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Colleen Albiston
Chief Marketing Officer, Deloitte

Thought leadership content has long been an essential element in the marketing mix for large professional services firms like Deloitte. But today, content is changing in both form and function, according to Colleen Albiston. Decision makers and influencers have less time to consume it, and many more alternatives for how and where they access it. Keeping pace with the changing needs of the BtoB market while continuing to deliver substantive and differentiated thought leadership is a challenge<

How is your approach to thought leadership and content marketing changing at Deloitte Canada?

I’m an evangelist for changing the way BtoB marketing is done, and it’s a challenge because you have to convince people to make the change with you. You have to try new things and then prove that they work. In our organization, we lead on the value of social media and the value of leveraging news technology, particularly digital.

It used to be that thought leadership was all about the development of very in-depth reports, often on fairly technical subjects. We would create a 50-page report and probably put together some press materials on our key findings. We’re trying to change that model. This year we still put out a 50- page report, called ‘The Future of Productivity’, but we developed additional content beyond the report in shorter digital formats that significantly increased our reach and visibility. We wanted to develop content that would be shared through social channels that would drive more visits to our site. We were able to serve the needs of a targeted audience, but we were also able to reach a much broader audience. I think we were also had a positive impact on our brand because we were seen as presenting information in a more interactive and entertaining format.

I know that marketers debate the value of media impressions, but we went from about 13.7 million media impressions the previous year to 26 million impressions. We generated 79 feature articles, more than double the previous year, and 73 percent were in what we consider to be top-tier media. We had more than 8,000 visitors to our landing page in the first three months and more than 1,000 of those visitors downloaded the report. That was a ten-fold increase from the previous year.

Do you measure your return on content initiatives?

We measure return in a number of ways. We measure earned media against paid media. We track web analytics, email inquiries, unpaid speaking opportunities. But we’re also becoming more rigorous in identifying how our content leads to discussions and meetings for our client service professionals. There’s really no linear relationship between our productivity study and our specific service offerings, although we certainly produce other content that does have that linear relationship. But the productivity study is thought leadership and point of view and it does help stimulate discussion and engagement. Much of this is qualitative right now. Service professionals tell us that the productivity study led to a discussion that resulted in an engagement, but we want to get better at tracking and measuring those business results.

How do you determine what themes, issues and topics you develop for content marketing?

It’s a process. We look at the topics, trends and opportunities that are important within the private and public sector. My marketers come to me with what they see as opportunities as part of our planning process. On an industry level, in energy, a content opportunity last year would have been the oil stand in Alberta and what’s going on there. Then marketing for that industry works with the biggest brains in our firm that serve the energy industry and we discuss what we might do with that issue. We look at what issues best align with our brand, where we have the greatest credibility to provide insight and point of view. We also make sure that it isn’t a crowded space where there are already big thinkers leading a discussion. Once we’ve surfaced some interesting topics for exploration, we talk to a diverse group of influential people in the community to understand how we can provide the most value and best thinking on that subject. We try to determine the most effective way to approach the topic. Is it quantitative research? Is it qualitative? What’s the first piece of content that we should produce?

Tell me a little more about your decision to create more varied types of content in shorter formats.

I think we are all consuming more content, ideas and information that we did in the past. As a result, it’s more difficult to capture someone’s attention. Everything we consume can’t be a full article in the Harvard Business Review. For years, we would get HBR, but we started by reading the executive summary if we were pressed for time to decide which articles we should read. Today, we need to develop content that teases the audience to consume more. If you send me something that’s going to take 20 minutes to read, the changes that will read it are slim. However, if all I have to do is read an initial post on LinkedIn from an influencer and I find it relevant and interesting, there’s a good chance I’ll read more. Then that content is going to get through to me. It wouldn’t get through is all you did was send me a 50-page report.

“We wanted to develop content that would be shared through social channels that would drive more visits to our site. We were able to serve the needs of a targeted audience, but we were also able to reach a much broader audience.”