3 reasons why rigorous research should underpin your thought leadership

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Rigorous research is one of the important factors in creating high quality and effective thought leadership material, according to research by Source for Consulting based on interviews with some of the best authors of thought leadership in the world. Research helps authors position and challenge their ideas to create thought leadership that is distinctive, resilient and outward-looking, and importantly, most likely to deliver a return on investment. Here’s how:

Make it distinctive

You will know your field and have well-thought ideas about what you want to say, but can you root new insights in an objectively researched and structured context? Research can capture and distil existing material by academics, business leaders and competitors. Considering what others are saying, assessing the quality and drawing out what is typical (or bland!), what stands out and where there are gaps helps you frame your own thinking and identifies where there is potential to make your mark.

Make it collaborative

Identifying external experts or organisations to consult or partner with can bring valuable kudos and authority to your thought leadership. Five years ago, Research Matters identified an academic at MIT who was talking about our client’s area of expertise in a completely fresh way. Our client, an international professional services firm, reached out early and they went on to collaboratively develop the thought leadership initially and then a new service line.

More than this, you can quickly reach out to new potential markets and clients through a partner’s own networks and audiences. Links can also be made with opposing viewpoints, exploiting discussion and debate across social media as a key, free marketing tool.

Safeguard your reputation

Due diligence to make sure you are not saying something someone else, or worse still a competitor, isn’t already saying is a critical reason to invest in upfront, external research. You may think you know your area, but views and opinions change fast and some level of systematic checking is crucial.

It is also about making sure your thought leadership is as good as it can be. Fiona Czerniawska, a founder of Source, has said: “Thought leadership is a complex and crowded area. Done well it can really strengthen a consulting firm’s brand, and done badly, it can actually be quite damaging.” Investment in research is part of your risk management and ensures that thought leadership becomes a valuable B2B marketing tool.


Distinctive thought leadership can transform an organisation’s knowledge and experience into a powerful way of differentiating themselves. The best thought leadership combines original thinking and client need with solid internal and external research. “Get ahead of the game and look at the research needs which the market is facing before you produce your thought leadership” is advice reflected in the report from Source for Consulting.

Click here to read Source’s free report, What do authors of the best thought leadership in the world have to say about why and how it’s created?

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