Content Strategy of Thought Leadership

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The Content Strategy of Thought Leadership IABC World Conference 2015 Stacey King Gordon @staceykgordon

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“Thought Leadership” c. 1994 I was looking for an individual who was addressing the big questions with which today’s most senior executives are wrestling. These questions relate to business strategy … and the ways in which society itself is changing.

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Companies are trying to grow into thought leaders through content. 20% Of marketers say they believe the content their companies distribute establish them as thought leaders in their industries. 46% Of marketers say their content is OK but has room for improvement — and doesn’t position them as thought leaders 13% Of marketers believe their content reads like sales collateral IMN  Content  Marke-ng  Survey,  2014    

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Why thought leadership matters

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Long-term benefits of thought leadership Early stage More inbound inquiries Middle stage Faster sales cycles Later stage Increased customer loyalty Higher close rates More short listing Bigger deal sizes Higher lifetime value Source: Laura Ramos, Forrester

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Brand value and thought leadership

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#1: Apple #2: Google #3: Coca-Cola #4: IBM

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Thought leadership is: Thought leadership isn’t: Integral to the culture and brand Something that originates in the marketing or PR department Based on a unique, informed perspective Based on repackaging others’ ideas A long-term commitment An occasional tactic or focused on short-term gains Accessible to the customer and community Esoteric, difficult to use, hard to find or access

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Content strategy is essential to achieve thought leadership

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What we hear from marketers Efforts are fragmented. Different departments are doing different things. Leaders and experts aren’t involved. Executives and subject matter experts don’t have time to participate or interest in participating. No sense of what’s most important or impactful. Teams have difficulty prioritizing projects.

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What you uniquely know Where You Credibly Play What your audience cares about

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Getting to the brand POV •  Brand positioning •  Existing content •  Company strategy •  Leaders’ vision for the future •  Competitive landscape

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Figuring out your audience needs Awareness Research Consideration Purchase Relationship WHAT THE CUSTOMER IS DOING Deciding to buy; beginning to plan Researching online; educating himself about the basics Comparing products in store to what he saw online; narrowing down choices; consulting others Making his final decision and deciding on a purchase Implementation, thinking about growing the solution Satisfied, relieved, happy, proud Excited and relieved, then overwhelmed Help consumer make his final decision and feel good about it Bring consumer back for “what’s next” and continue to serve him through the next stage CUSTOMER MINDSET Excited, anxious/nervous, overwhelmed with options, discouraged about cost Interested, engaged, tentative Hopeful, careful CONTENT GOALS Help consumer overcome sense of being overwhelmed or discouraged; give him a logical starting point to understand options and decisions. Help consumer explore options, understand tradeoffs and factors, embrace variety and choice Answer more advanced questions and help consumer make his final decision CONTENT THEMES, TOPICS, TYPES 101-level basics, answers to basic questions, checklists, primer videos, easy infographics and “maps” Basic overviews, comparison charts, decision guides, answers to basic concerns that arise during early research Answers to more advanced concerns that come up during research, tips for weighing choices Emotion-driven content (testimonials, proposal stories), confidencebuilding content (postpurchase issues) Guidance on processes, issues, getting most mileage out of product

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The quality umbrella Structure Relevance •  •  •  Define what quality means to your brand Use guidelines as your efforts expand and more people get involved Use a benchmark for evaluating and measuring success Credibility Overall Experience & Effectiveness Tone & Style Accuracy & Timeliness Clarity, Readability & Focus Findability & Organization

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Checklists Style Guides

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Lean teams Limited time Little to no budget

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Sustaining thought leadership success Ownership & Communication Publishing Strategy & Prioritization Processes & Planning Organization & Lifecycle

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Premium/Proprietary Content Sample: Three Tiers of Content Best Practices/Solution Content Current Awareness/Expertise

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Sample: content priorities/production guidelines Tier 1: Premium/ Proprietary Content Tier 2: Current Events / Awareness Content Criteria: Original research, first-time publication, data-driven but with a narrative, fostering external credibility Criteria: Smaller bites of thoughtprovoking content, highlighting individual expertise, conveys unique POV, timely Tone: Educational, more formal, smart and incisive, upbeat Tone: Smart, conversational, upbeat, succinct, humorous (when appropriate) Frequency: Quarterly/semi-annual Frequency: Regularly (a few times a week) Creators: Professional writers/ marketing, or subject matter experts with support of professional editors Extending the Value: Complementary content to support sharing at every level: social content, video, PPT decks, infographics, blog posts Creators: Subject matter experts, salespeople, marketing Extending the Value: Sharing on social channels, curating and packaging “best of” content into more premium publications

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Measuring success

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Start small and stay focused •  Benchmark where you are today on: engagement, relevancy, and quality. •  Start with 5-7 KPIs related to goals. •  Software and processes in place to measure regularly. •  Focus on long-term, brand-level results.

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Thought leadership communication is a commitment. Content strategy can help. You have to prepare for it to be hard. It takes awhile to settle into the groove. There’s a lot of trial and error involved. If you stick with it, you’ll start to see results.

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Thanks! Stacey King Gordon Twitter: @staceykgordon

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