How to Create Great Thought Leadership with Andrew Rogerson

August 30, 2021
The Recognized Authority Podcast Cover

The podcast that helps independent consultants & subject matter experts to get more clients without having to beg for referrals, or make soul-destroying cold calls!

Andrew RogersonWhat does it mean to be a thought leader? What is thought leadership content, and how is it created?

In this episode Andrew Rogerson and Alastair McDermott walk through the actionable steps that you can take to create thought leadership content, from the strategic overview to research, writing the content and then repurposing it in multiple ways afterwards.

They also discussed the importance of well-structured executive summaries, and why Kate is writing a book to help experts get their ideas across more clearly.

 

 

Show Notes

Guest Bio

Andy is MD of Grist, a London-based thought leadership agency servicing the professional services, financial services and tech industries.

Transcript

SUMMARY KEYWORDS
clients, research, thought, leadership, people, create, survey, qualitative interviews, consultants, content, pandemic, question, business, piece, genuine, topic, data, consultancy, problems, projects

SPEAKERS
Alastair McDermott, Voiceover, Andrew Rogerson

 

Andrew Rogerson  00:00

Three things you need to look at, I think before you look at the whitespace. One is what was the business environment that’s driving the need for you to talk about that topic? So what’s what’s the big picture? Why is that important? Secondly, what is it that the consultancy does differently? Helping people sort out that problem or address that opportunity? Thirdly, what is particular about that consultants, clients that make that particularly interesting to them or particularly different for them? Once you’ve got those three answers or only then do we suggest that you start looking at what your competitors are doing in that space, and make sure that you don’t want something exactly the same as your competitors, it needs to be different. But if we’ve done those first things, right, then it will be different because it’s all about you. And it’s all about your clients. It’s not just about that topic.

 

Voiceover  00:43

Welcome to The Recognized Authority, a podcast that helps specialized consultants and domain experts on your journey to become known as an authority in your field. So you can increase your reach, have more impact, and work with great clients. Here’s your host, Alastair McDermott.

 

Alastair McDermott  00:58

Andrew, thank you so much for being with us here today. So the first thing I want to ask you about is about thought leadership. And some people have a really negative reaction to that term. Some people love the concept of thought leadership, they see it as as a kind of something to be respected and admired. And there’s kind of a somewhere somewhere in the middle, I think, is where it’s really at. Can you talk to us a little bit about what thought leadership means to you, and how you go about creating thought leadership?

 

Andrew Rogerson  01:25

Sure, to be honest, what we could probably spend the next hour talking about a definition for thought leadership and whether thought leadership is content marketing, or where that all fits. In our view, thought leadership is three things. It’s authoritative, it is original, and it’s insightful. So it needs to carry some authority. And, and typically, that is evidence lead. So it needs to be backed by, by research of one four, it needs to be original. So it needs to add something to the conversation, rather than just the noise. And it needs to be insightful. I.E, your clients need to be able to do something with the information that you’ve given. If you address those three things that then I think we can safely call it thought leadership, if it doesn’t, and much doesn’t, let’s face it, that then I don’t think you can.

 

Alastair McDermott  02:17

Okay, so, so insightful and able to do something without seeming it is so as what you’re saying there needs to actually be actionable. Yeah.

 

Andrew Rogerson  02:24

Absolutely. If you had a look at one of the major changes of thought leadership over the last five to 10 years, five to 10 years ago, where we were much more interested in thought leadership that was around brand awareness, and then the very beginning of the funnel now that is moving much more towards the middle of the funnel and helping clients solve problems, solve decisions, and do something useful. So Absolutely.

 

Alastair McDermott  02:49

Okay, let’s dig into each element of that a little bit, then, can we talk about the evidence and research first kind of being authoritative? So how do we go about that, like, if we if we want to do do something, we want to create some thought leadership content, we want it to be authoritative? Where would you start with that?

