Why a Publishing Model is Wrong for Thought Leadership


I keep hearing people say that developing great content for thought leadership marketing campaigns requires instituting a publishing process, populated with reporters willing to become “corporate journalists.”  

I say that’s partly right and mostly wrong.

Too many corporate journalists more or less take the ideas handed to them by a consultant, lawyer, technologist or other expert on a topic and make them presentable.  They capture the ideas in highly readable prose.  But the ideas are often not very substantive.

I call this role one of “idea packager.” Idea packagers don’t do much to push the ideas they are asked to ghostwrite. They don’t ask for evidence to support arguable assertions or help the expert gather it. They don’t demand more rigorous and creative analysis of data, which is essential to birthing big new concepts.

I was a business journalist 23 years ago, before I joined a consulting firm in a thought leadership marketing job. I quickly realized that I could either do the best with the ideas I was handed – communicating them as well as possible. Be the idea packager. Or I could push the thinking of the firm’s consultants, sometimes very hard. That often meant collecting the evidence they needed to say something very different (case studies of best-practice companies, surveys, etc.). And it frequently required helping them decipher all this data, helping them think harder. 

I chose the latter role. I refer to it as “idea developer.” The idea developer doesn’t come up with the core ideas in a point of view.  That’s the subject-matter expert’s job (call that role “idea generation”).  The idea developer’s role is to push the expert's thinking hard, especially nascent ideas, and (if necessary) gather the data to generate big ideas.

Unless your corporate journalists are comfortable with this role and know how to play it, they will find it difficult to help your firm’s experts create and capture truly big ideas.

Are you an idea packagers or an idea developer?  If you’re the former, what’s holding you back?


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