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How To Make Your Next Thought Leadership Program a Success

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How To Make Your Next Thought Leadership Program a Success

In the late 1990s, I searched the internet (yes, it existed) to figure out what people meant by the relatively new concept of thought leadership connected to corporate branding.

Since then, I’ve developed thought leadership campaigns for many global brands. And, today, nearly every B2B marketer uses thought leadership in their content marketing strategy.

But despite its effectiveness and staying power, the concept still isn’t well understood – nor is it used to its potential.

What is thought leadership really?

Business leaders and marketers slap the “thought leadership” label onto a lot of marketing activities. Some narrowly define it. Others, as Forrester principal analyst Lisa Gately did at Content Marketing World, define it as  “an intentional exercise of knowledge, skills, and expertise to increase awareness, elevate perception, and drive preference related to key issues that an audience cares about.”

To me, thought leadership shouldn’t be defined too narrowly or too expansively. Thought leadership is the strategic and well-planned coming together of original research and compelling, purpose-built marketing content to engage a defined audience.

Some use my definition more specifically for “industry thought leadership” because it captures macro trends affecting business and works for existing and prospective clients.

#ThoughtLeadership is the well-planned coming together of original research and compelling marketing #content for a defined audience, says @JanieJaniehulse via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

But the goal remains the same: to position your company as an authority on a topic by providing useful insights independent of your brand’s products and services.

In other words, don’t approach thought leadership as a commodity, reducing it to listicles or unsubstantiated infographics, as fellow writer Jonathan Crossfield warns. Thought leadership is not a single interview with a CEO, a webinar about new solutions, or a blog article about a product.

Thought leadership in content marketing relies on original or novel research. It combines the rigor of an independent academic study with the sizzle of a targeted ad campaign. It’s difficult to pull off and often takes a village of researchers, analysts, writers, editors, UX specialists, digital designers, videographers, IT managers, project managers, and media strategists.

Example: Oral health brand Haleon supported a fantastic thought leadership piece – the Health Inclusivity Index (registration required) produced by The Economist Group. It brings together professionals from around the world to build a program that combines both substance and sizzle. It combines data, case studies, and multiple content formats to create a go-to thought leadership resource on the topic.

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Boost your credibility and be useful

Regardless of the means, well-planned and executed thought leadership campaigns educate the target audience on broader macro trends and relevant implications for their business. But let’s face it; executives are busy people looking for ways to propel their businesses forward and bolster their own knowledge bank and expertise. They don’t need an overly prescriptive narrative; they want easy-to-understand thought leadership with helpful key takeaways.

Executives don’t need overly prescriptive narratives. They want easy-to-understand #ThoughtLeadership with helpful takeaways, says @JanieJaniehulse via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Example: The 53-page report, Opportunity 2030: The Standard Chartered SDG Investment Map, serves this purpose for the British multinational bank (Standard Chartered) and is supported by Oxford Analytica research. It crystalizes and visualizes the research findings related to UN Sustainable Development Goals. It even provides figures for private sector investment opportunities in 15 countries in Asia and Africa.

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Tether thought leadership to business outcomes

The more targeted, substantive, and useful the thought leadership, the more apt the content can generate leads. LinkedIn’s B2B Institute recommends a nearly even budget split between lead generation and brand building in marketing. Thought leadership programs can help achieve both goals. They can earn brand attention from new companies or firms venturing into new areas. Thought leadership programs also can set the stage for the sales process, especially given almost three-fourths of B2B buyers in a 2020 study engage with at least three pieces of content before ever talking with a salesperson. Plus, a new thought leadership piece is a good reason for the sales team to contact past clients and new prospects to share it.

#ThoughtLeadership helps a marketing budget in two ways – awareness and lead generation, says @JanieJaniehulse via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Example: Well-designed thought leadership programs garner more attention through media distribution and awareness-building events while generating relevant business leads. Insurer Willis Watson Towers does both with its annual Political Risk Index. Visitors can peruse a content hub featuring a summary of the research, access a visually impactful e-book, and register to receive the full report, which was gated to capture leads.