 

Andrew Rogerson  03:07

So there are a number of different ways that you can approach thought leadership, but if you are looking for the good stuff, the good stuff has to come from somewhere. Now in our view, that the perfect way to do that is via a server.  So to truly understand the problems that your clients are facing, and the problems that you are helping them solve, the best way to do that I firmly believe is to reach out and ask them a series of questions about those problems, but the magnitude of those problems about the solutions that they’ve already tried and what works and what doesn’t, and importantly, how it would make that individual feel to be able to solve those problems and what they might be able to be able to do next.  Now I fully understand that not everybody can create a server for every piece of content that they’re creating, I fully get that, you know, there is money that needs to be spent, but but it needs to be allocated in order to do that. We can kind of minimize that project and think about qualitative interviews rather than quantitative research. But again, that the good stuff has to come from somewhere and it can’t, in my opinion, just come from the firm themselves. I think we need to wrap their clients into that in order to make it really resonate for the clients and prospects.

 

Alastair McDermott  04:21

Yeah, absolutely. And, I mean, I’ve done this both ways myself, and I found it really hard to get a significant number of survey responses when I was sending out when I was sending out, you know, just just surveys to particularly to a cold audience really difficult and expensive and time consuming, qualitative stuff, getting on the phone with clients, and people in my network that I found really useful and much easier to you know, where you’ve got a warm connection, you can you can get people on a call and ask how would you go about like, do you actually send out you know, like Survey Monkey or one of those types. have kind of polls, multi choice questionnaire type survey, do you actually do that, as part of this process?

 

Andrew Rogerson  05:07

What we do? We wouldn’t use Survey Monkey to be honest. So there are a number when Chris produces servers that there are a number, a number of professional research companies who would read we would research reach out to in order to grab those responses,

 

Alastair McDermott  05:24

right. Okay,

 

Andrew Rogerson  05:24

so at the beginning of an assignment, we would look at the feasibility of that. So let’s just say we want to reach right and a couple of 100 FDS, within large technology companies at the beginning of the exercise, we reach out to a number of research companies and make sure that can happen and we guarantee that response rate, okay, lots of the projects we get involved in or when the client has tried to do that with their own audience and some of the problems that you’ve just articulated there, it either falls down for one reason or another, but but then we’re picking the project up from that, say, use a professional company to do it. And you want to have that that problem. Right. Okay. Yeah, there are all kinds of ways that you can make sure that the questionnaire is the right question, keeping it under 15 minutes, the multi choice options that you’re talking about all of those, those those good things, but what you really need to do is make sure that the topic resonates and make sure there’s a value exchange. I was. And by that, I mean, if the topic resonates, and you’re saying at the end of this research, I will send you a copy of the research report, which contains not only your answers, but for those of 99 of your peers or whatever that might be. that’s valuable. That’s a great value exchange. Yeah,

 

Alastair McDermott  06:33

it’s very cool. Okay, so so we’re looking at our thought leadership content, we want to create it. So we do some evidence, we do surveys, we talk to people to do telephone calls, and we get a body of data. So what what do you do next with that? How do you take this because I’ve been in this situation before, where you’re looking at a spreadsheet, you’ve got, you know, 18 different work worksheets in there full of answers, and you’ve got loads of data, how do you then go about turning that into your insightful, actionable content? Good question, Nate, it’s probably

 

Andrew Rogerson  07:05

worth just taking a step back and thinking because the important stages the server construction, and if you think about that, the important place to start is thinking about what business conversations Do you want to have with your clients and prospects when we have this research complete? And if you can think about that thinking, right? Actually, that’s the conversation that I need to have. The second step is thinking, well, if that’s the conversation that you need to have, what’s the data that we need to arm you with in order for you to have that conversation? And then we take a step back from that and think, well, if that’s the data that we need to have to enable you to have a conversation, what are the questions that we need to ask of the audience. So we’re actually starting from a point of what it is that you need, rather than just general research, because we’re not, we’re not a pure market research company. We’re a marketing research company. So it’s all about getting your point across. So that’s the first. The second thing to think about when we have that is thinking about, I’ve looked at that data, when you’ve got 10% of that data in Have a look at that data when you’ve got 60 to 70% of that data room, and then have a look at that data when you’ve got 100%. So that gives you the ability to tweak and fine tune it. But then we sit down with the client, we would send that data to them a week in advance, we ask them to think about what’s really interesting for your clients from this, we bring that to bear as when we have a thing. And then we tend to meet in the middle of a research planning meeting, irrespective whether you use an urgency or not. If you follow that process that will get you to to the good stuff, then Okay, suggest that you overlay, if that is quantitative research, if that’s survey based research, overlay that with five or six interviews with clients as well. And then you start to be able to dig a little deeper. So if the research gives you the nine out of 10 cats, like whiskers, what we might want to do in the qualitative interviews is they will Why did the one cat not like whiskers? Um, what did it not like? What would it like instead? And what makes that that resonate? So you can dig deeper on some of those those issues?

