Dandelion seeds blowing in the wind, disseminating ideas, thought leadership

Thinking about Thought Leadership

Most marketers want to earn trust, engage with market influencers, build credibility, raise awareness of their company or brand, and expand their market. Effective thought leadership programs help you do all these things, and primary research is a great foundation upon which to build a program.

We like to think in terms of three buckets of research that support thought leadership initiatives:

A News Nugget.

These studies are quick: conceived, fielded and reported within a week to ten days. A News Nugget type story might measure public opinion of a specific event (rating of ads aired during the Super Bowl) or a topic that is making news daily (HNW’s Occupy Wall Street study referenced above). The questionnaire is usually short and to the point, and a quick press release and accompanying materials are released within a couple of days of the research being completed.

Making a Splash.

The research that underpins Making a Splash efforts are often solid, well thought-out primary studies that are conducted just once or twice. They might highlight an industry challenge and ways to overcome those challenges (how to help people overcome the barriers of saving more money) or address emerging issues that the audience doesn’t often think about and demonstrate why they’re important (e.g., women business owners and their quest for credit for their businesses).

A Sustaining Property.

A thought leadership approach that falls into the Sustaining Property category demonstrates that the organization has an ongoing commitment to the issue or idea. The approach is comprehensive, studies are conducted consistently, and the team often promotes the results using several outlets (speeches, webinars, television or radio interviews, press releases, conferences, etc.). PNC’s annual Economic Outlook, conducted twice a year among small and mid-sized business owners, is a great example of Sustaining Property.


The Artemis Strategy Group team has been conducting thought leadership studies for a couple of decades. Here are some quick tips to keep in mind, based on our experience:

  • Thought leadership requires thinking. Start by harnessing what you know and identifying themes and hypotheses to be tested.
  • Be different and interesting. Lots of studies are conducted for public release. Make sure yours sets you apart.
  • Don’t be self-serving. Don’t blatantly use the research to sell your products and services. The media and consumers are savvy and won’t pay attention if they think it’s a sales pitch.
  • Tell a story. Great ideas are often communicated with compelling stories, and they are driven home with quantitative supporting evidence.
  • Build on your brand. If your brand stands for a powerful idea that can be linked to your story, make the link with appropriate stories, cues and symbols.