Leveraging the personal recommendation


Our research back in July on the impact of thought leadership clearly demonstrated that one personal recommendation is much more likely to drive engagement with thought leadership than one email from a faceless firm – and much more likely to be the start of a conversation. But what does it take to make this happen? We posed this question to each of the ten firms who submitted a case study for our upcoming report on the distribution of thought leadership.

Interviewees emphasised the importance of understanding the needs of different service lines, sectors, and geographies – and having the processes in place to tailor a report’s findings to different audiences according to those needs. A very tangible example of this is the IBM Global C-suite study that, according to Linda Ban, has been cut in more than 60 ways to produce slide packs for different regions and industries. In other firms, material is tailored at the local level. “The content produced for The CFO agenda is developed at a global level but with the flexibility to be translated or tailored locally,” says Robert Brand at EY. “We have a network of marketing professionals around the world that are responsible for working with our partners and business development executives in the regional and sector teams to tailor the content, develop the deployment plans (including client meetings), and measure the execution of those plans.”

It’s also about making it easy for consultants to share the material by, for example, creating email templates or giving consultants ready-made presentations to use face-to-face.

All of these efforts will fail, however, if consultants don’t know about or aren’t motivated to share material. As Geri Gibbons of Deloitte says: “We ensure it happens by considering our internal channels just as important as our external ones in capturing reader attention.” This communication may be by email or in person. Josselyn Simpson at Strategy& gives an example: “The study’s authors, senior partners from different regions, are the ones to tell the full partnership about the study, which ensures that the full partnership is engaged.”

And finally, from our informal conversations with firms, we know that those who take this seriously are making big efforts to measure internal engagement with thought leadership.

In summary

There’s a risk of burning out your own colleagues – and their contacts – if you try to apply this approach to every piece of thought leadership you publish. However, for significant pieces, it is clearly worth doing – and worth doing well.

  • Are you paying as much attention to your internal channels as your external ones?
  • Do you ask your consultants what they need – in terms of both format and content – in order to share material directly with their contacts?
  • Are you able to tailor content effectively?
  • Are you making it easy for consultants to share material through a range of different channels (e.g. through email, in person, on Twitter or LinkedIn)?
  • Are you tracking internal use and sharing of content?

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