For the better part of a decade, Passle has worked with firms and thought leaders to transform the way that they communicate with the market. We often say at Passle that we are in the business of turning busy experts into recognised thought leaders.
Turning experts into thought leaders doesn't happen overnight and it relies on a solid platform of infrastructure. Many firms choose Passle to be their infrastructure for this but it is entirely possible, especially for larger firms to build this infrastructure themselves.
There are a lot of lessons we've learned doing this over the last few years on how to build successful infrastructure for your thought leadership - here are the principal challenges and their solutions.
Overcome the inspiration hurdle
Many thought leadership programs make the mistake of setting thought leadership targets for fee earners to meet without providing a clear vision or direction of what to write about.
Starting a blog or podcast from a blank slate is incredibly difficult for even the most experienced and time-rich author. What to write about and for whom is a huge obstacle that your thought leadership infrastructure needs to address.
How to overcome the inspiration hurdle
The secret to overcoming that inspiration hurdle is not to overprescribe really specific content - but to create an infrastructure that allows your experts to comment & explain the market developments as they happen.
Experts naturally have opinions and advice to offer on the happenings of the minute. Taking simple but valuable opinions and committing them to a timely and digestible insight is the perfect way to deliver value to your clients and prospects. It's also the perfect way to keep your firm front of mind.
How Passle overcomes the inspiration hurdle
Inspiration is everywhere, so a design decision for the Passle thought leadership infrastructure was to allow authors to create a post from anywhere. Whether they are reading a CNN article on their phone or watching a YouTube TED talk on their computer - one click of the Passle button is enough to start a post.
Most users of the Passle platform are more than capable of making a post from scratch, but less confident authors or those that are time poor benefit hugely from direct external inspiration.
Empower a wide & diverse cross-section of authors
One of the worst mistakes thought leadership programs can make is limiting their thought leadership to a small, insular group of authors that don't represent their clients or firm. This mistake is so costly not because it results in less thought leadership or less accurate insights being published but because it portrays the firm in an inaccurate and unrepresentative way.
A firm is made up of people from different backgrounds, different viewpoints and hugely differing areas of interest. By empowering as wide and diverse a group as possible, your thought leadership more accurately represents your firm - but also demonstrates more of the personality, knowledge and people that make your firm an obvious choice for prospective clients.
How to empower a wide & diverse cross-section of authors
The key to a wide & diverse cross-section of authors is to have a clearly communicated policy for who can create thought leadership and a simple, easy to join onboarding process to gain access to the thought leadership infrastructure.
If launching an entire firm on your infrastructure at once sounds like a daunting prospect, launching team by team and region by region may be a more manageable solution.
How Passle helps firms empower a wide & diverse cross-section of authors
There are two aspects of Passle that have been critical to supporting author onboarding. The first is an easy to use management dashboard for administrators - meaning authors can be added to the program and given everything they need to get started in just a few moments. Empowering administrators is the first step in empowering the wider team.
The second factor in supporting rollouts has been easy to access, regular training sessions run by our Client Success team. Authors are able to access these at a time that suits them and get a concise rundown of how to use the infrastructure along with best practices for how to do so.
Build a straightforward approval & governance process
Uncertainty and delay are the death of thought leadership programs. Time and time again we see that timeliness for thought leadership is so critical and that approval by committee ends in delayed posts, disenfranchised authors and at worst ineffective content.
How to build a straightforward approval & governance process
The more successful thought leadership programs avoid committee approvals and delays in two ways. Firstly they pre-approve authors, any person publishing has been through a training process and understands the standard their content should meet as well as the topics that are permitted.
The second critical component is to have a single approver associated with that author. Give that approver the authority to publish an insight live should it meet the necessary standard. With this method, the vast majority of posts, those that are straightforward and safe are able to be made live within minutes. The approver should be able to recognise the small minority of posts that could cause conflict, referring these posts on for a second look.
How Passle helps to build a straightforward approval & governance process
In an approval process, you have an author, an approver and a mechanism that connects the two. In lots of thought leadership programs, emails with thought leadership posts are lost, forgotten or ignored. To avoid this, Passle manages the entire approval process so that amendments and approval requests happen within the thought leadership tool and aren't lost in an inbox.
Within Passle, administrators are able to set up a workflow for an individual author, team or group of teams. This makes sure that authors are simply able to press a button and have that content sent for approval right there and then.
Create once, publish everywhere
The time and expertise used in creating a thought leadership post are far too valuable to waste. Fresh insights can be used to feed profile pages, sector pages, social media feeds, client newsletters, one to one emails and a host of other marketing and BD activities.
How to drive the widespread publication of your content
The connections and network of the individuals at your firm will be orders of magnitude larger than the firm's branded social media accounts. To leverage your content, your people need to know what content has been published but also see the benefit of resharing that content.
How Passle drives widespread publication of your content
Content on Passle can be pulled through to profile, sector, blog and any other kind of web page through a really simple JQuery code or through the Passle API. This allows posts to power all sorts of client engagement. Further, whenever an author publishes an insight on Passle, their team or even the wider firm can be notified so everyone can be aware of the content available for use in engaging clients.
Within the Passle platform is a dedicated subscription system called Client Connect, allowing clients and prospects to sign up to receive insights from the authors and topics most relevant to them. Alongside this, Passle content can be pulled into a newsletter for internal or external publication - letting you keep your network up to date with what you are publishing.
Content published on Passle feeds into publishing platforms like Lexology, Mondaq & JD Supra to extend the reach even further among your target market.
Keep the good news coming
No matter how easy and slick your thought leadership process is, authors won't continue to write unless they see the benefit. All too often, program leaders forget this fact and while they might report to senior management about the successes of the program, they fail to build a picture of how thought leadership is working for the authors.
How to keep the good news coming
The most important elements of feedback are consistency and relevance.
A good rule of thumb is to communicate the successes and impact of their thought leadership at least as often as you expect them to create it. A yearly report will not cut it if you are expecting busy experts to create content monthly.
Feedback is only effective if it is relevant to your authors. An author probably doesn't care about open rates & CTR - but is deeply interested in who is reading their content, how they compare to their peers and how their thought leadership is impacting their career.
How Passle keeps the good news coming
Every author using Passle has their own dedicated stats area where we show them their post performance and how their content is being interacted with. This is supported by weekly emails that drill into the most recent performance statistics.
When a new subscriber joins an authors channel to receive their content as it is published, that author gets a notification, so they are encouraged to build their subscriber base. Authors doing this can see which of their subscribed clients and prospects are engaging with their thought leadership.
For those authors feeding their content into publishing platforms such as Lexology, Passle provides a more extensive report of the firms engaging with that content - a powerful and motivating tool to keep authors focused on why they are creating content.