1679570074 832 How To Make Your Next Thought Leadership Program a Success

Expand beyond the PDF format

Marketers often anchor thought leadership programs in a longer-form report underpinned by new research. But the distribution of those findings doesn’t have to be limited to that report (often in the form of a PDF). They can be shared at events big and small. Your brand’s speaker could incorporate them in a presentation at a conference, or your company could host in-person or virtual events with prospects and clients to exchange the value and let your reps build relationships and strike up conversations.

Your thought leadership program should live on the company’s website or its own landing page hosted by a third-party publishing partner to add validation and exposure. It can be chopped into visually engaging short-form content assets to share and consume on social media easily. The research findings can inform derivative multimedia content pieces like videos, films, or podcasts. Doing so allows you to meet the audience where they are with content formats they want to consume.

I really like Rob Mitchel’s VARK acronym to ensure your thought leadership appeals to all learning styles:

  • Visual – infographics, animations, data visualization
  • Aural – podcasts, audio interviews
  • Read/write – long-form reports, short-form content, written opinion pieces, case studies
  • Kinesthetic – webinars, client events, conferences, workshops

Example: I worked on a program for the Project Management Institute’s Brightline Initiative to bring thought leadership to the stage during the World Economic Forum at Davos in 2018 and 2019. The resulting panel discussion Humans 2.0: Designing and implementing a future-proof strategy, hosted by The Economist Events, took place live at the event.

Then, the team evolved the in-person presentation into three content pieces for the Brightline Initative website  (as you can see in the screenshot below):

  • A video of the full panel discussion
  • A shorter video showing the highlights
  • Video commentary featuring the Brightline Initiative’s executive director.

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Find your secret to successful thought leadership

What’s the secret to conjuring content that doesn’t get dismissed in the cacophony? Before you begin, consider your objectives, your audience, and how you want the audience to react to the insights shared. With that understanding, you can bring together a smart team to consider the ideal brand positioning, associated trending themes, and potential research hypotheses worthy of exploration.

In other words, do some brand soul-searching and find the white space you can fill. Consider the white space as your playground. Shaping it takes a bit of work. Happily, that effort usually is just a search away. Systematically Google key terms related to your project and to see what pops up. Track the results to see players and patterns emerge. Then, you can find where your unique point of view fits within the coverage. That unique point grounds your white space.

Don’t stop short

The Edelman Trust Barometer is the gold standard for thought leadership programs, given its longevity and impact. For more than 20 years, Edelman has put forward annual research on the influence of trust across society — government, media, business, and non-government organizations. In doing so, the company has led the conversation and driven results for its business.

You don’t need to put in 20 years to produce well-founded original ideas, but you must invest for the long haul.

The most successful thought leadership campaigns I’ve worked on were long-term, multi-year engagements. The marketers approached publishing partners 12 to 18 months before launch. These larger projects often require longer upfront conversations to define and refine the theme and research hypotheses. That’s not to say you can’t whip up a strong thought leadership engagement in five to seven months, but that usually happens after the upfront brand and theme work exists.

When you take the time to identify your topic areas, conduct the research, and produce multiple content assets, the thought leadership you produce will be more likely to attract attention. It will have a better opportunity to gain awareness among an executive audience.

Executives spend an average of two hours every week on thought leadership content, according to a 2021 IBM survey. Given that thought leadership informs 80% of CEO buying decisions, according to the same survey, your program also will position your brand for quality leads.

Thought leadership programs have worked well for decades, but understanding what they really involve and how they can work for your brand – and, more importantly, your target audience – will allow your content to stand out in a sea of misunderstood, misused, and unhelpful thought leadership.

If you have an idea for an original article you’d like to share with the CMI audience, you could get it published on the site. First, read our blogging guidelines and write or adjust your draft accordingly. Then submit the post for consideration following the process outlined in the guidelines.

In appreciation for guest contributors’ work, we’re offering free registration to one paid event or free enrollment in Content Marketing University to anyone who gets two new posts accepted and published on the CMI site in 2023.

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institut



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YouTube Ad Specs, Sizes, and Examples [2024 Update]

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YouTube Ad Specs, Sizes, and Examples

Introduction

With billions of users each month, YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine and top website for video content. This makes it a great place for advertising. To succeed, advertisers need to follow the correct YouTube ad specifications. These rules help your ad reach more viewers, increasing the chance of gaining new customers and boosting brand awareness.

