Yesterday Passle hosted its second Insiders' Club event of the year on 'Structuring & Resourcing Successful Thought Leadership Campaigns'.
Aiming to assess how professional services firms can grow their thought leadership programmes, Passle's own Sarah Strachan (Senior Client Success Consultant) was joined by Jennifer Conley (Senior Business Development Manager at Michael, Best & Friedrich LLP) and Alex Williams (Business Development Manager at Baker McKenzie).
Championing the thought leadership efforts in their respective firms, Jennifer and Alex openly shared their experiences, methodologies, and challenges when it comes to rolling out thought leadership programmes firm-wide - an endeavour both have executed exceptionally well!
We have shared our key takeaways from the brilliantly constructive discussion:
1. Start Small & Focused - Demonstrate Results
Both panellists advocated for launching their campaigns with a small and focused group. This makes it manageable to provide the necessary handholding to get your campaign off the ground. With 'TIME' being the biggest constraint the audience shared when it comes to getting buy-in for thought leadership programmes, starting small gives you an opportunity to highlight how easy and efficient publishing content can be for the fee-earners. Once you have started to build momentum, it is a lot easier to open up the programme to a wider audience.
2. Find your Champions
A key factor in successfully scaling up a thought leadership programme is identifying the key people in your firm who will promote your programme autonomously. Having internal buy-in from a few priority fee-earners (your ambassadors) will reduce the effort required from the BD/marketing teams to spread awareness of the programme and excitement will organically grow across the wider firm.
3. Divide & Conquer
Resourcing a thought leadership programme at scale is a headache for many BD/marketing teams. With only a small team- or sometimes even a single person - usually responsible for driving the program it can seem like an impossible task to deliver. However, as professional services firms are already grouped into practice areas, service lines, and geographies, pick a leader within each group responsible for managing the thought leadership programme on a smaller scale. This could be a member of the BDM team responsible for that group or even a lead fee-earner who fits it in with their existing team strategy. Coordinate with these leaders but allow them to be responsible for their own groups.
4. Trust the Process
The panellists were again appreciative of the widely cited 'time constraints' faced by busy professionals looking to create regular content. When introducing a new thought leadership programme, this barrier can be daunting and difficult to overcome. Be patient. Guiding the fee-earners through the initial stages with close attention, eventually, the benefits of creating regular content start to become clear to the individuals and content creation will naturally become part of their own processes. Once the impact of sharing content can be seen first-hand, creating thought leadership pieces consistently will be bumped up the fee-earners priority list.
Which leads to...
5. Feedback, Feedback, Feedback
Show the fee-earners the impact their work is having is key in continuously producing high-quality content as a firm. Highlighting good news stories, key statistics and gamifying feedback through rewarding those that have performed well stimulates continued content creation. Monthly or quarterly reports delivered directly to the individuals at the firm keep your thought leadership programme front of mind and remind people why they are doing it.
6. Embrace all Levels of Seniority
Having a cross-section of seniority is necessary to drive an effective programme. Junior members of the firm tend to have a lot of enthusiasm for wanting to prove themselves and so often produce exceptional, creative content. Allowing multiple voices to be expressed promotes a robust team culture in your firm.
7. "Plan, Implement, Update"
These are the words Jennifer used to describe the successful rollout process at Michael Best. Creating a solid plan with goals and targets to be achieved is pivotal to success but it is essential to remain flexible. Echoed by Alex, updating and changing your plan to suit the changing needs of your business and aligning it with wider marketing goals is one of the cornerstones of successful implementation. Whilst delivering your plan it is crucial to continuously analyse and ask why. No plan is set in stone and success can always be measured in different ways.