A round up of recent media mentions of thought leadership campaigns in professional services. Professional Services thought leadership update – FTI, Bidwells, Grist and Fieldfisher. I’ve added my thoughts on recent campaigns which we use in thought leadership training workshops.

Award-winning thought leadership campaign at FTI (June 2020)

FTI Consulting  was the winner of the Managing Partners Management Excellence Award  for Thought Leadership with its Resilience Barometer.

In November 2018, this global management consulting firm researched 2,200 business leaders from across the G20 about the challenges and opportunities they face in today’s interconnected, technologically-disrupted and increasingly regulated world.

It calculated a resilience score showing how well companies are prepared to deal with 18 different scenarios which might negatively impact their turnover, value and reputation. The report was launched at Davos with an event for 400 senior business leaders. There was a multi-country PR campaign and advertising campaign, including The Economist, video interviews and internal communications.

The campaign generated:

  • 141 meetings with potential clients at Davos
  • 4,000 views of the website and videos
  • 200,000 unique social media views in the first month
  • Press coverage on the front page of the UK Telegraph

A second edition FTI Resilience Barometer was launched at WEF 2020. A breakfast meeting was co-hosted by The Economist’s Editor-in-Chief Zanny Minton Beddoes with Ed Vaizey, former Minister of State for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries on the topic of business resilience.

This coincided with the launch of a FTI Consulting Resilience Barometer web site and a targeted social media engagement campaign resulting in a 205% year-on-year increase in views of the report online. An advert for the report featured in the FT’s The Banker magazine and copies were distributed across the top hotels in Davos.

Thought leadership campaigns at Bidwells (March 2020)

Bidwells   is a middle-tier 51 partner property consultancy (strapline “Well informed”) with a strong position in the rural real estate market.

Campaign development

The new Director of Business Development & Marketing (leading a team of 16) organised research and presentations on how the Arc would develop from a Government-funded infrastructure project to “an economic asset of international standing”. While the Government focused on new roads and railways, the firm looked at the rest and were the first people to do so.

Four pieces of research were produced from its four Southern offices – Oxford, Cambridge, Norwich and London – within six months. Press releases were produced as part of the communications campaign but a key element was 30 direct presentations to key investor and developer clients. This led to the creation of a Think Tank with the University of Oxford, Barratt Developments, Grosvenor (part of Grosvenor Estate) and 20 other leading players in real estate.

Campaign results

The firm established itself as the leading adviser on a 30-year infrastructure project (“The Oxford-Cambridge Arc” – a Government-led plan initiated in 2017) and then went to earn £6 million fees within the first few months.

They had 70,000 social media hits on the topic including 4,000 engagements – particularly on LinkedIn and Twitter. The firm became the leader in producing a fleshed-out plan for the area known as “Radical Regeneration Manifesto” and now also advises the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government which initiated the project.

Repositioning the marketing and BD team and other campaigns

The Managing Director also said that the project helped the Marketing & BD team “move from being responsive and doing the small stuff to running strategic campaigns”.

The firm has other initiatives to refine its web site, CRM and service lines (including an advertising campaign for the residential team using Waitrose, David Lloyd gyms and motorcycle couriers around “Best talk to Bidwells” for local information).

It has also established a “Natural Capital” service to help clients with a variety of issues including biodiversity, natural resources and energy-saving systems.

The Scottish team developed a “Timber Price Index” to support clients in forestry management which links well with the World Economic Forum’s One Trillion Trees Initiative.

November Update On 24th November 2020 Bidwells posted on LinkedIn about winning a Drum award for this campaign:

“Last night Bidwells beat IBM, AT&T, Adobe, the US Postal Service and Mastercard to an international marketing award for our Radical Regeneration Manifesto thought leadership campaign. Thank you to everyone who contributed to the debate we kickstarted around how to best inspire knowledge industry-led regeneration across the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and beyond. Our ideas are recognisable in some of the radical policy coming forward this year which is testament to the power of the contributions from our clients, partners, internal teams and chapter authors. But the biggest thank you goes to campaign partners Blackstock Consulting and Perkins & Will for helping bring this thought leadership to life. #TheDrumAwards #radicalregen #bestthoughtleaders2020”

(A similar but older infrastructure thought leadership campaign was designed by Thomson Snell & Passmore with the Thames Gateway regeneration)

(Another rural property data-driven campaign by Savills is summarised here )

Grist research on thought leadership (Winter 2019)

Andrew Rogerson outlined the key takeaways from the Grist survey on the value of B2B thought leadership.

In 2016 Grist surveyed the C-suite of the FTSE 350 firms to understand how they were consuming thought leadership. The latest research found that these people were much more comfortable with the idea of thought leadership but much more demanding in what they want and need from it.

