Why good thought leadership really shines in a crisis

With the national lockdown stretching on, the PR and marketing industry finds itself faced with two contrasting issues. On the one hand, since most work is now digital, agencies and internal teams can generally keep on working with little more than a laptop and a good internet connection. The vast majority of media outlets are in the same boat, particularly in our own specialist area of cyber security, which is by all accounts even busier than usual.

On the other hand, PR and marketing activity generally serves to fuel growth and expansion, and with the economy at a standstill there is not much of that to be had. As a result, many companies have started to put a freeze on their PR and marketing, or even halted it entirely.

While it might help to balance the books in the short term, calling a moratorium on PR and marketing runs the risk of losing all the gains that activity has achieved until now. Instead, organisations need to reorient their activity to maintain their industry presence while keeping finances in the black.

Focusing on thought leadership

While it might not be the best time to launch campaigns aimed at immediately boosting sales and securing new clients, the lockdown situation is well-suited for building your reputation as a thought leader.

Thought leadership can have a huge influence over the buying behaviour of senior decision makers. Our research found that 84 percent of CISOs would be more likely to work with a vendor that publishes thought leadership content over one that doesn’t.

Likewise, we found that three in five senior IT security decision makers said thought leadership increases their respect and trust of an organisation, as well as their perception of its capabilities. Creating strong thought leadership content will continue to have these beneficial effects even if the final buying decision itself will be on hold for a while.

A question of time

In a normal week, we found that CISOs spend an average of three hours and 20 minutes consuming thought leadership content. This time has almost certainly increased in recent weeks as individuals have more availability from working at home. Even when a company has furloughed its staff, savvy decision makers will want to use their time wisely and keep up with the latest market trends.

This means more potential time to read their favourite industry news publications, and this is an opportunity to gain a wider audience for byline articles. It also means more time to find and absorb marketing content such as blogs, eBooks and podcasts.

Our research found that accessibility is one of the most important aspects of thought leadership content, so it is important to make any new material as accessible as possible. Podcasts were found to be particularly popular as they can be accessed at the listener’s convenience and consumed while they get on with other tasks. From a budget perspective, podcasts are also quite low cost as they only really require an online video service such as Zoom and some editing tools.

Keeping engaged at a distance

Normal industry events will be off the table for the foreseeable future, and it may be sometime before even a simple meeting over coffee is advisable. However, it is still possible to keep engaged with partners, peers and prospects alike with the right digital tools. In fact, if anything we have found we are often in even closer contact with both our clients and journalist contacts than ever before, and we have hosted a number of successful virtual events.

For example, we have begun hosting a series of mini conferences where our clients and journalist contacts can get together and share ideas about the best way to do business during the crisis. On the social side of things, last week saw our first éclat Film Club, where security decision makers, journalists and white hat hackers got together online to watch the hacking movie Black Hat with the new Netflix Party function, accompanied by a private Discord chat.

While it might be some time before we see the return of business as normal, a strong thought leadership strategy that focuses on accessibility and engagement will enable organisations to keep up with their contacts, and even forge stronger relationships for when normality resumes.

In the meantime, watch this space for our latest content and a calendar of our upcoming virtual events over the coming weeks.

How to become a thought leader – part 1 – deciding your objectives

Now is not the time to stop communicating