61 Short Takeaways From Bloom Group's Annual Thought Leadership Summit

On October 4 and 5, CMOs, content marketers, editors, and others responsible for producing thought leadership gathered in Cambridge for the third annual Bloom Group/Rattleback “Profiting from Thought Leadership” conference. Over the conference’s two days, speakers from (in no particular order) McKinsey, Accenture, Innosight, Salesforce, Harvard Business Review Press, McGraw-Hill, Fast Company, Tata Consultancy Services, Fidelity Investments, Chubb Commercial Insurance, FMG Leading, Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business, L.E.K. Consulting, TBM Consulting, and others, shared their thoughts, insights, epiphanies, and experiences producing, marketing, mounting, organizing, publishing, and consuming thought leadership content.

We took notes. Here are 61 short takeaways (in no particular order) from various speakers and conference attendees:

  1. Encourage people in your company to enter ideas for thought leadership content into a shared online database.
  2. Use infographics whenever possible. They’re attention grabbers.
  3. You’re a story teller; your firm’s clients are protagonists in epic dramas.
  4. As a content director, work to eliminate random acts of content. Content that’s not aligned with a business’s mission and services don’t help it, or its clients, and waste your time and energy.
  5. Primary research is a fertile soil from which a thousand thought leadership flowers may bloom.
  6. Leverage client engagements to create as many types of content as you can.
  7. You want to be able to use your client engagements as examples for your thought leadership content, so try to be up front about that with clients from the beginning.
  8. Print and long-form articles still work. Top executives love print. They can bring it on an airplane,  put it on the tables in their offices and waiting rooms, show it to their mothers.
  9. Podcasts are coming back.
  10. White papers are not dead, but…
  11. After you produce that white paper, chop it up into smaller pieces: articles, blogs, podcasts, sales sheets, tweets. In other words, be a French butcher: use everything from tip to tail.
  12. Customer complaints can be a source of thought leadership, generating new ideas.
  13. Ask to be included in client conversations.
  14. Never underestimate the power of publishing in the journals your prospective clients read.
  15. The content you produce should be about your clients, not your business.
  16. Case studies are easier to get when your relationship with your client is close.
  17. Case studies are most compelling when they’re about real people and businesses confronting real problems.
  18. Content needs to be vigorously promoted through email and social media. You can’t just put an article up on the company website and hope people find it.
  19. If you’re in the content development business, you have to have informal chats with your subject matter experts to generate topics for thought leadership.
  20. When you have a success – say, a mention in the Wall Street Journal, or a published article in Harvard Business Review – beat the drum both internally and externally. Promote it!
  21. A firm’s credibility is enhanced when social media influencers share its thought leadership. Track that for future use.
  22. Emailing clients about your thought leadership content has proven to translate effectively into increased traffic on your website and more business leads.
  23. Talk with your sales team to find out what their customers are talking about.
  24. The more you’re seen to be embedded in the business, the more effective you’ll be.
  25. Video consumption is increasing, and leading companies know it. If you’re not producing videos, start. Try interviewing willing clients in front of the camera.
  26. If your SMEs worry about giving away the family silver by being too specific about their solutions, show them a Harvard Business Review article; they’re specific as can be.
  27. If a client could solve a problem by reading five bullet points, it’s not a client you want, so, don’t be shy about sharing your solutions.
  28. Ask yourself what your business wants to sell; the answer will guide your content creation.
  29. Building a campaign to market your thought leadership is as important as creating it.
  30. Don’t write as if your audience was your college professor. It isn’t. Use natural language.
  31. Developing new intellectual property through thought leadership helps to generate new clients.
  32. Enhancing your firm’s reputation by publishing articles in respected journals, and writing books, not only attracts new clients but helps your firm recruit top talent.
  33. Be format-agnostic when creating thought leadership content.
  34. Maximize content distribution by using multiple channels: email, LinkedIn, video, third-party publications, etc.
  35. Work hard to connect the dots between the content you produce and business outcomes.
  36. Press mentions drive SEO.
  37. Most content directors are resource-constrained. Therefore, don’t waste time on the people within your organization who don’t get it; focus on those that do.
  38. When measuring thought leadership ROI, look for correlations rather than data points.
  39. Correlations can include an increase in leads, new revenue associated with a thought leadership campaign, clicks on articles, press mentions, invitations to conferences, etc.
  40. The least effective way to get your SMEs behind thought leadership is to browbeat them; most effective is their clients’ positive reactions. (No one believes marketers.)
  41. Developing content can galvanize an organization, forcing it to focus on the value it’s bringing to market. In other words, the thought leadership development process is inherently valuable.
  42. Thought leadership must be original, insightful, coherent, and relevant.
  43. Thought leadership is not a quick fix for a challenged lead funnel.
  44. Instead, it is about advocacy, relationships, and influence.
  45. Thought leadership content emerges from the space where your company’s priorities and client need overlaps.
  46. If your SMEs regard you (and your function) as writers-for-hire, people who can pretty up their LinkedIn profiles, or take dictation, you need to change that or think about looking for a new job.
  47. Third-party publications provide your firm and SMEs a reach they can’t acquire any other way.
  48. Listen to weak signals in the marketplace – that’s where the differentiating ideas are.
  49. Love the problem; don’t fall in love with the solution.
  50. When developing a thought leadership competency, and building a staff, fill the room with people who are not like you.
  51. On your website, your white paper is a hub; spokes can include blogs, video, infographics, etc.
  52. In your content, show, don’t tell.
  53. Write factually in a non-promotional, journalistic style.
  54. Be timely. For example, if Halloween is approaching, publish “scary facts” your audience may not know.
  55. Don’t be afraid to use humor; just don’t try too hard.
  56. A book is a product like any other. It must be promoted. Publishers look for authors who can exploit every aspect of their personal and professional platform to do so.
  57. A good book proposal should contain an outline in which every chapter is described briefly.
  58. It should also contain a short market analysis explaining why your book is like others, and how it is different.
  59. If you’re going to submit an article to a magazine or journal, read it first.
  60. Read the author guidelines on the publication’s website and take them seriously.
  61. Nobody’s perfect. Don’t pretend in your articles that you are. Describe your business’s missteps.


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