 

Alastair McDermott  09:01

Yeah, once you start to see the patterns in the data, you can you can look to see what the connections are.

 

Andrew Rogerson  09:06

Exactly. And those patterns should reinforce what you’re trying to say. Otherwise, we probably haven’t done a very good job with the questionnaire in the first place. Yeah,

 

Alastair McDermott  09:15

so let me go back to when when he was over building the survey. So are you saying at the start, are you starting with a hypothesis that you’re trying to prove or disprove? Is that is that kind of the approach?

 

Andrew Rogerson  09:25

Yes, predict pretty much that there might be several hypotheses that we’re trying to prove. But But fundamentally, we need to be wrapping that into what what that conversation looks like. So you know, we’re not academics, we’re not off just doing a piece of research for that, for the sake of that research. It’s very much around your clients pain points and problems and the hypotheses that is effectively surrounds your service offering. So the answer should be your service offering. The question shouldn’t be your service offering, if that makes Yes,

 

Alastair McDermott  09:54

yes, absolutely. So okay, let’s talk then about the other parts of that. So how do you By making sure that it’s original, I mean, is that is that just a tick the box thing? And just make sure nobody’s done something similar? Or, you know, in terms of thought leadership that there’s there’s nothing similar that’s been published? Or do you even care if somebody else has published something similar,

 

Andrew Rogerson  10:12

that down to that date depends To be honest, and lots of people get a little bit hooked up on this, this whitespace term and this, this need to be different? And so we’re, we’re absolutely, you know, we need to have something brand new to research, there are very few things that are brand new, very, very few, very, very few. And typically, consultants might not be the ones who are actually helping people create those, that might be something else. In reality, what we need to be thinking, again, going back to what are the business conversations you want to have? And what’s the audience that you want to have them with? And then we start to think if you have the topic, three things you need to look at, I think, before you look at the right spurs. One is what was the business environment that’s driving the need for you to talk about that topic? So what’s the big picture? Why is that important? Secondly, what is it that the consultancy does differently? Helping people sort out that problem? Or address that opportunity? Thirdly, what is particular about that consultants, clients that make that particularly interesting to them? Or particularly different for them? Once you’ve got those three answers? Or only then do we suggest that you start looking at what your competitors are doing in that space, and make sure that you don’t want something exactly the same as your competitors, it needs to be different. But if we’ve done those first things, right, then it will be different because it’s all about you. And it’s all about your clients. It’s not just about that topic, but we need to get those three, right. And in reality, take the topic like digital transformation. Now, lots of consultants need to talk about digital transformation, because that’s 90% of what they’re what they do, we just need to find what’s different in there about them and their clients to make that resonate and make that different, but we don’t start with what’s different. We start with them, we start with our audience.

 

Alastair McDermott  11:49

Okay. Very interesting. So let’s move on to the to the third part that you mentioned, the third component of great thought leadership content, which is being insightful, and how do we make sure that it’s insightful and actionable? Because we’ve done this work, we’ve done a lot of research, and now we have something we want to make that actually practical and useful. So how do you go about that last piece,

 

Andrew Rogerson  12:11

again, it’s thinking about that, before we get to the research analysis stage, and it’s a key part of the planning process needs not just to be about the challenge that is facing your clients, which gives us the topic needs to be about the solutions that they’re adopting in order to help them address that challenge or pick up that opportunity. And we need to be thinking about that right up front. or otherwise, you know, if we’re putting down a piece of research, and just looking for that, to jump out of that it may or may not jump out, if we thought about it on the way in, then that’s part of the litmus test about whether it’s, it’s good or not. So think about it all upfront. And if we involve the clients in that, in that process, and particularly if we can do some qualitative interviews as well, that will make it resonate even more with them. And that has to be a fundamental of it, you know, we cannot expect that to jump in we, to be honest, we’ve been delivered with all slide decks of research in the past, where we’ve had clients say to us, can you help us articulate a story from this research? Now, in reality, you can, but it’s just so wrong, we need to be thinking about that right up front, not not at the end of the research. That just means the research hasn’t done their job properly, we need to be thinking about that right up front. And so the so what question for your clients, what’s in it for them? Right in order to read it.

