Why you should revamp your thought leadership strategy

Published Oct. 19, 2021, 9:37 a.m. by Denise Wall

It’s becoming tougher for thought leadership content to meaningfully engage audiences, partly because there is so much competition in today’s attention economy. But keeping the focus on issues that are relevant to your stakeholders at the centre of your comms strategy could help you earn share of mind.

Why thought leadership? Because stakeholders increasingly want to engage with brands in a purposeful way. This means that they are challenging firms to look beyond the balance sheet to get active in their communities and to take a stand on what matters to their stakeholders.

The weight of stakeholder expectations is evident in Edelman’s 2021 Trust Barometer, which indicates that employers and businesses have leapfrogged past government, NGOs and media institutions in public perceptions of trustworthiness. A commanding 86 percent of respondents in the global survey said that they expect CEOs to take the lead on societal issues! In that survey, researchers pinpointed a growing infodemic – a scarcity of reliable sources of information – as one of the main factors eroding trust in most news sources (traditional, owned and social media).

Now, in collaboration with LinkedIn, a new Edelman Thought Leadership Impact report has found that the pandemic has also prompted an eruption in content marketing that has diluted the impact of thought leadership content. According to the report, this is “making it harder for companies to connect with B2B customers and prospects.”

Although the sheer scale of content being pumped out today may seem dauting, brands must fight the temptation to withdraw and simply wait out the storm. The answer is for companies to ensure that they are demonstrating strong and deliberate thought leadership that puts their stakeholders and their needs at the centre of the strategy.

Thought leadership should challenge audiences

The good news is that according to the LinkedIn/Edelman study, B2B decision makers are still consuming content, and a significant portion is doing more of it than before the pandemic. They are typically conducting research, ranking options and comparing pricing before making purchasing decisions. Thought leadership content could be the key to engaging these groups and unlocking their potential before they commit to a choice. But how?

We at Spoon always advise our clients to be brave and take a stand on key issues that their customers and stakeholders value, to look beyond sustainability comms, to tackle larger questions to connect with and engage their audiences, and to be bold enough to include other voices as they address big topics. After all, firms do have the power to take a stand on local issues such as access to clean water, education equality and the impact of climate change on local communities, for example. Not many are prepared to speak up.

Yet the LinkedIn/Edelman study highlighted that respondents want to be challenged, they want to hear from external, third-party experts and not just company specialists, they look forward to hearing subject matter experts rather than senior executives, and they prefer a human and conversational tone of voice over an intellectual corporate delivery. Not only that, they want to identify with a real POV perspective rather than a faceless brand.

In essence, the key to powerful thought leadership content lies in going back to the basics and forging a strategy that prioritises taking a strong stand on important issues, while creating content that is authentic, sincere, thought-provoking, and original yet authoritative and approachable – just as it always should have been.