Why consume thought leadership content?

The research revealed:

  • 68% of senior executives read thought leadership to give them an edge over competitors
  • 66% said thought leadership keeps them informed of emerging trends
  • 64% felt it enabled them to make better decisions

But thought leadership must be useful and its communication must be done carefully as 42% of respondents cited self-serving content as their biggest turn off. The author argued that explicit expressions of your capabilities were less effective than implicit signals of competence and expertise (I always advise clients “Don’t tell them you are an expert – show them”. Or I use the quote from Margaret Thatcher “Power is like being a lady… if you have to tell people you are, you aren’t”).

The importance of data

Fresh thinking is still important but 44% believe that robust data is now the most important attribute (up from 29% in 2016). Whilst qualitative (39%) and quantitative (34%) data are wanted similarly, 27% want both. 58% cited unsubstantiated opinions as the biggest turn-off in thought leadership. That increases to 66% in the US.

Andy reported that a common misconception is that C-suite most wants to hear the views of other senior executives but the views they value most are their customers. The views of competitors and peers came in second (48%) and inspirational individuals outside the industry (41%) also figured highly.

Over a third (34%) want to hear from advisory firms that specialise in the issue.

Preferred format of information

In terms of preference for how to engage with thought leadership material:

  • 56% blog post
  • 53% print magazines
  • 45% White Papers and research reports
  • 44% infographics
  • 44% video
  • 33% microsites

Less than 30% favoured podcasts, apps, webinars or ebooks (I suspect this has changed significantly following the Covid-19 restrictions). But the wide variety of delivery channels preferred supports the need for an integrated communications strategy.

Preferred channels for thought leadership

57% of senior executives reported that they turn to professional networks (e.g. colleagues and peers) as the go-to source when seeking out thought leadership. This shows the importance of collaboration with industry membership bodies and wider influence marketing and referrer management programmes.

41% said they seek out thought leadership from professional services firms and advisory firms.

50% cited recommendations from staff as the main reason to engage with thought leadership content. Although 45% said they were prompted by email, 41% from peer recommendations, 32% by online discussions, 31% by online searching and 28% by social media.

Timing of thought leadership content

55% said Monday proved the most popular day to seek out thought leadership and Wednesday was the next favourite at 47%. Saturdays (19%) and Sundays (12%) were the least likely days to consume thought leadership.

37% reported they were most likely to view thought leadership between 9am and 12pm and 29% between 12pm and 2pm, with just 14% between 2pm to 6pm.

(There was also some interesting more recent ITSMA research into how C-suite level executives prefer to consume thought leadership material included in the 2020 book by Bev Burgess on Executive Engagement )

(There was also a helpful article on thought leadership from Grist  in late October 2020).

Much of the material for this post was obtained from articles in Professional Marketing magazine   from the Professional Marketing Forum.

Augmented Reality (AR) thought leadership from FieldFisher

I also wanted to mention a thought leadership campaign from 2017 by Field Fisher on ‘Augmented Reality (AR): The future of media and commerce’.  Its unusual approach used case studies.

It used industry case studies from String Labs, Immediate Media, BP, Virtual Medics and Inition and the paper explored the ways businesses can use Augmented Reality (AR), whilst ensuring they know about and consider the still-blurry legal landscape.  The paper itself contains AR “Targets” throughout, powered by industry leader Blippar, so that readers can experience AR immediately.

“Augmented Reality has quickly evolved from the pages of sci-fi novels to become an everyday reality with real commercial potential. What began in the 1960s with the Sensorama – a cabinet designed by cinematographer Morton Heilig that displayed 3D movies and simulated smells – has grown into an industry that analysts predict will be worth over $150 billion by 2020”

I recently wrote an article about the use of AR, VR and XR for events.

Views from Clifford Chance

I also found a short article by Kate Gibbons, partner responsible for Global Knowledge at Clifford Chance, and Lynette Williams, Global Head of Client and Market Development at Clifford Chance discuss the importance of thought leadership in building client relationships and developing legal careers

Further posts on thought leadership

Nine reflections on thought leadership (from a workshop) (September 2019)

Eight essentials on thought leadership campaigns  (September 2018)

Accountancy marketing case study – MHA’s manufacturing and engineering thought leadership   (June 2018)

Nine insights from a thought leadership campaign workshop  (January 2018)

Accountancy marketing case study – Haines Watts Love or Money campaign   (April 2017)

Book review of Tim Prizeman’s “Thought leadership Manual” (June 2016)

Legal marketing case study – Rix & Kay and later life and care home thought leadership (November 2015)

Legal marketing case study – Thomson Snell & Passmore grow an office from scratch on regeneration thought leadership  (May 2013)

Thought leadership campaigns – the basics  (January 2012)