How researchers get heard

This week I’ve been attending a virtual conference on B2B thought leadership.

The most interesting panel: executives from F500 companies talking about which kinds of thought leadership content they pay attention to.

Answer: virtually none.

These executives are inundated with irrelevant or superficial reports and content — much more so since the pandemic began. “I find two useful pieces for every 500 I encounter,” said one.

The executives listed their criteria — what makes your content one of two they’ll look at instead of one of 498 they’ll trash. The content, they said, has to be

  • Recommended by someone they trust;
  • Short;
  • Easy to read;
  • Extremely focused — on answering one or at most a handful of questions and problems;
  • Offering not just analysis of those problems, but solutions to those problems AND immediate ways to implement those solutions;
  • Based in one of two types of expertise — either
    • a) deep experience, with case-study examples that name names; or
    • b) rich data and quantitative analysis — causality, not correlation, and definitely not surveys;
    • Research that falls between a) and b), they said, is not helpful;
  • Steeped in a strong and ideally novel POV; and
  • Clearly relevant to their context and, ideally, their role.

Sound like your research products? The outreach and engagement content of your research-driven organization?

But we’re different, you might say.

I’ve heard that a thousand times. Don’t kid yourself.

The policymakers, practitioners and other busy decision maker audience you want your insights to reach are just like these executives.

Research is special because of its methodology and the unique insights it can deliver. But as content, research isn’t special. It must compete for attention with every other piece of content crossing your key audience’s phones and desks.

The more the world’s noise increases, the more your content needs to hit all the requirements of the list.

When you rely on research as your engagement content — or on engagement content done with one eye toward your research colleagues, worried they’ll think you’re dumbing things down — you get a fraction of the engagement you deserve.

If that bothers you, let’s talk.

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash