If you fail, fail spectacularly

Do your content well or not at all; how to manage your stakeholders to get buy in

For your thought leadership content, it's like everything in life: do it well or not at all. And when you fail, fail spectacularly, do nothing, and shine bright in your absence. 

Don't half-ass your content; it's a legit option to gracefully opt-out if the necessary resources are not available.

However, if you do want content and get a long-term commitment from the stakeholders, below are a few pointers.


Do it well or not at all

Let's start by recognizing that your thought leadership content is not a one-off. That means you can publish some awesome content right now, but your content needs continuous love and attention. 

Every few months, you need to check your content. Is it still relevant? Is there something new? Or update with a new visual. 

Nothing is as harmful to your brand as outdated content.

Now, you have two choices. 

  1. Don't fail and get the buy-in from the leadership team for long-term resources, time, and budget.
  2. Fail spectacularly. Do no thought leadership content at all, and shine in your absence.


A little disclaimer 
This blog focuses on thought leadership content. This is your brand story, why you do what you do, all about your ‘why’, values, sustainability, diversity, inclusion, and a glimpse behind the scenes to show your authenticity and the people behind the brand. Usually, these are the pages on the .com that are a bit hidden in the corporate and about section. Or buried in LinkedIn. 


A problem well-stated is a problem half-solved

First, let's dive into the problem: why you don't have what you need to create and maintain your content. 

In 99% of cases, it's due to a lack of importance and urgency, causing a lack of long-term resources, time, and budget. If you’re in the special 1% and you don’t have a brand story to tell, you’ve got a whole other problem—which we don’t tackle in this blog.

  • More often than not, thought leadership content is thrown into the marketing department on top of the short-term sexy campaign content they already produce. Read: no dedicated resources and time are allocated, and this content production is added to the already overworked content marketing team. 
  • If this content is the responsibility of the corporate department, brace yourself for the corporate inside-out buzz and jargon-filled content that doesn’t resonate. Sorry, not sorry for my tough love here. From experience, the marketing people are the only ones who really get it on to create engaging content, combining copy, visuals, and video.

Again. Do it well or not at all.

The solution is to free up resources, time, and budget to create engaging, high-quality, timeless leadership content and maintain it. I realize that's easier said than done. 

And that brings me to the next topic: stakeholder management to get buy-in. 


Stakeholder management strategy

The big decisions on resources, time, and budget allocation are made by the leadership team, right? 

It is your job as a CMO or senior marketing manager to create a sense of urgency and importance and emphasize long-term content quality. You manage your stakeholders and give them reasons they can’t ignore, with data to support that.

Below, you find my go-to list for stakeholder management. It’s an indication; please complete this list with your own findings and what matters to your brand and management team.


Social and societal changes

In 2024 and beyond, your ‘why’ and how your brand contributes to a better world becomes even more important. With just one click or swipe, your customer hops on to the next brand that does tell its story. We all know that sustainability, diversity and inclusion, transparency, and doing fair business matter. Show that you care, and tell them what you’re doing without patting your own shoulder.


Authenticity matters

People want to connect to authentic brands with a point of view and a voice of their own.  The more AI raises, the more authenticity matters to find a new balance between tech and what's real. Show who you are. 

To be clear, this means no fully generated AI content but bespoke AI-powered content in your brand voice. Distinctive, standing out, and recognizable, based on insights and with a clear structure. 


KPIs: zoom out on sales and SEO

Yes, thought leadership content is very hard to measure. Contrary to what some content cowboys tell you, reliable attribution modeling is impossible. 

The only way to measure is to zoom out and plot your content effort against your overall sales. If you want to narrow down a bit, go for your SEO ranking, as Google rewards high-quality content that answers what customers are searching for.


Long term, 3+ years

This type of content is a long-term game. At least a year, 3+ years is better. It takes patience before you see any results and the costs precede the benefits. And still, then, it’s very hard to measure as described above. 

Next to the long term, it's good to realize the needle moves slowly. Luckily, reporting to your peers in the leadership team is usually on a monthly or quarterly basis. And that’s exactly the zoomed-out level you need to see what's happening. Leave the weekly vanity metrics to the marketing team for iterations in the details.


The costs of inaction

You can also choose not to continuously invest in thought leadership content and give it some love and attention once in a while. Two things to consider before you make this choice.

  • First, if you don’t do it, your competitors will. Period.
  • Second, nothing as harmful to your brand doing it half-half. That results in outdated crappy leadership content.


Let's be honest; if you can’t bother to free up resources to tell why you do what you do on your .com in a proud and non-sales voice, how the f*ck are you going to convince your customer to buy your brand and products?


If you don’t have resources, time, or budget

I get it; sometimes, it just isn’t possible for very valid reasons. If all of the above doesn’t help you to get what you need, you can also decide not to do it at all. 

There is a legit option to opt-out gracefully if the necessary resources are not available. The best you can do is approach your lack of quality leadership content with a smile. 

Make your flaw your asset. Embrace the lack of it, make a pun, and bring a smile to your customer’s face.

This can be as simple as a statement such as ‘sorry, not sorry for the lack of our corporate content. At the moment, we’re a bit busy working on the marketing campaigns to tell you how awesome our products are. And we didn’t want to bore you with non-authentic AI-generated content

Be creative, opt-out gracefully, and acknowledge you don't want to half-ass it. 


looking for graphic designer


Final thoughts: excellence or absence for thought leadership content

Wrapping it up… Do you thought leadership content well, or not at all.

Two things matter to get buy-in in the leadership team to get resources, time and budget.

  • First, define the problem of why you can’t produce great, engaging leadership content; mostly, that’s a lack of urgency and importance.
  • Secondly, convince the stakeholders with arguments, rationale, and data. What’s going on in society, and how to measure impact on business level. Make it relevant and measurable, and manage expectations.

If that doesn’t work, choose not to do thought leadership content at all, and fail spectacularly with shining in absence.


My tips for more ammunition

If you need any ammunition to convince your stakeholders, these books will help you

  • ‘No Bullsh*t Strategy’ by Alex M H Smith
  • ‘Building a StoryBrand’ by Donald Miller
  • ‘They Ask, You Answer’ by Marcus Sheridan

All are in my top 10 book list, check it for the details and reasons why you should read these. 


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