Most 'thought leadership' content is 'killing' business reputations, Clearly PR survey finds

17 August 2023 | 3 min read | News
Paul MacKenzie-Cummins
Paul MacKenzie-Cummins

In 2020, we predicted that ‘thought leadership’ would emerge from the pandemic as one of the most powerful and influential PR tactics that organisations will deploy – second only to media relations itself. Seems we were right.

The demand for great content that showcases the expertise of business leaders and their key people is in the midst of a boom like nothing we have seen in the last 10 years. Driving this is one thing:

Clients/customers want answers to the challenges they’re facing during an uncertain and unpredictable time.

Trouble is most of the content currently being produced by organisations – blogs, LinkedIn articles, video content, whitepapers – is shockingly bad and killing the reputations of organisations. And we have the data to prove it.

Clearly PR surveyed 500 business leaders – CEOs, MDs, Founders – on what they think about the state of thought leadership content they are exposed to on a daily basis:

  • 40% described the content they see, read or hear as ‘appalling’ or ‘poor’ at best.
  • 59% said that most of this content is ‘unoriginal’ and ‘lacks fresh ideas and perspectives.
  • 1 in 3 stated that most of the content they are exposed to is ‘poorly presented.’

Our research is not isolated. Indeed, McKinsey’s conducted an international study of thought leadership content and they found that just 10% of all the content they analysed that was attributed to organisational leaders scored 5 or more on a scale of 1 to 10 for expertise.

Ouch! So, what the heck is going on?

There’s no question that these people know their stuff – they wouldn’t be in the roles they are if they didn’t. The issue appears to be one or more of the following:

  • They are time poor and rush their content creation for the sake of getting ‘something’ out there.
  • Worse still, they’re using AI such as ChatGPT to create the content for them that is bland, sterile, and lacks any brand personality.
  • Content creation is delegated to members of the team with little or no real understanding of how to present a piece of content that truly engages audiences and shines a light on the organisation as a service or provider of choice.

PR is more than simply securing great media coverage for a business or brand. Thought leadership content in the form of written articles or creative digital media is just as important for building brands, engaging audiences, and driving action as media relations.

Thought leadership content is just as important for building brands, engaging audiences, and driving action as media relations.

If that content is crap, the organisation will look crap, its brand will be perceived as being crap, and any chance of generating an ROI from that content will be lost.

In our study, 40% of CEOS, MDs and Founders told us that when they are exposed to what they determine to be a ‘quality’ piece of thought leadership content, their perception of the business that has produced it (and the personal brand of the individual whose name is attached to it) is significantly improved.

So, it perhaps comes as no surprise to learn that 1 in 5 CEO’s, MDs and C-suite executives go on to contact said content producers and do business with them.

1 in 5 organisational leaders do business with a company after consuming thought leadership content that resonated with them.

Need any direction or support with your thought leadership content creation. Drop me a wee line via and let’s talk it through.