What gets in the way of sharing colleagues’ thought leadership?
Originally published by Rachel Ainsworth, Head of Thought Leadership Strategies and Solutions, Source Global Research
We can probably all relate to the following: A colleague asks if I can send something to, or make a request of, one of my contacts (let’s call her Annabel). Instead of experiencing unbound joy at the opportunity to get in touch with Annabel, I’m hesitant. When did I last speak to Annabel? Is this what I want my next interaction with her to be based upon? Is the content I am being asked to share engaging and insightful and relevant enough to meet the extremely high standards I am now imagining Annabel to hold? Will she find my approach intrusive?
We suspect this scenario is playing out in consulting firms around the world. The firm invests in a great piece of thought leadership, but only a small percentage of the consultants who could share it with relevant contacts do so. For consulting firms wishing to maximise the impact of thought leadership, this is not just a niggle, but a huge missed opportunity. Our research shows that personal recommendations have a high success rate: Last time we asked*, over a quarter of senior executives had received the piece of content they remembered best, from the past six months, from a contact at a consulting firm.
So what can you do to get more employees sharing more content? Based on our conversations with firms battling with this issue, here are four levers worth considering:
- Involving key influencers at the very beginning. We often talk about the need to get subject matter experts involved early on to improve the quality of content, but you also need buy-in from those who can influence others to share it once it’s done. These might be the same people, but they might not be.
- Involving more people in the research, while avoiding the dreaded “report by committee”. For example, we’ve spotted Accenture using internal crowdsourcing as an additional source of data and insights. Those who have contributed their views are likely to be much more willing to share the final product.
- Promoting content internally, and educating people about how to use it. It’s easy to forget the internal audience or to underinvest in this audience. Consider whether you are doing enough to explain who this material is relevant to and why it matters, offering webinars to explain your insights and answer questions, and providing an array of easy-to-use materials to cover a range of scenarios.
- Measuring internal sharing of content. We know of at least one firm for whom this is a key measure. If everyone involved knows this is being tracked, it’s bound to make a difference.
*We asked 500 senior executives based in the US. White Space subscribers can see the full set of answers on page 25 of Big impact thought leadership (July 2015).