 

Alastair McDermott  13:29

So see, all the way from from the very beginning, you’ve got to you got to follow a process. This is very much about the planning and creating this content. It’s about having a plan from from the get go to create content that actually results in something actionable isn’t there’s no point in starting to do the research. I mean, you could start you could dive into the research if you were kind of in an exploratory phase. But that’s more about your learnings about the environment rather than actually intending to create some sort of thought leadership content afterwards. Right?

 

Andrew Rogerson  13:56

That’s right. And the way I look at it is that difference that we talked about between pure market research and marketing, research, market research, you might want to great and genuinely analyze the market to find something interesting. Now we’re not we’re not doing that we’re, we’re marketing people. So we kind of want to know the answer. But we want to be able to frame that answer in an intelligent, articulate, interesting way. But what we should know what the answer is, before we actually start not cheating. That’s just understanding that it’s a piece of marketing. And at the end of the day, we want to engage with our clients about that business problem. That’s the end goal.

 

Alastair McDermott  14:33

So what does this piece of thought leadership content look like? What like what what media is it when you’re dealing with this research, and you’ve created this content? What is the final piece look like? Or is it many pieces? How does that work?

 

Andrew Rogerson  14:47

It’s it’s horses for courses and we do a lot of our own research about about research. And I know that that sounds odd, but we research the C suite to find out what the format’s of choice are currently. And typically that that is is a mix. And that’s a mix of published content. That’s a mix of events, that’s a mix of social, there are several things that are actually wrapped up in that what we need to do is make sure that we fully understand what the reading preferences or watching preferences are of the target audience. And that changes by audience say that’ll change from small contributor to large company changes by region that changes by sector, so but we need to thoroughly understand what that looks like. And then our job, I believe, you know, we cannot afford to research lots and lots and lots of different issues, we will need to think about what does the firm really want to be famous for, and bring that together and look at one or two large projects or doing less projects, but doing more of each of those project is actually the right way to go. If we think about that, then our job once we have that research, is to slice and dice that seven ways from Sunday to make sure that we have the main asset that the hero report, whatever we want to, we want everyone to call up, we have a stream of blogs that are driven from that, that, hey, we have a stream of infographics that can go on to social or whatever it is, we’re creating the videos from those qualitative interviews that we can post across Vimeo or YouTube, whatever that might might be. So we need a whole stream of assets created from a single body of research to make sure it works, and get the biggest bang for buck.

 

Alastair McDermott  16:18

Yeah, so repurposing all of that content, and people talking about content repurposing, and re mixing and splintering as things that you should be doing with even the smaller pieces of content that you create. So this sounds like just taking that like at a larger scale, where you’re putting in a lot of time and effort and resources upfront to create this huge kind of body of work in terms of a thought leadership piece, and then reusing that. So I mean, would you get out of a piece like that you would have a team of people working on it, right? You’d have a, like, researchers, you’d have writers videographers.

 

Andrew Rogerson  16:52

Yeah, that’s right. And there’s a whole trench of of people at the edge and saying that, you know, you don’t need to use an agency for this, but but you will need to think about the different job roles that are there. First of all, you know, you want to be looking at having a senior editor who can kind of understand the questionnaire understand the problems that are facing your clients, you need to think about the research person to make sure that that research spec is correct. And be able to correctly articulate that questionnaire and script that that questioner you probably want to subject specialist journalists in there it is digital transformation. But why not pick somebody who’s written about digital transformation for the last 20 years, so they bring their own insight to bear, you want to be thinking about designers. And the interesting thing with thought leadership, most of the brand guidelines that we see from professional services firms are not created around thought leadership created around websites, around newsletters or at around all of it. It’s not around information. And it’s a specialist skill to be able to frame information in an interesting visual way. So you need to think about that as well. And then there’s everything that you talked about from PR skills, event management, for through the digital guys, to the social guys who are doing the paid social campaigns. There’s a whole slew of people, you can do all of that yourself if you’re a small consultancy, but you need to think about which hat am I actually wearing when I’m doing that task?