Types of YouTube Ads

Video Ads

  • Description: These play before, during, or after a YouTube video on computers or mobile devices.
  • Types:
    • In-stream ads: Can be skippable or non-skippable.
    • Bumper ads: Non-skippable, short ads that play before, during, or after a video.

Display Ads

  • Description: These appear in different spots on YouTube and usually use text or static images.
  • Note: YouTube does not support display image ads directly on its app, but these can be targeted to YouTube.com through Google Display Network (GDN).

Companion Banners

  • Description: Appears to the right of the YouTube player on desktop.
  • Requirement: Must be purchased alongside In-stream ads, Bumper ads, or In-feed ads.

In-feed Ads

  • Description: Resemble videos with images, headlines, and text. They link to a public or unlisted YouTube video.

Outstream Ads

  • Description: Mobile-only video ads that play outside of YouTube, on websites and apps within the Google video partner network.

Masthead Ads

  • Description: Premium, high-visibility banner ads displayed at the top of the YouTube homepage for both desktop and mobile users.

YouTube Ad Specs by Type

Skippable In-stream Video Ads

  • Placement: Before, during, or after a YouTube video.
  • Resolution:
    • Horizontal: 1920 x 1080px
    • Vertical: 1080 x 1920px
    • Square: 1080 x 1080px
  • Aspect Ratio:
    • Horizontal: 16:9
    • Vertical: 9:16
    • Square: 1:1
  • Length:
    • Awareness: 15-20 seconds
    • Consideration: 2-3 minutes
    • Action: 15-20 seconds

Non-skippable In-stream Video Ads

  • Description: Must be watched completely before the main video.
  • Length: 15 seconds (or 20 seconds in certain markets).
  • Resolution:
    • Horizontal: 1920 x 1080px
    • Vertical: 1080 x 1920px
    • Square: 1080 x 1080px
  • Aspect Ratio:
    • Horizontal: 16:9
    • Vertical: 9:16
    • Square: 1:1

Bumper Ads

  • Length: Maximum 6 seconds.
  • File Format: MP4, Quicktime, AVI, ASF, Windows Media, or MPEG.
  • Resolution:
    • Horizontal: 640 x 360px
    • Vertical: 480 x 360px

In-feed Ads

  • Description: Show alongside YouTube content, like search results or the Home feed.
  • Resolution:
    • Horizontal: 1920 x 1080px
    • Vertical: 1080 x 1920px
    • Square: 1080 x 1080px
  • Aspect Ratio:
    • Horizontal: 16:9
    • Square: 1:1
  • Length:
    • Awareness: 15-20 seconds
    • Consideration: 2-3 minutes
  • Headline/Description:
    • Headline: Up to 2 lines, 40 characters per line
    • Description: Up to 2 lines, 35 characters per line

Display Ads

  • Description: Static images or animated media that appear on YouTube next to video suggestions, in search results, or on the homepage.
  • Image Size: 300×60 pixels.
  • File Type: GIF, JPG, PNG.
  • File Size: Max 150KB.
  • Max Animation Length: 30 seconds.

Outstream Ads

  • Description: Mobile-only video ads that appear on websites and apps within the Google video partner network, not on YouTube itself.
  • Logo Specs:
    • Square: 1:1 (200 x 200px).
    • File Type: JPG, GIF, PNG.
    • Max Size: 200KB.

Masthead Ads

  • Description: High-visibility ads at the top of the YouTube homepage.
  • Resolution: 1920 x 1080 or higher.
  • File Type: JPG or PNG (without transparency).

Conclusion

YouTube offers a variety of ad formats to reach audiences effectively in 2024. Whether you want to build brand awareness, drive conversions, or target specific demographics, YouTube provides a dynamic platform for your advertising needs. Always follow Google’s advertising policies and the technical ad specs to ensure your ads perform their best. Ready to start using YouTube ads? Contact us today to get started!

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Why We Are Always ‘Clicking to Buy’, According to Psychologists

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Why We Are Always 'Clicking to Buy', According to Psychologists

Amazon pillows.

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

Salesforce launched a collection of new, generative AI-related products at Connections in Chicago this week. They included new Einstein Copilots for marketers and merchants and Einstein Personalization.

To better understand, not only the potential impact of the new products, but the evolving Salesforce architecture, we sat down with Bobby Jania, CMO, Marketing Cloud.

