One of the challenges of thought leadership marketing is around the amount of time it takes. Many marketing professionals have pointed this out to me – it’s not like creating an ad with a few words of text. It demands time from the marketing team, but more challenging – it demands time from the firm’s senior members, who are already too busy with client work, mentoring, supervising the work of juniors, and project management.

So if you come to them with the idea “You should write an article for X trade magazine,” or “Do you want to prepare a presentation for the Y conference?you’ll likely get a harried and hurried “No time for that.”

One reason is that there’s often no real pressure for senior people to do marketing – they are likely well established in their careers. Where they do feel pressure is in getting the work done and bringing in new business.

Here are some of the principles I’ve found to work in content marketing in professional services firms, to deal with that “no time” issue.

Give the task to someone motivated to get it done

One way to get the work done is to put the task onto someone who is motivated to make it happen. That can include bringing in an external resource for whom the work will be billable – that creates the necessary motivation.

In Post #90 I talked about the benefits of working with a ghostwriter, someone who can interview your intended author or work with text that has already been prepared, and write a first draft of the video script, speech, article, blog post or other content. Advantages, just as a recap of previous posts on this topic:

  • A ghost is a professional writer, which means that the text will likely be more understandable than if a technical person writes it
  • A ghost will ask what I freely call “the right dumb questions” such as defining terminology familiar to the author but likely not to the reader
  • Because a ghost writes for a living, they will probably be able to get the article done in a couple of hours rather than a couple of weeks or months

Leverage leverage leverage

Get maximum value for the time your firm’s thought-leaders do put into marketing. For example, in Post #95 I talked about three ways you can squeeze more value from your firm’s speaking engagements – re-purposing the text of the speech into an article or some blog posts, or using video of part of the speech as samples posted on YouTube.

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One thing to watch for is, that text which works for an article or academic paper just dies when it’s read out as part of a webinar or a speech. Writing intended for speaking must be more colloquial and informal. Take a leaf from my radio journalism instructor –she suggested that after writing the text of a radio news story, try reading it out loud. See what doesn’t sound good, and rework it so it does work for a listener.

Or, if you don’t know how to write for the ear, just try describing the situation and the story verbally as you would if telling someone in person – and then write that down.

Go with their strengths

In ghostwriting content, I find that some of the business professionals I work with would rather write out their own first draft, and then they count on me to make them sound good. Others would rather have me interview them so I can write a first draft, and they’ll then work with that and revise it so it says what they want it to say.

On rare occasions, my first draft comes back almost completely rewritten, and I think that I’ve failed my client, because my objective is to save them time. But they’re often quite cheerful about the whole thing and completely satisfied with my work – my draft gave them a starting point and sometimes showed them what they DON’T want to say.

But I find that many business professionals would rather talk than write. So, have them talk – maybe into a recording device (I use my smartphone and an app called iTalk to record interviews). This is one reason I cling to my landline desk phone – it is much easier to record when I put the phone into Speaker mode. And, sometimes mobile phones hit bad connections and the sound quality is terrible. It’s also possible to record using Skype, using Call Recorder, to prepare an MP3 file that can be transcribed.

Help meet other business priorities

One aspect of North American demographics is the Baby Boom – an oversized cohort of people born in the post-WW2 burst of enthusiasm. This cohort has been working its way through the ages, causing a boom in elementary school construction, then high school then universities. Now, we’re about to see a boom in retirement-specific housing developments, as the Boomers shuffle off to irrelevance. I can say that, because I’m a Boomer (but nowhere near retirement).

This demographic wave is causing consternation for many firms, because the people who have the relationships with clients, understand the business, and know how to build new business, are starting to think about shuffling out the door.

And marketing professionals can help make that transition to the next generation smoother.

Firms need for senior members to mentor juniors, teach them about the business side of their work (the juniors are likely already well ahead technically) and in many ways, build relationships between the generations.

Content development gives that opportunity. Juniors can work with more senior people to co-create content such as articles, blog posts and speeches. It gives the two a chance to interact and learn from each other, and the content gets created by people whose time is less valuable to the firm, so it makes economic sense.

One thing to watch for – credit where credit is due. The junior’s involvement must be acknowledged. I’ve been an unwilling accomplice to this sort of situation – in which the junior does all the work and the senior gets all the credit. One of the engineers I worked with had an unpleasant habit of inserting her name onto the byline of articles she had very little to do with, with her name going before that of the real authors of the content.

But done right, with appropriate attribution, this junior-senior collaboration can help with transitioning files and client relationships between the generations.