 

Alastair McDermott  18:10

Yeah, let’s, let’s get into that a little bit. If somebody wants to do that, as a solo consultants, and personally, I would recommend that even a solo consultants has an assistant full time assistant or at the very least part time to help them with some of the heavy lifting on admin and stuff like that bullet, let’s take what you were just talking about and scaling it down a little bit how, what are the really key parts? And what mistakes might they make when they’re when they’re trying to scale this down?

 

Andrew Rogerson  18:34

I think the key part to be honest, is value for the client, that reading that piece of information, that’s everything else falls down, if we don’t provide that value. Now, if you’re a smaller consultancy, it is hard to find the budget to do the quantitative piece, which you know, that isn’t cheap, but it would be a significant part of of the budget, sometimes even it’s difficult to find the budget to do the qualitative piece. Now, I would argue if we think just articulating our own views is going to get us what we want great. If that happens, then we’ve got unique views about what whatever it might be business transformation, whatever that then that’s great. In reality, I think we need to be falling in one of those two here, quantitative or qualitative, say my advice would would be think about something small and discreet. Again, go back to what is it that you really want to be famous for what’s the sweet spot of the work that you do and for whom, and then at least see if we can do the smallest viable server, let’s just say 100 people, or the smallest viable number of external interviews, let’s just say three or four in order to make that content sing under that, at least that where you’ve got something that is of genuine value that you can put a get on and get some contact details for When People Download that content. And at least if we have that, again, we can chop up both of those pieces and provide at least six months worth of of blogs, infographics, social memes. So we can do a whole campaign around that, I think by next year, so manager and there are also third party services even on the small scale that can take that content and chop it up and remix it for you.

 

Alastair McDermott  20:13

I know there are some, I’ll see if I can link some of them in the show notes. One other thing, I just want to follow up on something that you mentioned there, just doing that research on the small scale. So I managed to do this myself using LinkedIn and using surveys with LinkedIn, I managed to survey over 1000, independent consultants and management consultants. So I know they can be doing on that kind of, and that was smaller scale. And I use an iterative approach. So where I sent a survey, as we’ll say, got about 100 replies, I took the data that I learned from that the information I learned from that and the insights, and I use that to create the next survey and send that out. So it is 1000 1000 responses. But it’s 1000 responses to 10 surveys, which gave me a huge amount of information about different things. So I know that that’s possible. I know that Philip Morgan, who have had on the show before, has talked about how to do research at a smaller scale like that, and do really useful research. So I will link to that in the show notes. Because I know that what we’re talking about here, some of it may seem like it’s too large scale, but I think it’s really like, I think this is really important to be thinking about developing this type of content, doing this type of research. So I would encourage anybody listening to do that. So the other thing I asked you, but just about mistakes, what kind of mistakes do people make when they’re looking at thought leadership, creating thought leadership content?

 

Andrew Rogerson  21:25

I think one of the biggest mistakes is not understanding is that that value exchange, to be honest, so you need to get something out of it. But your client also needs to get something out of it and enter to thinking that that through second mistake, we often find it is starting off with something. Wouldn’t this be interesting to find out? So So we start off with this one question. And one of the partners in the firm says this be a great, great idea. I’m not challenging that from that sort of perspective. Yeah. And so what do the

 

Alastair McDermott  21:55

clients care? Does this is this, is this something that’s hurting them right now?

 

Andrew Rogerson  21:59

Yeah, exactly. And the whole point is that that continual challenge, but the third thing I would say is often we get we get called in because the client might actually start doing the research themselves in whatever, SurveyMonkey, whatever, and it starts to fall apart. There’s often a reason behind that the survey is often unwieldy. It’s asking too many questions, it’s going beyond that 15 minute cut off point where, you know, if you want to talk to a senior audience, unless you’re PwC, or somebody about knitting, you’re probably not going to get more than than 15 minutes of lead time. So you need to make sure that the server is constructed around that. But there’s also the kind of the getting to the point where you’ve got the material, and you haven’t necessarily thought about what you’re going to do with it beforehand. And I think before you even start this, we should have a better idea of what does that campaign look like? And what does success look like? So that we can learn throughout the whole process?

