Three themes on campaign development and thought leadership – Education, Integration and Measurement (July 2021)

It was a full house at the recent PM Forum digital workshop on campaign development, thought leadership and project management. Here is a summary of three themes on campaign development and thought leadership – Education, Integration and Measurement. Delegate polls and feedback are also shown.

Key themes – Education, Integration and Measurement

Educate for engagement

Most delegates talked about the challenge of gaining engagement and buy-in from fee-earners.  And sustaining that interest, involvement and momentum during the sometimes long life a campaign. Several aspects of professional service firm culture can work against the effective design, development and implementation of campaigns:

  • Short termism – Most fee-earners are focused on generating clients, work and fees in the short term. They may too impatient to invest the required time in preparing and implementing a really good communications or thought leadership campaign. They may resist setting objectives and targets that extend beyond the current financial year.
  • Silos – Often campaigns will be strongest where they draw on teams and expertise from across the firm. Collaboration is required. But typically fee-earners are organised in silo departments which makes this difficult.
  • Specialists – Fee-earners may have little understanding of marketing and business development. They may fail to recognise the difference between marketing (focusing on client needs) and selling (focusing on selling services). They may not understand or tolerate the planning, processes and commitment required to build and roll out an effective campaign.
  • Scope – Often thought leadership will require a broad commercial knowledge and an understanding of economic, political, technological and sociological issues and how these might impact on commercial clients in the future. Fee-earners may find it hard to consider emerging trends that go beyond their area of specialism – especially where there is uncertainty about how this will translate into future fees and profits.

 There is a need for education and training on both marketing and business development in general. And on campaigns specifically.

Fee-earners need to understand the distinction between communications campaigns (where you might share updates and opinions to promote a particular service) and a thought leadership campaign that generates and shares new and innovative thinking – usually based on structured research. I talked about my experience in training sector leaders of various professional service firms so that they understood the aims and processes before campaigns were initiated within their teams.

Integrate marketing and selling

The value of campaigns to help position, promote and raise the profile of a professional services firm is widely recognised.

Most people are familiar with the client or buyer journey and the need to align campaign aims and activities to the various stages. Especially in the digital space. Similarly, most marketing professionals are adept at following processes to carefully navigate all the stages in campaign planning, development and implementation.

There’s greater recognition of the need for strong internal communications and internal engagement to ensure that campaign communications are amplified by all fee-earners doing their bit to share content to their networks. Some firms use Passle for this purpose.

However, perhaps because firms are so large now with teams of M&BD specialists working independently there is a danger that the marketing, selling and relationship management processes are not properly integrated into campaigns.

Some marketing communications specialists’ role ends when their campaign generates leads for fee-earners to pursue and convert. However, the best campaigns are those that have sustained messages and integrated activities to support those subsequent sales conversations. To extend into the sales and relationship management role.

One of the many advantages of thought leadership is that it provides unique information that is of real value to clients and prospects. And so the fee-earners are equipped with knowledge from the campaign to initiate and drive subsequent conversations. Thought leadership enables the challenger or insight selling approach which is known to be the most effective. (This article explains Insight Selling).

Measure the results

It is hard to develop meaningful objectives for campaigns. Early engagement by fee-earners in campaign objective setting is important to manage expectations (what do we hope to achieve and by when?). Yet fee-earners may be reluctant to commit to ambitious targets as they are typically risk-averse.

And I mentioned above how often campaigns fail to connect marketing and selling programmes so it is hard to build in conversion rates and sales success statistics into campaign measurement metrics.

Objectives are also fundamental to how we measure the effectiveness of campaigns and the Return on Investment (ROI) of campaigns. It was interesting to see the range of campaign objectives typically used by the delegates’ firms. Many firms resort to vanity statistics and process measure rather than outcome-based results.

The challenges of attribution can be overcome if there are high level objectives on revenue and profit although the longer sales cycles in B2B marketing and selling mean that they will need to be medium and long term.

The issues surrounding ROI calculations in professional services marketing are explored further here: ROI in professional service firm marketing (

Delegate poll results

There were delegate polls throughout the workshop.

