Thought leaders and content marketers can give thanks for digital: it’s made the profession more interesting, higher-profile and more dynamic.
But the explosion of digital channels has created an appetite for content – in ever-greater volumes and increasingly varied formats – that many organisations are struggling to satisfy.
As marketers plot how to feed the content demands of myriad channels – whether that’s the corporate website or LinkedIn – there may be some who think back wistfully to the days when a hard-copy mailout of a single report was the climax of a content programme, and ‘having clout’ was very different from having a Klout Score.
Some are responding to this need for frequency and volume by building their in-house content capability – from video production to infographic design – but this is not without its challenges, and can deliver mixed results.
The trouble with insourcing
While supporting assets such as infographics or videos are often done well in-house, firms still struggle to convert their core intellectual capital into an effective thought leadership strategy.
There are two common problems that we see:
- 1. In large and complex organisations, thought leadership will often be decentralised. Countries and business units produce thought leadership that meets their immediate market priorities.
- As a result, there are no common quality standards, no agreed definition of what constitutes thought-leading thinking, and a tendency to focus on a multitude of narrow topics at the expense of a focused, long-term analysis of major trends.
- 2. Even when in-house editorial support is provided, we often find organisations confessing that it takes too long for their internal experts to produce thought leadership.
Like the Hollywood screenplays that get lost ‘in development’ for years, internally produced thought leadership can circulate through endless iterations and reviewing feedback loops – sometimes even to the extent that the point of view is outdated by the time it’s finally ready to launch.
Getting it right
There are three ways to avoid these issues and make insourcing a useful part of your overall thought leadership strategy:
1. Get everyone on the same page.
- Undertaking thought leadership in-house has implications across the business – from your research teams to business development. Consult with all key stakeholders – beyond marketing and communications – to secure their buy-in.
2. Establish your goals.
- It’s vital to
- , so put in place measurable goals for insourcing it, work out how you will measure progress, and identify your weak points. You need to include outcome measures that track the impact of your thought leadership – from commercial leads to website analytics.
3. Finally, you need to get recruitment right.
- Efforts here are often focused on writing resources, but the critical hire – particularly in large, global organisations – is a thought leadership strategist.
This is someone with the clout to get different business units to agree to a global thought leadership strategy and action plan, to kill pet projects that have been running for years with little return, and to tell senior internal clients when their efforts are not good enough and either need rethinking or will be spiked.
Making the link between in and out
Of course, the final piece of the puzzle is linking insourced and outsourced activities. Most organisations use a mix, with outsourced thought leadership used for major global themes – often when extensive original research is needed.
External firms also have the advantage of being independent of the political machinations that are inevitable in large organisations. Used judiciously, these firms can often be the only way to get different units and geographies to work together and agree on a single point of view.
Get your mix of insourcing and outsourcing right, and follow our three tips, and you’ll be well-placed to satisfy digital’s seemingly insatiable appetite for content.