Good thought leadership more impactful in Asia, than globally

This post is sponsored by Edelman Singapore.

“Here we are now, entertain us.”

These iconic lyrics are from one of the biggest songs of decades past, and the generation who “smelled like teen spirit” in the 1990s, have become the business decision-makers of today. But when it comes to thought leadership, their rallying cry remains the same, especially in Singapore. They are present; now keep them engaged.

The 2020 Edelman-LinkedIn B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study shows that over half of decision-makers in Singapore (51%) spend at least an hour consuming thought leadership material each week, compared with 48% globally.

For the purpose of the study, “thought leadership” refers to free content that organisations or individuals produce on a topic they know a lot about and feel others can benefit from having their perspective on. This content can come in several forms, including white papers, executive positioning articles, and even customer stories.

The annual Impact Study features insights on how thought leadership leads to real business results. This is the first year that three Asian markets (Australia, India and Singapore) have been included in the survey of 3,200 global business executives.

A strong demand for quality thought leadership

Why are decision-makers investing their precious time with thought leadership? They are clearly getting something out of the experience. A third (33%) of Singapore respondents say that most of the thought leadership they are exposed to helps them do their job better and moves their business forward. This is once again higher than the 29% global average.

The best thought leadership often has an element of education or awareness. In Singapore, 38% felt high quality thought leadership pointed out an overlooked element in their strategy, while 37% believed it explored new challenges and opportunities that would otherwise not be considered.

The direct benefit of quality thought leadership

These valuable insights provided by thought leadership cannot be underestimated, especially among business decision-makers in Singapore.

A piece of thought leadership can generate RFP invitations (51% compared with 42% globally) and it can lead decision-makers to award business to the company responsible for the piece (56% compared to 48% globally).

Sixty-six per cent of the time, thought leadership in Singapore can even lead to the purchase of a new product or service that would otherwise not have been considered, compared with 54% globally.

The direct impact of thought leadership on business decisions in Singapore could not be clearer. However, its influence is still underestimated, even by producers of thought leadership themselves.

Less than a third of thought leadership producers believe thought leadership is effective in generating new business opportunities. There is scepticism about whether it leads to more RFPs (only 16% believe it does); whether it helps to win business (25%); or cross-sell to existing clients (27%).

The need to amplify thought leadership well

One reason for this cynicism among thought leadership producers is perhaps the realisation that good content creation is nothing without good content distribution.

According to the study in Singapore, most believe the success of their organisation’s thought leadership came from the fact that senior executives championed it and were highly visible around its release (49%), while others distributed it broadly and effectively (39%) by engaging their employees in its amplification and distribution (31%).

This clearly demonstrates the value of trust that decision-makers in Singapore have in their fellow senior executives. Thought leadership and trust have a symbiotic relationship here. An organisation earns trust among potential clients through quality thought leadership, and that trust, in turn, makes future content more compelling.

However, on a global level, the key driver was the ability to effectively distribute thought leadership content to achieve maximum impact. I recommend investing in technology such as account-based marketing and website personalisation, and optimising budgets around paid media.

Thought leadership is the new normal

What comes out clearly from the 2020 Edelman-LinkedIn B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study is there is a paradigm shift in attitudes towards both consuming and producing thought leadership. No longer must we convince organisations that thought leadership is an effective marketing tool, or to create thought leadership of their own. It is quickly being recognised as a necessity.

Three decades ago, Kurt Cobain wrote a hit song that defined the culture of an entire generation. Today, the question we need to ask is: “How can my organisation develop a culture of thought leadership?”

To begin, I recommend starting with developing ways to measure the effectiveness of your next thought leadership campaign.

The writer is Daryl Ho, head of digital, Edelman Singapore.