Traditional thought leadership – whether it’s delivered through owned media or earned media – most often involves showcasing your own ideas and opinions, those of a client, or of an individual within your organization.
From a content marketing perspective, the shortcomings of traditional thought leadership include:
- the high noise factor, caused by market competition for attention
- the perception that thought leadership is mostly self-promotional
- the sad truth that few “thought leaders” have anything interesting to say
- the challenge of producing new or interesting insights on a consistent basis, and
- the reality that your target audiences are unlikely to read your long-form commentary.
The Alternative to Traditional Thought Leadership
The underlying assumption of “Enlightened” thought leadership is that managing the conversation (on any topic) by showcasing respected, credible 3rd parties is far more effective than promoting your own, your client’s, or your company’s opinions and insights.
In other words, you must put ego aside, and acknowledge that your “internal” intellectual capital can be worth less than credible outside voices that you deem to be worth hearing, and whose message supports and validates your company’s value proposition.
This somewhat contrarian approach to thought leadership…delivered in an editorial format that we call Branded Interviews…is the most effective way for B2B companies of all types to build brand stature, and to connect the dots between marketing and sales. Hands down.
In a nutshell, Branded Interviews are:
- Interviews with recognized, respected opinion leaders with credentials related to your industry or professional discipline. They should not feature employees or clients
- Presented in a quick-reading Q&A editorial format, with 10 – 12 questions that highlight the individual’s personal and professional background, insights, and opinions
- Purely objective in nature. Guest comments should not mention or promote your business in any way
- Published on a quarterly or bi-monthly basis; distributed to clients, prospects and referrals sources; and promoted on LinkedIn…ensuring top-of-mind awareness with target audiences
- Valuable due diligence assets for your sales team to use with prospects
- Inherent 3rd party endorsements that should be archived in a dedicated section on your website
In truth, Branded Interviews require considerably more time and effort than traditional thought leadership content, even compared with what’s involved in generating bylined articles in respected business publications. The strategic selection and solicitation of guests, the development of relevant questions, the interview logistics, the conversion of an interview transcript to concise written responses, and the approval process, all take time and finesse. But the end-product is well worth all that work; producing evergreen content with unmatched credibility, and countless marketing and sales applications.
It’s Not About the Content; It’s About the Relationships
Perhaps the most compelling reason to convert to enlightened thought leadership is that the publication development process itself has tangible value, in terms of establishing and building relationships with influential individuals who can make things happen for your company.
For one of our clients – an emerging healthcare technology company – their Branded Interview led to a relationship between the firm’s CEO and the interview guest that resulted in acquisition of the company at a significant multiple, which was the CEO’s intended exit strategy.
Asking a recognized opinion leader (that your firm may have no connections with) to be profiled in your Branded Interview may seem like a long shot, as well as a formula for embarrassment if the opinion leader declines. But the invitation process serves to put your company on his / her radar screen, and is flattering to the individual, whether or not they accept. Very often, high profile individuals do accept invitations to be interviewed simply because, like most people, they enjoy telling their story, and sharing their ideas.
In our view, Branded Interviews are an important and cost-effective way for B2B companies to get noticed and build brand stature, and should be a core tactical component in an integrated marketing strategy.
Before initiating a Branded Interview program, however, there are two important caveats:
- This is not a short-term marketing tactic designed to produce an immediate market response. It’s a sophisticated, longer-term approach that will yield tangible marketing and sales benefits over time.
- Lacking a senior management commitment to produce at least four Branded Interviews over the course of a year, B2B firms should pass on this marketing tactic.
Give me a call if you’d like to learn more reasons why we’re such big fans of Branded Interviews.