Sunday, August 21, 2016

What Makes Thought Leadership Content Effective?

The Economist Group recently published a report that provides several interesting perspectives on the development, use, and effectiveness of thought leadership content. Thought leadership disrupted:  New rules for the content age is based on a survey (conducted in association with Hill+Knowlton Strategies) of 1,644 global marketing and business executives that was fielded in April 2016.

Survey responses were segmented based on whether the respondents were marketers (those who plan, develop, or manage thought leadership content) or executives (those who consume thought leadership content). In this post, I'm focusing on the survey data relating to executive respondents.

To set the stage for the data, it's important to understand how The Economist Group defined thought leadership. Here's the definition the firm asked survey participants to read before they took the survey:

"Thought leadership is the practice of influencing a community of interest by developing information, analysis and insight that helps its audience understand its world and plan for the future. It can be delivered through any medium, and can help companies raise awareness, shift perception and increase the status of their brand."

Obviously, this definition is fairly broad, and it gives survey respondents some room to apply their own interpretation of what constitutes thought leadership.

Executives are Becoming Selective

More than two-thirds (68%) of executive respondents said they consume thought leadership content at least weekly, and almost as many (63%) said they have increased their consumption of thought leadership content over the past 12 months. But 75% of the respondents also said they have become more selective in their content consumption over the past 12-24 months, and 82% said that the volume of thought leadership content available is what has made them more selective.

The increased selectivity on the part of executives has made it harder for marketers to create break-through thought leadership content. Surveyed executives reported that, on average, they engage with only about 25% of the thought leadership content they see every day.

What Drives the Consumption of Thought Leadership Content?

The Economist Group also asked executives to identify three factors (from a list of 15) that drive their consumption of thought leadership content. The following table shows the top five consumption drivers chosen by the surveyed executives:

What Makes for Good (and Bad) Thought Leadership Content?

When executives were asked what qualities made thought leadership content compelling, the most popular qualities were:

  • Innovative (40% of respondents)
  • Big picture (36%)
  • Transformative (36%)
  • Credible (35%)
When executives were asked what words they associated with poor thought leadership content, the top three choices were superficial (34% of respondents), sales-driven (31%), and biased (28%).

The Impact of Thought Leadership

The value of compelling thought leadership to sellers is abundantly clear. Seventy percent of executives said that good thought leadership content led them to consume additional content from the same source, and 72% said they are more inclined to do business with organizations that are thought leaders.

Top image courtesy of Abhijit Bhadurl via Flickr CC.

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