 

Alastair McDermott  22:51

Yeah. And it goes back to that planning and ensuring that we’re always asking, so what, from the clients perspective? So how does it How does it give them value? How does it help them solve that pain? is okay, is Is there anything else that I should have asked you about creating great thought leadership content? Is there anything else that’s that’s in the mix in there? That’s really important,

 

Andrew Rogerson  23:09

I think we’ve we’ve covered quite a quite a few things. If I look at trends that have happened at Alastair over the last, maybe 12, were doing what you taught not to be thinking about the pandemic. Yeah, and it’s interesting that the impact on on thought leadership. So prior to the pandemic, lots of the thought leadership that was out in the market looked at these mega trends, two years, five years, even 10 years, even even longer than that, over the course of the pandemic, that timeframe has been squeezed. So that the kind of timeframe that people are looking for help with now, the sweet spot is between the kind of next three to 12 months. So I think that’s critical that we address that within the thought leadership that we create a second perspective in the future is thinking about personalization of content. And this is going to get more and more important in the future, we need to think about what does that actually look like? And again, our research would make that sector specific beyond everything else. So what people really want is how are people like myself in my industry, addressing the problem that that you’re talking about that is providing genuine personalization? And I think that the third perspective is thinking about what’s the involvement of your clients in that content creation. And clients have told us that they’re perfectly willing to sit on editorial advisory committees, they’re perfectly willing to be interviewed or surveyed, if the topic is right. So I think in the future, it’s very much around how do we draw a ring around those key people and bring them into our content process? We wouldn’t call it ABM. We can call it whatever we want to call it. How do we draw those people in and make sure the content really resonates for them by giving them a greater greater input?

 

Alastair McDermott  24:45

Right. Okay. Fascinating. Okay. I want to shift to to your firm and and just, just just talk a little bit about grit and what you do. You are a co founder, your co founder was Mark, right? Yeah. Can you tell them tell us a little bit about how you started the firm and how you got into strategic thought leadership type marketing. Sure,

 

Andrew Rogerson  25:03

sure. So prior to prior to co founding breast back in 2000, couldn’t solve 2020 years ago, I was marketing director for the Economist Intelligence Unit, for many years, part of the Economist Intelligence Unit towards the end of my stint there, they declared what was then called management briefings, which was effectively that the precursor to to what we now call thought leadership, but they were producing servers, creating reports, wrapping those into events, which we haven’t talked about, which I think is is actually critical. And then thinking about that, from a PR perspective, when I left, that was in New York, when I left the economists we set up grist. And then to be honest, that that wasn’t the first business model that that we had, there was a couple of different business models, we were consultants, for a while, we were creating commercial publishing operation for a little while, while we were partnering with some of the business big business schools to help that they were doing big research projects, fantastic research projects, or great brands, but but then that research was was left to sit in volts, etc. So we were taking that and kicking it into ship for the commercial world. And using that to effectively sell that research and pay kick it back to the board. But then we fell into thought leadership in 2007, when an organization asked us to produce their magazine for them and said, we’ll give you a fee for that, because what we want from this is brand awareness and lead generation. So from 2007 onwards, we didn’t call it thought leadership back back then. But that’s effectively what we did. And we carried on doing that, because that was the thing that really worked for rock lines. And as the thing that we ran around thought leadership program now for the last best part of seven or eight years, the value of thought leadership, and we do have

 

Alastair McDermott  26:41

a network? And do you find that clients come to you looking specifically for research or specifically for thought leadership? Or do they come to you looking for content marketing lead generation, like do they do they come to you specifically for that very, very specific thought leadership stuff?

 

Andrew Rogerson  26:56

It is thought leadership say about 65% of what we do, I will call genuine that thought leadership, we cut our teeth on client magazines back in the night, you know, you can argue is that thought leadership? You cannot? You can argue both ways. But will you still produce probably around about a dozen client magazines? No. So that’s the other 35% of the business. But fundamentally, our clients come to us in kind of one of two stages. One, they might come to us with a genuine Marketing Challenge. ie, this is what we do. This is our target audience. This is the issue that I particularly like to help my clients with, what can we do in order to put that program together? Or what we’ve got clients who kind of know thought leadership inside out and saying, okay, here’s my topic here and people I want to research, can you organize that that for us create a great report and produce the asset? So it’s one of those two things depending on how authentic the client is with with the thought leadership itself?

