Campaigns, thought leadership and project management – Early engagement, scoping and risk management

At the recent PM Forum  online workshop on campaigns, thought leadership and project management there were 17 delegates from legal, accountancy and insolvency firms located in London, Belfast, Sutton Coldfield, Manchester, Newcastle, Cambridge and Dubai. In the 2023 Annual International Marketing Benchmark – PM Forum and Meridian West ( client Experience (CX) and thought leadership remained top business development priorities. The key themes arising on campaigns, thought leadership and project management – Early engagement, scoping and risk management. The delegate aims, poll results and key takeaways are shown below.

Early engagement

The need for early fee-earner engagement was one of the main takeaways by delegates (see below).

There were numerous reasons to strive for early engagement with fee-earners during campaign development and project management. Probably one of the most important reasons was that early involvement was more likely to secure buy-in from the outset.

Other reasons included:

  • Education – Explain the benefits of campaigns to the firm, fee-earners and clients. Stress the need for clients’ needs to remain uppermost in everyone’s minds. Describe what is involved in campaign development and the sequence of events. You can also promote discussion of “What good looks like”
  • Entrepreneurship – Obtain ideas for new markets to target or gain insights to develop differentiated positioning or value propositions at structured brainstorms. Achieve early sense-checking and promote bold and innovative thinking.
  • Expectations – Help fee-earners understand what input is required from them (roles and responsibilities), the likely investment and a realistic time-frame for results.
  • Energy – Early involvement leads to their ideas being captured from the outset and often greater commitment to the campaign. The increased sense of ownership maintains the necessary energy and maintains momentum of the project or campaign.
  • Evangelism – Enthusiastic fee-earners who have made a major contribution and/or feel a sense of ownership are more likely to promote it to others in the firm

Another reason for early engagement is to increase the chances – through tapping into a diverse range of perspectives and areas of expertise – of identifying a big idea that has sufficient “Wow” factor to gain the interest and engagement of the target audience. And you build in amplification.

Take time to scope

Scoping is a key aspect of project management. Many delegates felt that the need for better scoping of projects was a key takeaway from the session (see below).

With the huge time pressure on M&BD teams, it is tempting to dive into the campaign development, research and implementation without scoping and a full project analysis.

Taking time at the outset to really think through everything that might happen pays dividends. Forward planning with scoping helps you anticipate where issues and delays might occur – it looks at the interdependencies and the critical path. A key element will be to agree what will and what won’t be included in the project and securing senior management support to maintain that focus at the outset.

Good scoping will help everyone realise how much needs to be done. It helps develop a realistic view to manage expectations. It puts the costs and benefits into perspective. Scoping will help you identify at an early stage all the resources (time and cash) – fee-earners, M&BD team and external agencies – that you are likely to need. So it will improve the accuracy of the budgets.

A clear scope will also make it easier to manage when – during the project – people suggest or request changes and additions that may potentially cause problems. For example, a common challenge is where additional channels are requested in a multi-channel campaign. This is likely to require different content formats and significant additional resources. So early research into the channels most likely to be preferred by the target audient (there was material on preferred content channels) will help manage scope creep.

How to Write a Project Scope in 3 Key Steps – Optimizely

Risk management

Only 6% of the delegates felt that their firms did risk management in campaigns and projects well. 69% said they did risk management but not sufficiently while 25% said there was no risk management at present.

Anticipating problems such as resource constraints, availability of key people, competitor activity, time clashes and lacklustre research results will help everyone think through what might happen. You can then build risk management, mitigation and acceptance into the plan.

It also means that if difficulties arise, you will be prepared for what alternative action might be taken. Contingency plans will be ready from the outset.

What Is Project Risk Management? (

Other points of interest

Preferred content formats

Updating various research results shared at the session, the Semrush State of Content Marketing Report 2023  shows the preferred content formats for digital marketing to be:

  • 45% Video
  • 37% Short form articles
  • 28% Success stories
  • 24% Long form blog posts
  • 19% Case studies
  • 18% Webinars and online events
  • 17% Gated content
  • 17% Infographics
  • 14% White Papers

Mailing items

To cut through email and social media noise, there were views that sending things through the post could be highly effective in differentiating your firm and really adding value to clients.

Successful examples included: cactus plants, Lego figures, hats, hygiene products, card decks, device chargers and books.

During Covid there was an increase in sending items such as drinks and food to engage clients during online events.

