Assertions, half-truths, and emotive appeals to the heart can help you achieve short-term goals. But with more firms using content marketing to gain attention, a robust, evidence-led approach is critical to fulfilling long-term thought leadership ambitions that will set you apart from the crowd.
So how do you balance the demand for ‘academic’ rigour with the inevitable time and financial constraints that come with business life?
Here’s our guide to being evidence-led:
1. Set clear objectives at the outset. Agree the communications and business outcomes you hope to achieve from your thought leadership project. It’s the only way to build your case internally and evaluate whether or not it’s worked.
2. Make time for exploratory (or inductive) research. Resist the temptation to jump straight in and instead review what’s been done before. This will prevent duplication and save you a huge amount of time and effort further down the line.
3. Use existing work to refine your theme. Yes, there are times when you will need to do something completely new. But often you can build on previous work and create a compelling platform by challenging existing assumptions.
4. Identify a set of issues that you’d like to explore further and work up your hypotheses. Plan to test your theories with a small group at first (i.e. trusted clients and friends), then roll-out a bigger piece of deductive research.
5. Think about what form of evidence will be most persuasive. While quantitative data may appeal more to business audiences, qualitative data may be more persuasive to consumer and charity audiences. You often need to combine both.
6. Consider which research methods are best suited to delivering the evidence you require. Don’t rush into immediately commissioning an online survey. Stop and think about the merits and viability of interviews, public data, observation, and quasi-experiments.
7. Review the data rigorously and evaluate the validity of your theories. Use a clear, justifiable and repeatable approach to analyse the data or your efforts could be wasted.
International accounting and business advisory firm Grant Thornton uses this evidence-led approach to maximise the impact of its Women in Business reports. Read more here.
Alternatively, find out how your organisation can implement a thought leadership approach by downloading our white paper here.
*Each month we’ll publish another top tip – so stay tuned!