 

Alastair McDermott  27:57

Can I go back to when you were in those early days? How did you get your first clients? Do you remember

 

Andrew Rogerson  28:02

in thought leadership? Yeah, in the early days, so So before we actually had if you like, something to show people, which is really kind of interesting fears within a consultancy operation, but we had the commercial publishing outfit and what we started to realize, so that was something that we were approaching the business goals and saying, actually, we can work with you to do this research program, we were taking that. And if you like, the real value for the business school was in brand awareness folder, because it was being seen that they’re doing research in that area, at least then what we had that that when a few of their consultancies looked at us. And in the early stages, it was pretty much all all consultancies and accounting operations, they were looking at thinking we kind of want one of those, but in this area, and that these people, so we kind of did have something to say to them. But then after that the majority of work that we get is word of mouth, it’s the same as many consultants that

 

Alastair McDermott  28:55

you have to get referrals, word of mouth. Absolutely, yeah. Let me go back to something you mentioned earlier as well. I just remembered, you said we should talk a little bit more about events. Can you talk about that, and events and content marketing and leadership called leadership? How does that work?

 

Andrew Rogerson  29:09

So if I looked at at the program that we produce for ourselves the value of thought leadership survey that we created, we reached out to the C suite that the last one that we did when we reached out to over 525 people in the C suite around the world, and we analyzed what they wanted from thought leadership. Armed with that data, we produced a series of reports. So we actually produced three reports, each of those different topics. So for instance, we’re just doing one arraigned at now effectively about how to to integrate thought leadership into the sales process. With that, armed with the data that we have from our research program, we’re organizing a series of roundtables with professional services firms and financial services firms, with tech firms to bring them in, sit them around the table and discuss that issue. So we understand that we don’t have all of the answers. We’ve got some research that that points to really interesting discussions getting 12 peers around the table discussing what they’re actually doing about those research findings. There’s genuine value for everybody, including ourselves, organizing that. And facilitating that for fans brings them genuine value. So integrating events, it’s just an absolute as far as I’m concerned, it’s an absolute must do. Now, interestingly, with with the pandemic, obviously, lots of the events shifted to online rather than last week, we ran a whole series of in person events, pre pandemic, obviously, they’ve all moved online, and you’ve got to work a bit harder online, particularly to facilitate the networking element, which if you realize it’s not just about grist, it’s a bit different networking with each other, talking to each other about the different things they’re trying what works, what doesn’t work, you’ve got to work harder to facilitate that online. But that’s where the real value is. And I think within the future tech that enables that kind of networking and good stuff. That’s kind of where it’s, it’s uneven. So

 

Alastair McDermott  30:53

yeah, trying to replicate those in the card or meetings, kind of that, that that spontaneous meeting that you have at a conference, I think that’s the real hard part that and when you look when you’re on a zoom conference, you know, you’ve only got one voice at a time. And it’s, it’s still I mean, I know people are working on this, but it’s it’s hard to replicate that

 

Andrew Rogerson  31:11

accurately. But but that’s the challenge. I understood that that’s what we need to do, because that’s what what clients want. And just a small example of of one thing that that we’re doing so we organize that the round table, we ask everybody if they’re all care with a sharing that email addresses to the rest of the roundtable. If they’re not that then fine. If they are we get the fact there’s genuine value outside of the grist, realistic with the facilities, we bring those people together, but they need to be talking to each other and doing great things, you know, will be I don’t know 5% of what they do overall in their jobs. But

 

Alastair McDermott  31:42

what you’re seeing as a facilitator, which, which adds value you’re seeing is adding value all the time. Yeah. Are there any myths or beliefs about thought leadership or about your industry that you want to debunk?