However, there were concerns now that any such items must be sensitive to climate concerns (ESG). Several ideas were discussed including branded items that support reuse and insect-friendly flower seeds.

Delegate views on campaigns, thought leadership and project management

What did delegates hope to achieve from the session?

  • Fresh ideas for campaigns
  • Obtain a good foundation in campaign strategy
  • Best practice approaches
  • Looking for inspiration
  • Insight on measures of success
  • How can we be more dynamic / interactive in the way we share our output (rather than a flat 20 page report)
  • To learn more and build on our campaigns we already run
  • How to be on time
  • Just started a new role, and want to kick-start my upskilling
  • Inspiration and best practices
  • A fresh approach to implementing campaigns
  • I’m moving into a more general marketing role from my events role so looking for inspo!
  • I’ve worked on a lot of digital projects in the past but want to refresh my knowledge and transfer skills to comms projects and campaigns.
  • I’ve taken on more responsibilities in the leading and strategy for campaigns, so would love to get more insight, measures of success and how to engage audiences more
  • Best practice, strategizing, planning, getting stakeholders on board!

What were the main takeaways for delegates?

  • Ensure we are focusing on what resonates with our audience
  • Having a look at the B2B buying process again, risk management and content management pyramid
  • Encourage partners to participate in thought leadership more
  • The importance of internal engagement and buy-in early into a campaign, and how continual reinforcement and communication can support this through a project’s lifecycle
  • Use campaigns to help us to become more efficient and streamline our activities as we are currently limited with resource in the M&BD team
  • Go back to basics – planning, clear objectives and ROI
  • Take a structured approach to campaigns
  • Make a clear plan and continue to communicate with stakeholders
  • Find time do more research to give us more structure and help set clear goals
  • Really invest in the insight gathering and scoping stages
  • Importance of scoping stage
  • Scoping and planning more upfront and using more traditional project management tools
  • Risk management – don’t think there has been enough of this on previous projects!
  • Strategy focus on risk management, and thinking about other dynamic approaches to campaigns
  • Risk management – something to spend more time thinking about
  • Set up a plan – a strategy for campaign with a timeline, stakeholders and deliverables will be your lifesaver in the long run! It can also help demonstrate ROI
  • How to measure resource and spending – more thorough project analysis
  • Add structure into how we measure the success of our campaigns and proactively report back more regularly – also helps with buy-in to the importance of the team
  • Great to hear what issues others face and that we deal with similar problems

Delegate poll results

  1. What is your role?
  • 41% Marketing
  • 24% PR/Communications
  • 24% Business development
  • 6% Events
  • 6% Content creation
  1. How confident are you about developing and implementing campaigns?
  1. 0%
  2. 6%
  3. 0%
  4. 6%
  5. 24%
  6. 47%
  7. 12%
  8. 0%
  9. 6%
  10. 0%
  1. Which aspect of the session is of most interest?
  • 13% Context – Strategy and marketing/BD
  • 6% Campaigns – benefits and developing communications campaigns
  • 0% Thought leadership campaigns
  • 19% Overcoming barriers, implementation and project management
  • 63% Everything – I am a sponge today!
  1. What’s the main focus for your campaigns?
  • 35% Whole firm
  • 6% Particular territory/office
  • 24% Sector
  • 12% Service line
  • 0% Key clients/ABM
  • 24% Something else

Other responses included: targeting in-house counsel, cross sectors, cross jurisdictions and PR campaigns for teams across the firm 

