Research finds thought leadership key driver of growth in 2024

Clearly PR’s latest research shines a light on how organisations are using thought leadership content to build brand trust, loyalty, and revenues.

22 March 2024 | 5 min read | Clearly News
Paul MacKenzie-Cummins
Paul MacKenzie-Cummins

New research undertaken in March reveals a fascinating insight into how businesses and bands currently integrate thought leadership content creation into their marketing plans.

To find out, we surveyed almost 300 business leaders and senior executives, and their responses could provide some serious food for thought for others.

Before sharing the results, it is worth taking a moment to be clear on what we mean by ‘thought leadership.’

What is ‘thought leadership’?

Put simply, thought leadership is about building on your area of expertise and then creating content that provides context, relevance, meaning and value to your audience.

It is about recognising the pain points, challenges, needs and wants of your target audience and generating a response that provides a semblance of a solution or enhanced understanding of whatever ‘it’ is.

The term ‘thought leadership’ itself was first coined 30 years ago in an article for Strategy+Business magazine (published by PwC) by its editor-in-chief Joel Kurtzman in 1994. He said that:

“A thought leader is recognised by peers, customers and industry experts as someone who deeply understands the business they are in, the needs of their customers and the broader marketplace in which they operate.

“They have distinctively original ideas, unique points of view and new insights” to report at more frequent intervals.

Now we’ve clarified what ‘it’ is, let’s turn to the results of the survey itself. It is our hope that you will gain some insights that spark an idea or two of your own.

Let’s get to it then. We asked respondents a series of questions, and here’s what they said.

1. ‘How often do you consume thought leadership content (articles, blogs, podcasts, videos)?’

The first focused on the frequency by which they consume such content. Accordingly, a quarter (24%) of senior figures engage with thought leadership content every day, with 31% doing so on a weekly basis and the remainder accessing such content less frequently.

2. ‘What type of thought leadership content do you find most influential? (Select all that apply)?’

Respondents were then asked to rank their preferred content formats:

3. ‘Have you ever been influenced to make a purchasing decision based on a piece of thought leadership content you have consumed?’

The third question was met with a strong ‘Yes’ for over half (53%) of all respondents.

4. ‘Does your organisation actively engage in thought leadership initiatives?’

The responses to this question were rather surprising. Whilst 30% of respondents stated that their organisations frequently create thought leadership content as part of the marketing efforts, 42% only do so ‘occasionally’.

More than half of all decision makers have been motivated to engage and do businesses with a company after reading, watching, or listening to their throught leadership content and insights.

Alarmingly, a lowly 27% never produce thought leadership content. This is ironic given the data above that shows more than half of all respondents have made a purchasing decision with a company whose content they have consumed.

5. ‘What factors do you consider when evaluating the credibility of thought leadership content? (Select all that apply)’

This, in our view, is a critical factor when considering any thought leadership content strategy. Here’s are the key factors in order or priority according to our respondents:

6. ‘What factors determine how successful your organisation’s thought leadership efforts are?’

Clearly PR also wanted to understand the reasons why businesses themselves create thought leadership content.

  • More than a quarter of respondents (27%) stated that thought leadership content provides them with greater industry influence and authority.
  • The same number (26%) said it increases visibility of their brand.
  • 23% believe it helps to improve customer trust and brand loyalty.
  • One in five (20%) stated that thought leadership content supports their organisation’s lead generation efforts.
7. ‘Finally, which of the following thought leadership activities does your organisation prioritise? (Select all that apply)’

Respondents were asked to check the boxes against all content formats they’re currently engaged with, and the following shows us which tactics ranked the highest and lowest:

Summary

Thought leadership, as a promotional tactic, really found its legs during the pandemic. Business leaders and senior executives found themselves in unfamiliar and often petrifying territory.

There were problems that had never been experienced before, and challenges few had any clue of how to overcome. People turned to industry leaders and experts who could provide some sense of what was happening and those with ideas and insights that would help them to make better informed decisions as to what to do next. These figures became the real ‘thought leaders’.

Nothing has changed since 2020, other than we no longer find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic. But we remain in uncertain times both economically and politically. Demand for sound thought leadership content across every sector of the economy continues to rise as the challenges being faced remain as complex as ever.

A long-term client of ours once said:

“Clearly are the thought leaders on thought leadership.”

We’ll happily take that.

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See how our thought leadership content marketing service can help your organisation. Click here for an overview.