Dig deeper: Salesforce piles on the Einstein Copilots

Salesforce’s evolving architecture

It’s hard to deny that Salesforce likes coming up with new names for platforms and products (what happened to Customer 360?) and this can sometimes make the observer wonder if something is brand new, or old but with a brand new name. In particular, what exactly is Einstein 1 and how is it related to Salesforce Data Cloud?

“Data Cloud is built on the Einstein 1 platform,” Jania explained. “The Einstein 1 platform is our entire Salesforce platform and that includes products like Sales Cloud, Service Cloud — that it includes the original idea of Salesforce not just being in the cloud, but being multi-tenancy.”

Data Cloud — not an acquisition, of course — was built natively on that platform. It was the first product built on Hyperforce, Salesforce’s new cloud infrastructure architecture. “Since Data Cloud was on what we now call the Einstein 1 platform from Day One, it has always natively connected to, and been able to read anything in Sales Cloud, Service Cloud [and so on]. On top of that, we can now bring in, not only structured but unstructured data.”

That’s a significant progression from the position, several years ago, when Salesforce had stitched together a platform around various acquisitions (ExactTarget, for example) that didn’t necessarily talk to each other.

“At times, what we would do is have a kind of behind-the-scenes flow where data from one product could be moved into another product,” said Jania, “but in many of those cases the data would then be in both, whereas now the data is in Data Cloud. Tableau will run natively off Data Cloud; Commerce Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud — they’re all going to the same operational customer profile.” They’re not copying the data from Data Cloud, Jania confirmed.

Another thing to know is tit’s possible for Salesforce customers to import their own datasets into Data Cloud. “We wanted to create a federated data model,” said Jania. “If you’re using Snowflake, for example, we more or less virtually sit on your data lake. The value we add is that we will look at all your data and help you form these operational customer profiles.”

Let’s learn more about Einstein Copilot

“Copilot means that I have an assistant with me in the tool where I need to be working that contextually knows what I am trying to do and helps me at every step of the process,” Jania said.

For marketers, this might begin with a campaign brief developed with Copilot’s assistance, the identification of an audience based on the brief, and then the development of email or other content. “What’s really cool is the idea of Einstein Studio where our customers will create actions [for Copilot] that we hadn’t even thought about.”

Here’s a key insight (back to nomenclature). We reported on Copilot for markets, Copilot for merchants, Copilot for shoppers. It turns out, however, that there is just one Copilot, Einstein Copilot, and these are use cases. “There’s just one Copilot, we just add these for a little clarity; we’re going to talk about marketing use cases, about shoppers’ use cases. These are actions for the marketing use cases we built out of the box; you can build your own.”

It’s surely going to take a little time for marketers to learn to work easily with Copilot. “There’s always time for adoption,” Jania agreed. “What is directly connected with this is, this is my ninth Connections and this one has the most hands-on training that I’ve seen since 2014 — and a lot of that is getting people using Data Cloud, using these tools rather than just being given a demo.”

What’s new about Einstein Personalization

Salesforce Einstein has been around since 2016 and many of the use cases seem to have involved personalization in various forms. What’s new?

“Einstein Personalization is a real-time decision engine and it’s going to choose next-best-action, next-best-offer. What is new is that it’s a service now that runs natively on top of Data Cloud.” A lot of real-time decision engines need their own set of data that might actually be a subset of data. “Einstein Personalization is going to look holistically at a customer and recommend a next-best-action that could be natively surfaced in Service Cloud, Sales Cloud or Marketing Cloud.”

Finally, trust

One feature of the presentations at Connections was the reassurance that, although public LLMs like ChatGPT could be selected for application to customer data, none of that data would be retained by the LLMs. Is this just a matter of written agreements? No, not just that, said Jania.

“In the Einstein Trust Layer, all of the data, when it connects to an LLM, runs through our gateway. If there was a prompt that had personally identifiable information — a credit card number, an email address — at a mimum, all that is stripped out. The LLMs do not store the output; we store the output for auditing back in Salesforce. Any output that comes back through our gateway is logged in our system; it runs through a toxicity model; and only at the end do we put PII data back into the answer. There are real pieces beyond a handshake that this data is safe.”

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