  1. Who has integrated their campaigns with content management plans?
  • 50% Yes – integrated campaigns with content management plans
  • 38% Sort of – there are links
  • 13% No – our campaigns don’t have content management plans
  1. Where are you weakest in campaigns?
  • 31% Objectives
  • 19% Clarity on markets and services
  • 25% Planning and execution
  • 25% Effectiveness
  1. Having seen the definition of thought leadership, do you think your campaigns are mostly:
  • 38% Communications campaigns
  • 63% Thought leadership campaigns
  1. Are your campaigns integrated with your sales/relationship management plans?
  • 100% Yes – but we could do better
  1. Which research methods have you used? (multiple choice)
  • 60% Email surveys
  • 47% Roundtables and panels
  • 40% Collaboration with a third party
  • 33% Face-to-face interviews
  • 27% Case studies
  • 20% Monthly or quarterly polls
  • 13% Delphi method
  • 7% Telephone surveys
  • 7% Other (Transaction data)
  1. During campaigns you collaborate with (multiple choice)
  • 73% Existing clients
  • 53% International network
  • 40% Key clients
  • 40% Referrers
  • 40% Media organisations
  • 20% Trade, business and professional associations
  • 13% Educational establishments
  1. Which is the biggest barrier to campaigns?
  • 25% No budget for research/external agencies
  • 19% Lack of resources in marketing/BD
  • 19% Lack of fee-earner buy-in/engagement
  • 13% Perception of marketing/BD
  • 6% Insufficient data and information
  • 6% Everyone prefers to do their own thing
  • 6% Fee-earners won’t work together/stick at things
  • 6% Other (Fee-earners take control of the process and don’t always take advice from M&BD)
  1. Which objectives are there in your campaigns (multiple choice)
  • 80% Number of enquiries/new clients
  • 80% Social media engagement
  • 80% Interactions/meetings generated
  • 73% Web site visits
  • 53% Internal engagement/amplification
  • 27% Return on investment (ROI)
  • 20% Revenue/fees
  • 13% Profit
  • 13% Awards and league tables
  1. Do you address risk management in your campaigns?
  • 6% Yes – we do it well
  • 69% Yes – but not sufficiently
  • 25% No
  1. Which tools do you use for campaign/project management (multiple choice)
  • 64% Briefing documents/plans/reports
  • 50% Task breakdowns
  • 43% Mailing list/specialist software/apps
  • 36% Resource/budget planning
  • 29% GANTT charts
  • 21% Project management methodology
  • 21% Project management software
  • 0% Network diagrams
  1. View of biggest problem with campaigns now?
  • 20% Lack of fee-earner engagement
  • 20% Lack of M&BD time/resource
  • 20% Integration with other aims/projects/campaigns
  • 13% Culture (politics, lack of rewards)
  • 7% Lack of senior support
  • 7% Unclear or unrealistic aims/expectations
  • 7% Scope creep
  • 7% Poor internal communications/silo mentality

Related campaigns, thought leadership and project management articles

campaign, thought leadership and project management ( June 2022 Buy in, momentum, online vs in-person, limited M&BD resources, measurement, follow up

themes on campaign development and thought leadership ( July 2021 Education, integration, measurement

Video in the marketing mix ( April 2021

25th Professional Marketing Forum Conference Report ( November 2020 ROI, BDO case study on winning awards

nine reflections on thought leadership (2019) professional services ( September 2019

Thought leadership, campaigns and project management ( January 2018

Thought leadership campaigns and project management Eight Essentials ( September 2018 Entrepreneurship, Engage, Educate, Expectations, Empathy, Essence, Edge, Engineer, Execute, Equip, Extract, Evangelism, Evaluation, Evolution

Project vs campaign management ( October 2016

Thought leadership manual by Tim Prizeman ( June 2016

Why fee-earners should let marketing help develop campaigns ( December 2015

10 steps to create a business development campaign ( November 2015

Campaign management in the professions ( June 2015

Delegation and project management – Kim Tasso January 2014

Improve marketing campaign management in professional service firms ( October 2013

Project Management in Marketing – Kim Tasso May 2013

5 top tips for time, project and campaign management – Kim Tasso April 2011

Recent professional services campaign highlights 

Major survey of investors and developers reveals growth opportunities in evolving industrial real estate market | Forsters LLP | Leading Mayfair law firm May 2023 (with FTI)

2023 financial benchmarks for law firms ( April 2023 (Hazelwoods and Crowe) 

The Drum | How Addleshaw Goddard Increased Brand Awareness By Combining Poetry And Law December 2022

Thought leadership campaigns: Arcadia, JLL and Remit ( December 2022

Legal marketing case study – Thought leadership campaigns ( November 2022 (Howard Kennedy)

World Shaping Wealth: the impact of affluence on the next economy ( May 2022

Law firm thought leadership update ( June 2021 Davitt Jones Boult, Howard Kennedy, DLA Piper, Moreton Fraser, Stephens Scown, Passle legal thought leadership league table

Professional Services Thought leadership update – ( November 2020 FTI, Bidwells, Grist, FieldFisher

Accountancy marketing case study – MHA ( June 2018

During the workshop, there were some excellent thought leadership campaign ideas including: digital transformation education for C-suite executives, the changing role of general counsel and cyber-security risks for C-suite in technology businesses (on this one see this excellent blog on the topic: Burnout: The Hidden Cost of Working in Cybersecurity & Other High Risk Fields – Jane Frankland ( (June 2023)