It’s all gone egg-shaped. For the next month or so, rugby will be the sport of the moment as the World Cup takes place across the country. I’m going to refrain from predicting a winner, but what stands out when you look at the odds is that one team – New Zealand – are considered strong favourites.
Their win percentage in international rugby – 76% in their history and 89% in the last four years – is pretty much unmatched anywhere else in sport. And to coincide with the World Cup, there have been numerous articles asking the question: how do they do it? How does a country with a population half the size of London become so dominant?
Lots of the answers revolve around the ‘All Black Machine’. Yes, rugby is their number one sport and it has become an intrinsic part of their national identity. But behind the scenes there is a seemingly never-ending pipeline of new talent emerging, and you can read page after page online about the long-term, scientific approach they take to a process which doesn’t just foster individual talent but creates a team ethic and a culture that is focused on one thing: winning.
What’s this got to do with good communications? Well like the All Black machine, the best communications campaigns often end with a well-honed end product. It might be a debate-changing report, exposure for spokespeople on key media outlets, or a well-timed and well targeted social media campaign. But they don’t come from nowhere. A process has been followed, a plan executed, to get to that point.
Channels of communication are saturated like never before, which has only intensified the need for an approach to lift brands above the noise. Thought leadership – that’s to say, developing new evidence to demonstrate your validity and expertise – can be the vehicle to help do that. At its core, thought leadership is about original thinking. But new ideas rarely come from nowhere. Whether it’s spotting a gap in the market or challenging received wisdom, a robust methodology and a systematic approach is critical. It will most likely include pooling collective knowledge, mapping strengths and interests alongside commercial priorities, to identify communications sweet spots.
Many of the components of the All Black machine are not revolutionary. A team ethic; a winning mentality; obsessive focus on getting the basics right. Similarly, delivering genuine thought leadership entails a proactive, evidence-driven approach to curating new content.
Rugby Union is, I suspect, not the first thing that comes to mind when people plan communications campaigns. But it’s a reminder that if there’s a good process in place, the outputs we achieve are far more likely to lay long-term foundations for us to meet our objectives and ultimately, drive success – sporting or commercial.