Suzanne Snowden is one of the gurus of thought leadership development in professional services. As PwC’s global thought leadership director, she was responsible for some of the largest and most impactful campaigns the professional services sector has seen, including PwC’s annual and highly influential global CEO survey.
Now a director of her own consulting firm, Message Consulting, she shares the importance of purpose and message behind thought leadership campaigns, and how thought leadership is changing.
The purpose-driven business is nothing new, but yet many businesses continue to struggle to successfully and consistently align purpose with corporate messaging. And nowhere does that become more apparent than in thought leadership campaigns in the professional services sector.
The complexity of today’s professional services firms often leaves them forgetting the why and focusing on the what. Or to put more bluntly, focusing on tactical delivery rather than underlying strategy.
“Professional services firms, typically organised by service lines and geographies, make this particularly challenging,” says Suzanne Snowden, founder and director of the Message Consultancy. “The result is often that the message becomes diluted and meaningless.”
“Thought leadership should always define and reinforce corporate purpose and message. In the best firms, thought leadership is treated in a strategic way; it is rooted in a firm’s business and communications objectives, and becomes powerful and authentic.”
And therein lies a challenge for firms. Thought leadership campaigns can quickly become stale, dull and irrelevant if not constantly reviewed and appraised.
“That power and authenticity can quickly fade,” says Suzanne, “and there is nothing more irrelevant than a longstanding and often strategically disconnected ‘legacy’ thought leadership programme.”
Engagement is one of the fundamentals of authenticity in successful thought leadership programmes. Time spent with the key people generating innovative and ideas which are driving the changes in a firm’s strategy ensures programmes are supported by ambassadors and champions. Creating an advisory or governance board to review larger thought leadership campaigns can be particularly useful in larger professional services firms running many campaigns.
‘This does, of course, take time,” explains Suzanne, “but it will be time well spent. It will help question what you do, adjust your narratives, keep campaigns fresh and relevant, and will encourage your thought leadership superstars to rise and shine.”
Thought leadership is very much part of the professional services marketing landscape, and it naturally continues to evolve becoming ever-more sophisticated.
“We are seeing exciting developments in thought leadership driven largely by technology,” says Suzanne. “Greater segmentation of the audience is one such example with thought leadership targeted at an individual level.
“Technology allows us to personalised the outputs of thought leadership campaigns, and that is really exciting. We are already seeing firms create bespoke campaigns for individual clients or client teams, allowing fee-earners to start meaningful conversations.”
“One to one marketing is where thought leadership is heading,” concludes Suzanne, “and that is a real game-changer.”