This post is the first in a series of two by guest blogger Meg Wrixon. Meg is Group Communications and PR Manager at WSP, Sydney, where she runs an Asia Pacific thought leadership program. WSP is a global sustainability engineering firm.
I’ve always believed that a B2B brand (particularly in professional services) should be taken to market using an informative, conversational approach, rather than a shamelessly promotional ‘corporate’ approach.
When you explore a professional services brand’s point of difference, it rarely comes down to the service lines. The firm’s delivery approach may be a little different, but that only become becomes apparent to the client once a job begins. And it’s not a great strategy to differentiate on price – so what else?
In professional services, a strong source of differentiation is a firm’s people and their knowledge. When demonstrating this through communications, good and engaging content is important.
But where does that content come from?
If you are a communications professional like me, you are often expected to be a jack of all trades – but you’d be as rare as hen’s teeth if you held the specialist knowledge of your technical colleagues. Accordingly, good content cannot be developed in isolation.
So the question remains for many an established communications professional: how do you encourage your technical colleagues to develop the best and most engaging content?
Despite trying many different ways to obtain good content from colleagues, my experience was, quite frankly, like drawing blood from a stone. I was forced to take up the position of the perennial ‘nagger’. After all, it’s difficult to compete against the ‘billable hour’ and ‘client comes first’ protocols of a professional service environment. And rightly so!
But in this context, important communication deadlines are frequently missed and a brand can suffer from lacking in currency. After consulting with many communications peers, I soon realised that my experience was the norm. Out of frustration, I set to work on developing a ‘Thought Leadership Centre’ program.
In short, the framework for the program was to differentiate our brand in the market by promoting knowledge and expertise in a non-promotional way. It would primarily look at risks and/or opportunities for clients and industries, identify hot topics, such as regulatory reforms, and communicate these to clients and prospects.
I had the framework, but that was the easy part. I still had to solve the ’why should I?’ and ‘what’s in it for me?’ aspects of the content conundrum.
In Part 2 of this series, Meg explains how she engaged WSP employees in content development by turning the concept of thought leadership on its head.
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