WEDNESDAY 17 MAY 2017 11:39 AM


“Thought leadership is like romantic dancing,” one panellist at a recent Forbes event says. “You do it with someone, not at them.” That ethos was espoused by the speakers at Forbes Insight’s recent ‘Thought leadership content creators’ event.

The discussion focused on research carried out by Forbes Insights and Deloitte into the nature of content creation and its consumption by business leaders. Speakers from the big four accountancy firms debated the challenges and opportunities available in corporate content. One of the biggest challenges is following through once a piece of research has been created. Companies often move on to the next thing without backing up their research with further content or conversation.

“It is in a way a marketing challenge,” says Brian Bannister, head of global communications at KPMG. “Finding new and innovative ways to make that thought leadership idea have relevance and life and bringing it to new audiences. At times in my career I’ve probably been guilty of forgetting what the purpose of thought leadership is. It’s not an end in its own right. Its goal is to stimulate a conversation.”

The Forbes Insights research shows that surveys and other content are still valuable forms of information for companies. Most executives say they turn to general news and business media as well as consulting and professional services firms most for their business insights. They also find data more relevant in context, making surveys a useful form of insight gathering.

However, the panel agreed that the term ‘thought leadership’ is overwrought. “It’s all about the purpose. A lot of what is called thought leadership, is not. It’s a view, trying to progress something forward,” Áine Bryn, global financial services marketing director at PwC, says. Bannister agrees, adding that true ‘thought leadership’ should be “the pursuit of the next big idea as opposed to sticking something really big and thematic.”

For most organisations generating research, content or other insights relevant to businesses, the follow-through remains important. Bannister says, “It’s the opportunity to start a conversation, but be prepared to reap what you sow. You need people who are equipped for the conversation.”

The opportunities for content production will only proliferate. But content producers should be aware of the things leaders are looking for. Gina Pingitore, MD of Deloitte Services at the Deloitte Center for Industry Insights, says, “Evidence-based decision-making is more critical than ever before for setting strategy. That’s why thought leadership needs to present CxOs with data-based insights that are credible, relevant to their organisations and lead to business outcomes.”

In short, dance with a person, not at them.