 

Andrew Rogerson  31:55

That’s a really good question. I’m rarely stumped us. There are any myths, okay, that we’d like to

 

Alastair McDermott  32:01

think I know, I know that when I talk to people about thought leadership, and I’ve had a lot of these conversations are immediately the first reaction is taught leadership. Oh, that’s bullshit. That I find it I’ve heard lots of variations on that word, and I repeat any more of them. We’ve already got our, our tag on this episode. So yeah, so anything, you know,

 

Andrew Rogerson  32:20

it’s interesting, you said that, you know, that there’s good and there’s bad in every every industry, to be honest at the pandemic is kind of sorted out quite a few of the charlatans in, in my world, as far as I’m, I’m concerned. And you don’t get very far, you know, professional services in the UK and Ireland is, is a small, small gig in doing what we do for professional services firms, you know, is even smaller, you get a bad reputation, you’re out so so you need to know your onions, and do yourself thought leadership, we do it for ourselves, we know it works, you’ve got to put some budget behind it, you’ve got to put some time behind it, you got to do that. The reason we do it for ourselves is because it pays dividends the biggest myth. I think, if you’re thinking thought leadership doesn’t work I would just say you’re probably not doing it right. And you’re probably not spending enough time on that planning process. You get through that… Content is the future! And it’s… I don’t know what other forms of marketing can can provide that kind of response, particularly when we can’t do that in person networking and take you out to dinner, whatever it might be.

 

Alastair McDermott  33:22

Absolutely, yeah. Okay. I’ve only got a couple more questions for you. So this one, this one may still be a little bit as well, I don’t know. I like to ask people about failure, because I think it’s important to embrace failure and learn from it. Can you recall any that you can share with us any business failures that you’ve encountered, and what you learned from it, and, you know, it, just everything about that, that that that you could share that might be useful for people?

 

Andrew Rogerson  33:43

You know, fairly is a tough word. And it’s kind of you know, a lot of people don’t like to talk about it. But one of the lessons that we learned very early, you know, typically, we are employed by the marketing director of the professional services. Well, we’ve been involved in projects in the past where the marketing director has said, We don’t need the consultants here. We don’t need the practice. Here is the topic I know what are, we just need to cover that topic. Now, that kind of project without the input of the client facing team that is going to be difficult to actually make a success of it. Because we have, we’re not starting off from the right place. We’re not starting off with the business conversations that the practice wants to have with people. Unless we do that it’s going to get to the end. And you’re going to have questions like, Well, how do we measure this, the more you can’t measure something, if you don’t have articulate objectives behind it, if you’ve got the articulated objectives, which are directly with the consultant, it works, so not involved in the practice or not involved in the practice, it will be a show cause of failure involving them too much, will also be a show cause a fallacy. You get projects that would it because of procrastination. And again, it’s all comes back to the planning process and thinking who are the key project managers here and who do we actually need to sign off on each stage and make sure that internally there is system for actually collecting that feedback and processing that feedback for the organization. So involve the practice, but don’t involve them to a point that that it’s going to kill them that they shouldn’t have any of the heavy lifting to do internally, that marketing department or the agency should be doing that heavy lifting, but they need to be involved, otherwise, it just won’t be successful.

 

Alastair McDermott  35:17

Yeah. Okay. So just two final questions wrap up just about books or other resources. So I want to ask you about nonfiction and fiction. Do you have a business book or some other type of resource that you would recommend, or that may have helped you along the way?

 

Andrew Rogerson  35:32

I wouldn’t say that we produce lots of research about about research. And if it’s not too Machiavellian, not I would say there’s lots of really great stuff, which is freely available on our website at gristonline.com is all about what professional services firms are doing and what they should be doing. So I would say that would be a really good, good resource. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head that…

 

Alastair McDermott  35:57

Okay, but what about fiction? Did you read fiction? Or or if not, is there any like favorite TV or anything that you’d like to go binge on?

 

Andrew Rogerson  36:06

Well, at the moment, clearly, we’re in the midst of the euros if there was anything that I binge on. Unfortunately, it probably would be football. I’m a Sunderland fan. I wouldn’t suggest that anybody looks at Sunderland if they want to depend on anything other than chips. But, but…

 

Alastair McDermott  36:24

And we’ll we’ll know. We’ll know. By the time this episode comes out, whether it’s coming home or not.

 

Andrew Rogerson  36:30

We can keep our fingers crossed. Yes.

 

Alastair McDermott  36:32

yes. Yes. Well, best of luck with that. Andrew, thank you so much for being with us here today. I really appreciate your time. And and everything. You know, I think this is just fascinating. An important topic for anybody who wants to be an authority in their field is to have something authoritative and original and actionable for their clients, some some kind of thought leadership, great thought leadership content, and I think it’s so important for people so I really do appreciate your time here today.

 

Andrew Rogerson  36:57

You’re welcome.

 

Voiceover  37:00

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