People in meeting designing a thought leadership campaign

4 Reasons to Add Thought Leadership to Your 2018 Budget

The holidays are almost here, and that doesn’t just mean turkey and eggnog and excessive cookie consumption—it also means that your 2018 budgets are almost due. As you’re putting the final touches on your financial plan for the upcoming year, take a closer look at where your marketing and PR dollars are going. Are they going to a one-stop-shop agency with a lot of bandwidth but little personalization? Are they going toward a contract that locks you in for a solid 12 months?

Before you sign an annual contract with a marketing or PR agency, consider the value add of a well-planned thought leadership campaign. It can save you money, keep your budget limber, and rescue you from the no-man’s-land of mediocre content. In fact, thought leadership just might be the best holiday gift you can give your company. Here’s why.

1. Thought leadership campaigns are flexible

With that aforementioned year-long contract, you’re locked into paying a monthly retainer for services. If things aren’t working out between you and your marketing agency, it can get awkward. Perhaps you’re not seeing the engagement you want, or their vision just isn’t gelling with yours. Perhaps the content they’re producing feels a little…passé. Too bad—you’ve already signed the paperwork, and now you’re stuck.

With a thought leadership campaign, you can often work out more flexible plans—paying per piece or saving money by selecting a precisely-formulated content package—instead of committing to massive amounts of unspecified content months in advance. Since you’re working with a focused specialist, you can pivot as you go along. For example, maybe you’re happy with your first viral LinkedIn post, but want to target Forbes next. And it’s less of an upfront financial commitment, since keeping a specialist on retainer is much cheaper than signing on with a marketing agency. With a thought leadership firm, you’ll get the flexibility to make your overall strategy work for you.

2. Thought leadership specialists integrate easily with your existing marketing/PR team

A thought leadership firm should be giving you a high-quality, specialized product—but it certainly shouldn’t do so in a silo. As you think about adding a good thought leadership firm to your 2018 budget, look for one that’s ready and willing to work with your PR team, your social media strategist, and whatever other outside specialists you want to bring on.

Big marketing and PR firms will try to sell you on their all-in-one in-house content because it’s already integrated with their process. They’ll write the piece, they’ll make the social media posts, they’ll tell you when to jump and how high—but oftentimes that means you’re getting their vision, not yours. You already have relationships with strategists that you trust; your PR/marketing/thought leadership agency should be happy to work with them, too.

3. Thought leadership makes a bigger splash than advertising

Maybe you don’t have the budget for an iconic ad campaign that will knock your industry’s socks off, but you’re still hoping that 2018 is the year your company really makes its mark. It’s time to look beyond the ad—after all, over 200 million desktop users have ad blockers on, while a whopping 16% of the globe’s mobile phone users have turned on mobile ad blockers, and only 5% of users say that ads influence their purchasing decisions.

You know what does influence their purchasing decisions? Content that they discover on their own. That could be a feature story in a magazine they trust, an in-depth user review, a social media post, or—of course—a thought leadership byline. Because it isn’t being forced on consumers, so-called “self-discovered content” seems more authentic and trustworthy than straightforward advertising. So if you’re looking for quality branding and bang for your buck, aim for collaboration with a thought leadership specialist.

4. Thought leadership campaigns give readers the substantive content they crave

People are hungry for quality longform content—they may be blocking ads on their phones, but they’re open to reading your words as long as they don’t feel pandered to. The CEO of Chartbeat, a analytics tool for publishers, has argued that we’re moving away from the “click web” (readers as lab rats, clicking but not reading) to the “attention web,” where smart writers and thought leaders are building themselves an audience by offering up thoughtful, in-depth articles that people actually want to stick around and read. And that’s articles, not ads-in-disguise:  71% of readers want to read real content, as opposed to the only 24% who are willing to consume native ad content. Even Google rewards in-depth, comprehensive, long-form content over fluff.

So don’t spend your precious 2018 marketing dollars on fluff, or mediocre content, or one-stop-shop ad strategies. Consider thought leadership, for a flexible yet in-depth content strategy that will get you and your ideas noticed.

Get in touch to find out how Hippo can help craft your 2018 thought leadership strategy.

Photo by Paul Bence on Unsplash.

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