Delegate mix

  • 50% Marketing
  • 28% PR/Communications
  • 17% Business Development
  • 6% Something else

Confidence in developing and implementing campaigns (1 = low, 10 = High):

  • 1 – 6%
  • 3 – 11%
  • 5 – 50%
  • 6 – 6%
  • 7 – 6%
  • 8 – 17%
  • 9 – 6%

Areas of most interest from the agenda/contents:

Main focus for your campaigns:

  • 44% Whole firm
  • 39% Sectors
  •  6% Territory/Office
  • 6% Service line
  • 6% Other

Are your campaigns integrated with content management plans?

  • 22% Yes
  • 56% Sort of – there are links
  • 22% No – our campaigns don’t have content management plans

Where are you weakest in campaigns?

  • 61% Effectiveness
  • 22% Planning and execution
  • 11% Objectives
  •  6% Clarity on markets and services

Having seen the definition of thought leadership, do you think your campaigns are:

  • 53% Communications campaigns
  • 47% Mixture of thought leadership and communications campaigns

Are your communications/thought leadership campaigns integrated with your sales/relationship management plans?

  • 67% Yes, but could do better
  • 33% There’s no integration

Collaboration in your campaigns:

  • 28% Existing clients
  • 22% Trade, business and professional bodies
  • 17% Existing key clients
  • 17% Referrer and intermediaries
  • 11% International network/associates
  • 6% Media organisations

What objectives are there in your campaigns:

  • 94% Web site visit
  • 78% Social media engagement
  • 78% Number of enquiries/new clients
  • 72% Internal engagement/amplification
  • 72% Interactions/meetings generated
  • 28% Awards and league tables
  • 39% Revenue/Fees
  • 22% Profit
  • 22% Return on Investment (ROI)

Do you include risk management in your campaigns?

  • 11% Yes, we do it well
  • 44% Yes, but not sufficiently
  • 44% No

Which tools do you use for campaign/project management?

  • 72% Briefing documents/plans/reports
  • 67% Mailing list and related software/apps
  • 50% Resource/budget planning
  • 44% Task breakdowns
  • 39% Project Management software
  • 39% GANTT charts
  • 22% Project Management methodology

What do you consider the biggest challenge with campaigns?

  • 28% Lack of M&BD time/resource
  • 22% Unclear or unrealistic aims/expectations
  • 17% Culture (e.g. politics, lack of reward system)
  • 11% Lack of senior support
  • 11% Lack of fee-earner engagement
  • 6% Scope creep
  • 6% Internal communications/Silo mentality

Delegate views

Delegate aims were varied and included:

  • Increase engagement and buy-in – Learn how to sell the benefits of campaigns to fee-earners
  • Learn about the campaign process
  • Understand what a good campaign looks like
  • Prioritise audiences and topics for campaigns
  • Develop our thought leadership
  • Identify and develop themes which are unique
  • Know how to identify suitable themes and topics
  • Understand different research methods
  • Increase client collaboration
  • Improve campaign implementation
  • Learn about project management techniques
  • Check our approach against best practice

Delegate key takeaways from the workshop included:

  • Be more strategic in working on projects
  • Promote buy-in with more internal education on thought leadership and other campaigns
  • Maintain high levels of internal communication for engagement and momentum
  • Challenge the current culture around campaign management and implementation
  • Pilot thought leadership strategy for a specific sector group to show potential value
  • Plan measurement in more detail – not just the money invested but also time/resource
  • Take a long-term view – Focus on future thinking and client issues and needs
  • Create and follow plans and processes
  • Identify and manage risk in campaign planners
  • Integrate with the Insight/Challenger sales approach
  • Consider working with academics to see upcoming trends
  • Plan further ahead (long life cycle) to remain relevant
  • Ensure marketing of ideas that deliver value rather than pushing/selling of services

There is a list of research agencies who specialise in professional services marketing research at the end of this article Client satisfaction benchmarks – How do you measure up? ( Man Bites Dog  is another award-winning thought leadership consultancy specialising in the professions. Tim Prizeman’s book on thought leadership is highly recommended


Note: This was the last session I will present with Kazee Clements at PM Forum. We’ve done so many sessions together over the past few years – both in person and online. Kazee is such a professional, skilled, charming and calm technical host – and has become a valuable friend.  So I am sorry to see her go but excited for her amazing new move. Thank you so much Kazee for all your help and “Good Luck” for the future!