Firms often ask us for our insights on the latest trends in thought leadership—insights we are well-placed to offer given the time we spend looking at all the content produced by the world’s most prolific publishers, and the energy we put into understanding the views of clients. Here are three of our recommendations for 2022:
Focusing on a longer-term view. The onset of the pandemic in 2020 led to a mass pivot by firms to produce content that provided guidance on how to deal with the here and now. Going into 2021, this became all about tackling the “new normal”—but material remained firmly rooted in the present and there was very little focus on a time horizon beyond the next few months. It feels like the time is now right to offer a more future-focused view—a message reinforced by our recent survey of senior buyers of professional services in the US and UK. The fact that almost two-thirds of these clients told us that thought leadership has become more important to them because they need a sense of future trends should be seen as a wake-up call to firms still publishing content rooted only in today’s challenges.
A more data-driven approach. Our research with clients tells us that thought leadership is playing an increasingly important role in decision making—but only when it has a solid grounding in data and research that can offer senior leadership teams some proof points. While 2021 has seen a more widespread move to data-driven output, there’s still plenty of content that is based on either a small amount of secondary research or on the opinion of its author—neither of which is likely to get the C-suite to sit up and take notice.
Being more practical. Firms that invest vast budgets and time in thought leadership probably want it to be more than an intellectual exercise. But all too often it’s hard for the audience to know what they should do next after engaging with a piece of content. The most helpful thought leadership offers action steps that focus on the “how” as well as the “what”—and explains what can be achieved by following these steps. It also makes clear how the publishing firm could help and provides a robust view of the relevant work it has carried out. We hope to see more material take this approach in 2022—it’s what clients tell us they want and need.