I’ve had a number of requests for detailed case studies of how we go about building thought leadership for CEOs and executives. This week I’m excited to share a detailed behind the scenes example of a thought leadership campaign launch for Russell Yardley.
As I’m writing this, the article has achieved two and a half thousand views, 80 detailed comments, and a large number of shares and likes. That’s a pretty significant achievement for an article on LinkedIn – moreover in this case because it’s almost exclusively targeted at CEOs, CTO/CIOs and board directors.
If you’d like to see the finished product, you can see the article as published on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-technologists-dont-belong-boardroom-russell-yardley-faicd
This article takes you behind the scenes of the planning and launch. In the 2000 words and 13 illustrations / screengrabs / graphics that follow I’ve got Russell’s permission to share:
- The strategy behind the campaign
- How we move through planning, interview and article construction
- How we structure distribution to ensure a successful launch
- The delivered campaign, and results
For some context, the campaign for Russell is a supported CEO blogging campaign, leveraging our video supported interview process. With this process, we shoot a one hour interview upfront, use this to build out five video supported blog articles.
For background: Why this campaign is LinkedIn focused
Because Russell already has a deep LinkedIn network, and is looking to build support for increasing the capability and competence of boards to make better technology decisions and to provide improved governance of those decisions, this strategy focuses on LinkedIn publisher as the distribution platform.
LinkedIn for distribution is not a strategy that’s right for everyone – it has strengths and also a number of weaknesses. For most CEOs, it’s probably a better idea to use your on site blog as the primary distribution platform. However this is impacted by a number of factors – how many followers you have, existing website traffic and overall aims need to be considered when you’re thinking about the right platform for content distribution.
Step 1: The strategy behind the campaign
1A: Getting started with the expert positioning framework
The Expert Positioning Framework below is one of our key foundational documents in planning any thought leadership series. As we work through this document we’re looking to understand what makes Russell’s expertise unique, and what he wants to be remembered for by the market.
This framework is exceptionally important in delivering results – if the expert positioning isn’t right, then it really doesn’t matter what content gets produced.
1B: The stages in our influencer content planning process
The graphic below shows how we flow through the process, connecting the positioning from core themes, to topics, articles and interview questions. You’ll see how each separate element is delivered in the following graphics.
1C: How we positioned Russell’s expertise
This framework shows exactly how we want Russell to be remembered by the market. All content produced for Russell then connects to this core theme (although it may approach it from a number of angles). The red arrows show the topics that were used in the launch article for Russell.
Stage 2. Interview planning and article construction
2A: Building an interview roadmap
From the positioning framework, we develop a one hour interview roadmap (you can see this below).
For this article, the relevant questions we discussed are in red. We’ve blurred out the future weeks articles (you’ll have to watch on LinkedIn).
2B: Generating the content – The interview
The interview as a key foundation of the content development process. Shown below is a couple of minute excerpt pulled out of the longer 1 hour interview.
Once the article is finished, this excerpt then sits as supporting multimedia within the article:
2C: Transcription – From voice to copy
From the interview, the full one hour video is then transcribed. This gives our journalists everything they need to work with. From here they get started turning this interview into the structured, persuasive articles that you see as distributed.
2D: The final article (for Russell’s approval)
Our journalists use the transcript to finalise the content, in line with the positioning guide that you saw above. We’re building the content using Russell’s words, in line with the themes that he wants to be remembered for.
That’s then provided back to Russell for final approval, in a format that looks something like this:
Stage 3: Distribution planning
Once the article is approved, it’s ready for to launch. In the section that follows, I’m going to run you through our full launch plan for this content.
3A: The distribution overview and schedule
You can see here that we’re targeting a fortnightly distribution, launching every second Wednesday at 10am.
3B: Timeline for each article launch
The timeline below shows all the activities that are focused around launch. We’re just blanking out a couple of our “secret sauce activities” that are focused on getting high comment velocity on launch.
3C: Deliverables and action items
This is exactly what’s required for each article launch. You’ll note the large number of secondary updates – which are pre-developed for social sharing over the two week window the article is being actively promoted
Stage 4: The delivered campaign, and the results
4A: The article as deployed to LinkedIn:
As deployed, this is the content that was launched last week, kicking off this campaign for Russell. Below is a screenshot from LinkedIn (you can click through to the original content here).
The headline is really important in getting thought leadership content to work. The headline is so important because what viewers must decide to click (or ignore). They make the initial decision to engage with the content solely on the basis of the headline.
There’s a whole book we could write on writing great thought leadership headlines. But that’s a different (and potentially very lengthy) article! There’s plenty of formulas to follow, but in this case we’ve made the headline slightly more provocative than the article, whilst ensuring that the article still delivers on the fundamental premise of the headline.
4B: The importance of view and comment velocity at launch
If you’re distributing on LinkedIn, it’s critical to generate a high comment velocity at launch. In our experience this is the single biggest factor in predicting whether your content will be successful. If you hit a high comment velocity, you’ll take over the newsfeeds within your network. It becomes a virtuous cycle where people can’t avoid your blog.
Generating the number of comments that Russell has here isn’t easy. It’s a function of both:
- a provocative article, and
- a well executed distribution plan.
The great thing in this case is the number of non-executive directors and CEOs who are commenting. This article generated as high a quality of discussion as I’ve seen on LinkedIn. I’d encourage you to go and have a look at the comments here for a good example of what it looks like when you get this right.
4C: Email distribution to existing contacts
Because we wanted to engage as many people as possible in the campaign quickly, we also distributed via mailchimp to notify Russell’s contacts and colleagues of the blog.
A couple of comments and recommendations here:
- In this case you definitely don’t want to be distributing the whole article via email. We want to maximise view and comment velocity at launch, and that only happens if people are reading the article on LinkedIn.
- Don’t include ANY calls to action that take the recipient anywhere else aside from the LinkedIn content.
- Use a simple template that makes it easy to read on mobile. A design that’s too fancy will pull attention away from the content.
- Subject lines are uber important in getting the email opened. If you have a great headline, use that. The only risk around using headlines as subject lines is length – you can get away with a bit more length in a LinkedIn headline than the average email subject line.
You can see what this distribution looked like as sent to Russell’s contacts below:
If you have questions, let’s discuss in the comments below
Clearly there’s a lot of detail that sits underneath each of these stages. If you’ve got questions, please jump into the comments and I’ll try and answer in as much detail as possible.
I’d also like to thank Russell for allowing us to openly share the process, strategy and execution behind this launch.
If you enjoyed this article, you might love our weekly reading list of marketing ideas worth talking about: Subscribe to the weekly reading list here