In the process of creating our latest White Space quality ratings we reviewed nearly 400 pieces of thought leadership in detail. Reading and interacting with so many pieces of content leads to a range of emotions: from “Oh no, not another piece talking about …”, through “Eighty pages?!?”, to “Wow, this is really interesting!” All of which gives us a pretty good sense of what’s working and what’s not. So, based on that, here are our top eight tips for creating better, more engaging thought leadership:
- Shift some investment away from generic thought leadership and towards sector-specific pieces. Whilst some topics can perfectly reasonably be insightfully addressed at a generic level, it’s clear that a sector focus makes it much easier to add real value to the reader or user. (And our research with clients last year demonstrated a clear preference on their part to read about topics from their own perspective.)
- Be really clear about who you are writing for. Can you picture them? Do you understand what keeps them awake at night? And make sure you hang on to this perspective. You really don’t need to spend pages telling them about the high-level trends happening in their industry. No, really, you don’t.
- Spend more time thinking about the title. Would it catch your attention? Pique your interest? There’s a reason articles with titles such as “Forget about the watch – what’s happening with Apple TV” and “How smart managers manipulate employees” are trending on LinkedIn this week.
- Make sure your content is easy to navigate. We’re all pressed for time and inundated with information and only a handful of people will read from beginning to end or look at every element of content on your microsite. Most will skim read and skip to the sections that they’re confident are relevant to them. Is it obvious which these are and where they are?
- Think about what makes something stick. Compelling stories, engaging case studies and enlightening analogies tend to lodge in our minds – and help us convey key messages to others. What will your next reader or user remember?
- Avoid surveys for surveys’ sake. Surveys are great when they’re used to support or develop a point of view. And when the firm has carried out insightful analysis to explore what the leaders are doing versus the rest. But our hearts sink when we see entire reports structured around reporting back survey results question by question.
- Do everything you can to encourage the reader to reflect on what they’ve read. What questions should they be asking themselves about how this applies to their own organisation?
- Is it clear what experience your firm has in this area? We see lots of standard boiler plates at the end of reports when we should be seeing a targeted description of your firm’s experience.