Don’t make thought leadership an afterthought in your 2020 planning. The fourth quarter of the year usually means thinking through your strategy, plans, and budgets for marketing and communications. But if thought leadership has not been a major component of your planning in the past, it’s easy to get caught in “template blindness.” Most companies use their prior year’s plan as a starting point for the next plan. Activities that were not previously included risk not getting the right consideration, resources, or budget. It’s easy to adjust annual numbers for media buys and advertising, events, and other familiar annual budgeting categories. As a result, new opportunities go unplanned and unfunded.
Thought leadership often succumbs to this risk. In many organizations, it is not considered a part of the standard toolkit. Or, it falls between the cracks of owned media, paid media, conferences and events, and social media. When you plan out your 2020 calendar for all of these areas, and then allocate budget to each, you risk painting yourself into a corner.
Now imagine yourself in April of 2020. Something new and exciting happens and you want to have a voice on this development. Perhaps it’s a change to regulation or market risks. Perhaps it’s an important advance in financial technology. Perhaps it’s simply a topic that has bubbled up to a high level of buzz, just like AI or blockchain have done in the past.
In order to respond, not get outflanked by competitors or other influencers, now you have to scramble. You have to find the right experts in your company, figure out their specific point of view on the topic, and then get them engaged as spokespersons. If the topic rises to enough significance, you may need to plan, create, and aggressively distribute a white paper. And in addition to all this unplanned activity, you have to scrape together a budget that has already been allocated to other priorities. You basically have to borrow against your marketing strategy for future quarters. It’s a mess…and in many situations exactly the mess that causes my clients to reach out to me with an appeal for help.
There’s also a smarter way to do this. Quite simply, incorporate thought leadership into your 2020 plans now. Your own subject matter experts and outside consultants who know financial innovation can make solid predictions for which topics will crest. With them, you can create a plan to identify what your company’s position should be, where and how you can be a leading voice, who should represent that voice, and which channels will best allow you to demonstrate leadership. You can get the requisite planning, coaching, content development, delivery and distribution approach onto the year’s calendar, with sufficient budget to execute effectively.
Once the year starts, you can then systematically work through that plan, engaging and activating thought leaders, creating a steady cadence of thought-leading content and presentations, and building relationships with media and other influencers. This calm, focused approach will improve both the quality of your thinking and the impact of your voice in influencing conversations.
Setting trends with a clear plan, or chasing trends at a run and always a few steps behind — which do you choose? Assuming you choose the sane approach, now is the time to think it through.
If you need guidance on how to include thought leadership in your 2020 planning, please contact me to discuss where you are and what’s possible.