understand and speak
  6. Be positive – sentences should assert a positive instead of a negative
  7. Don’t be a bore
  8. Put people first. Using a healthcare example, Evans advises: use a name — not a case number
  9. Propositions are pesky and can confuse who’s doing what
  10. Down with monologophobia — don’t be afraid of using the same word twice

Evans’ life and career

Evans love of journalism began in World War 2 – where he encountered a soldier who’d died of tuberculosis at 27.  Evans explained how he became “obsessed by many bad things that were hidden” in Britain’s railways and coal mines.  He made his name in helping investigative teams for the UK’s Sunday Times – in particular his work on exposing the treatment of babies impacted by thalidomide — as well as the Kim Philby spy case.  He later worked for US News and World Report and Conde Nast. He explained the difference between British and US journalism:  In American journalism news and opinion are separate.  In the UK, he explained, opinion-editorial and news were fused during his career.

Evans went on to detail how he first fell in love with the writing of Tina Brown, then a writer for the Times and later Tatler, Vanity Fair and the Daily Beast. He later fell in love with Brown herself and they’ve been married ever since.  “Long may you flourish as the Great interpreter of American life”, he told Rose to end the interview.

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Essentials of Content Marketing #3: An editorial calendar

While many business have turned to content marketing as a means to attract new clients or customers — some have not adopted one of the most essential elements of these efforts — an editorial calendar.

As Sydney Rayl of Turn the Page Online Marketing explains — successful content marketing “means building a loyal following that trusts your brand for quality content and provides you with repeat business”.  Vitally, as Rayl also explains, “the key to achieving a successful content marketing strategy is to consistently [produce] high-quality content that is focused on what you’re audiences wants to see”.  And the best way to do this, Rayl notes, is by adopting and committing to utilize an editorial calendar.  Garrett Moon of CoSchedule Blog puts it a bit differently:  He explains that “the number on way to get traffic to [a] blog is through the very habits than an editorial calendar [helps] develop:  organization.

A consistent, well-planned strategy is required for content marketing success

As Garrett Moon explains in more depth — content marketing “requires a lot of strategy to be successful”.  While understanding your audience is central to strategy — an editorial calendar is just as important from an implementation standpoint.  Without it — you won’t be producing consistent, thoughtful content that attracts a growing audience.   In addition to helping you plan out consistent posts — and editorial calendar permits you to more easily alternate between topics, track writing and editing assignments, new ideas and deadlines.

As Moon argues, a written editorial calendar also helps to keep a content marketing team accountable — helping to make “each individual more likely to deliver high-quality, relevant content consistently over time.”  That consistency, Moon explains, is vital to building a larger following.

The basic components of an editorial calendar

Creme Blog contains an excellent example of an editorial calendar.  Writing for Creme, Tabita explains how to create an editorial calendar.  Here’s what Creme details:

  • Make a list of topics that will be of interest to your readers.
  • Set the number of articles you’d like to publish on a weekly basis.
  • Determine what type of content you’d like to publish — whether it’s written articles, videos, podcasts, pictures, graphics or others.
  • Set dates certain for producing and publishing each piece of content.
  • Determine which channels you’ll utilize to promote the content: Facebook? Twitter?, etc.
  • Utilize a digital, shareable calendar for dispersed teams and easier collaboration.

Discipline will yield better results

Among the greatest challenges to producing regular, high-quality content that address the needs of your key audiences — is consistency.  An editorial calendar will go a long way to creating a disciplined and hence more successful — content marketing strategy.

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Why it’s important for professional services firms to develop thought leadership

Companies are turning to online sources of information when seeking to be educated buyers of consulting services, according to an article by Braden Kelley.  It is vital, therefore, as Mark Clemente details, for firms to seek to maintain a sophisticated online presence.

Power has shifted to the buyers of professional services

The reasons for this, as Kelley detailed, are rooted in how the internet has changed the relationship between professional services firms and their corporate clients.  He explains that in the past — information “was scarce and external knowledge was valued by the client.”  But now as information is so readily available — corporate buyers of professional services are – via their own research — amassing data and information once held by their professional advisors.

Companies have, therefore, “become less open to being sold consulting services and instead more focused on becoming buyers of consulting services”.

Thought leadership requires commitment and discipline

But as Kelley details — professional services firms are “struggling to identify and provide the content necessary to help them maintain (and possibly extend) their success in this new environment.”  He argues that professional services firm tend to under-invest in thought leadership and consequently become vulnerable to competitors who do — missing out, therefore, on the revenue that would have resulted had that thought leadership been cultivated.

He argues that the value of thought leadership and those capable of creating it and facilitating the execution of a content marketing strategy — cannot be underestimated.  And specifically — to do it well — as Carter Hostelley details — “treat your blog like it’s important” – “think like a publisher” – “make it about your target audience” – “blog often but keep quality high” — and “get other experts to contribute”.

Sophisticated thought leadership distinguishes professional services firms

With this information in mind, professional services firms can seek to distinguish themselves in a crowded marketplace of competitors by a commitment to carefully cultivating the best thought leadership posture they can.

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