The beginning of a new year is a time when many consulting firms release annual research reports and other types of thought leadership on trends, challenges and solutions relevant to the vertical industries they serve. With multiple clients of ours launching new reports at the moment, we thought it would be a good time to discuss the current role of thought leadership in public relations for consulting firms, and ask how – and if – they can still successfully use it to attract, retain and grow business.
Why Is It Hard to Compete on Thought Leadership?
For many years and across many sectors, as consulting services became largely commoditized, firms would compete for differentiation by leveraging thought leadership and/or proprietary research. But over time, as more consulting firms have realized the value of thought leadership and began publishing their own reports, white papers, etc., the landscape in any given industry has become more crowded and the information at hand has become less differentiating. And as Harvard Business School’s renowned business strategy authority Michael Porter would say, “If all you’re trying to do is essentially the same thing as your rivals, then it’s unlikely that you’ll be very successful.”
The Importance of Public Relations for Consulting Firms
So how do firms rise above the noise of competitors? First, it’s crucial to have a public relations strategy for any thought leadership content. Just putting it on a website or issuing a press release isn’t going to be enough; you need to have a digital/social push, proactive media outreach to the reporters and outlets that matter in your industry, and a plan for getting your key spokespeople into conferences and other events. But if you’re a marketing leader at a consulting firm, you already know all this. So what else? The missing puzzle piece is often messaging.
Finding – and Amplifying – the Differentiating Message
Research findings or insights might not always be earth-shattering, but often there will be some aspect of the data or your recommendations that’s unique to your firm – and it’s a key part of public relations for consulting firms to distill what that is and crystallize it for audiences. Think of it as a kind of matching game:
Asset – Messaging Imperative
Data – Surprising
Research – Counterintuitive
Insights – Provocative
If you can check each box, that’s amazing. But by combining even just one of these messaging imperatives with data, research or insights, you can position your thought leadership as being of vital importance for companies in your industry to know. And messaging strategy around highlighting the differentiating factor and tying it to the news of the day, getting it front of the right reporters and influencers, and pitching it to the right conferences is key to building new and elevated recognition for a firm’s thought leadership credentials.
Thought leadership is still key for consulting firms looking to avoid the commoditization trap these days. Every new research report, white paper or point-of-view must come with a messaging plan that cuts against the grain and grabs attention.
Thought leadership is not just about providing information, but also about building relationships with your customers. Partner with Stern Strategy Group to develop a blueprint that will take your business to greater heights. We’ll help you become a trusted advisor who can help customers solve problems and achieve their goals.