31 Jan 2011
If you’re interested about how we will all get around in the future put these dates in your diaries – February 1st, 8th , 15th, and the 22nd. On each of these days BMW will release one part of its four part documentary series on future technology, culture, cities, etc and how it relates to the future of mobility.
This is a great example of thought leadership from one of the world’s leading car brands. Fellow PR practitioner, Trevor Young alerted me to it in his blog and it was too good an opportunity not to follow up and analyse in more detail.
The BMW microsite dedicated to this thought leadership piece describes the project as follows:
“Wherever You Want To Go” is the first release under BMW Documentaries—a new franchise dedicated to crafting original, thought-provoking and entertaining content. The film aims to take audiences to a place they’ve truly never been: the future. From the minds of some of the most influential scientists, academics, pioneers, and entrepreneurs of our time, this four-part documentary paints a unique picture of technology, culture, cities, our past, present and how it all relates to the future of mobility.
“Wherever You Want To Go” is not meant to provide definitive answers, but rather, to ask the right questions from the right people in an attempt to generate discussion, provoke thought and stir the imagination. As part of the Activate the Future website, viewers are also encouraged to click and comment on various points throughout the documentary.
BMWActivatetheFuture.com was created to get users actively involved in the ever-evolving conversation on the future of mobility. Over the coming months, this site will continue to explore new ways to shape the future of mobility and will encourage users’ opinions and participation along the way.
Hitting the thought leadership button on its head
In every way the intentions of BMWActivatetheFuture.com hits the right thought leadership buttons – time will tell whether this truly is a thought leadership platform or just a great PR gimmick. My instincts tell me that this campaign goes to the very culture of the organisation and is one that will grow to become a great thought leadership piece.
One only need examine the explanation above to realise in principle, it ticks all the right thought leadership boxes i.e.
· it is not overtly product focused
· it aims to generate discussion
· it maximises the use of third party experts
· it proactively promotes discussion and interaction with the brand through multiple channels
· it is a conversation and encourages debate
· it is clearly of interest to most of us who drive cars
· it will provide a great platform for BMW experts and leaders to talk about the future of mobility.
But there are some key thought leadership questions that need to be asked
As the campaign progresses, there are some key questions that will need to answered in order to measure its efficacy:
1. Does it/has it met its objectives and what were these? Have these been clearly set out?
2. Are these objectives measurable? If so what measurement criteria have been put in place?
3. Will it directly impact sales or brand awareness over time and how is this being measured?
4. Is it going to become part of the culture of the entire organisation right down to the sales guy on the floor of BMW dealership and how is this being achieved?
5. How is the content being stretched and leveraged across multiple audiences and channels?
6. What commitment (time and resources) are the BMW executives giving to this campaign?
These are for starters, I’m sure you probably have a whole lot more and I would love to hear them if you do. These six questions will drive rigorous focus and, I believe, greater success for the campaign in the long-term.
Well done BMW, I can’t wait for the first documentary tomorrow. FYI, it is entitled “The new city” and according to the website, it is about the way we live and how it will impact the way we move.
18 Jan 2011
Don’t you love the start of a new year? Hopefully you’ve had time to reflect on your personal and business goals. The question is whether you are doing anything differently for your business? The way you sell? The way you market including your advertising, PR, direct, online, etc?
If you are one of those fortunate businesses that has done exceptionally well year on year don’t read any further – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
However, if you are wondering whether you could be doing things differently, particularly with your customers or potential customers, read on.
The path to thought leadership – questions companies should ask
Companies wanting to market themselves differently or those wanting to make a difference should start by asking the following questions:
1. Are we happy with the sales and marketing culture of this organisation?
2. What are the values of our organisation and can these, in any way, guide our marketing philosophy/approach?
3. What are we good at and for what do we want to be known?
4. What are the key issues affecting our customer’/consumer’s lives and do any of these align with what we want to be known for?
5. Can we provide insights or content that helps our consumers/customers with these issues?
6. What brand perception do we want to leave with our consumers/customers when it comes to these issues?
Start formulating a thought leadership position
Once you have answered these you can start formulating a thought leadership position. A good starting point would be to apply the START IP methodology to add some real rigour to your process. This is covered in more detail in this blog but briefly it includes:
- Scanning the media and social media sites for issues impacting your brand or sector.
- Tracking your competitors’ share of voice to make sure the thought leadership approach you want to take is not already ‘owned’ by a competitor.
- Analysing and understanding the ‘true north’ of your company i.e. its values, in order to define better the thought leadership areas you should enter.
- Reviewing your current intellectual property (IP) – you may very well already have the makings of a thought leadership campaign within your existing IP.
- Trend spotting to identify the forces that could potentially shape your audiences lives now and in the future and aligning your thought leadership with this.
- Identifying a thought leadership champion to lead your campaign.
- Panel. Consider appointing a panel of outsiders who could bring fresh perspectives and a more robust sounding board to your ideas and your campaign.
Making thought leadership a culture
Now for the tough part, we’ve all heard of a sales culture, a culture of innovation, a culture of safety, a client service culture etc. Companies with strong cultures very often tend to do well. Thought leadership should be no different. In order for it to truly succeed and to take seed it should become part of the culture of the organisation.
Take a look at the management consultancies. For years many of them have had an intense focus on thought leadership. It is what has driven their client engagement and underpinned their sales process – it became part of the culture of many of what are now highly successful organisations.
Thought leadership is not for the faint hearted. It needs time, budget, measurement as well as management participation and support.
Critically too, it should not be the sole domain of the marketing or PR teams otherwise it may very well live and die there. Instead it needs to become part of the DNA of the organisation and ingrained as part of the culture of the organisation.
You cannot be a thought leader without communication
Finally the big test is getting your thought leadership content to market – I’ve yet to meet a thought leader that doesn’t share their thoughts/ideas/content.
The question is how and which channels to use. The answer I believe lies in your target audience. How well do you know them? Do you know what they read and where they get their information? Do you need to use channels such as daily print, electronic and social media or is your audience a lot smaller in which case a one-on-one or small group engagement strategy may work better.
Please share your thoughts. What’s worked for you in the past? What do you intend doing with your thought leadership this year?